Hope in the Growing Movements for the Common Good

January 13, 2023

Needs in the world can feel overwhelming. We/I tend to take on others’ concerns such as their health needs, even when I can’t do anything about it. I contribute my “widow’s mite,” and stand by helplessly when I hear of hunger and homelessness, hurricanes and floods in my community and in the world. The needs seem overwhelming… and for my own mental health I have to remind myself that I can’t “fix” things or take away another’s suffering.

Although I cannot fix things, sometimes I can help bring hope, kindness, comfort and physical aid to those who are suffering. Sometimes I add my little part to a movement of hope; there is creativity, energy and strength in numbers. I am reminded of the Beatles’ tune: “I get by with a little help from my friends.”  We live in community. When I am in need, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” And sometimes I am the friend who is giving the little help.

Our family and neighbours, our community, is a microcosm of the world. The needs in the world are also addressed with an understanding that we all part of one human family.

This month I am reading from “For the Sake of the Common Good, Essays in honour of Lois Wilson.” We met Lois Wilson in 1983 when we were taking courses with the Ecumenical Forum in Toronto. She challenged us to look and listen beyond our entrenched cultural and religious conditioning, and see where and how God was already at work in the world. 

Lois was an early pioneer of *ecumenical work in Canada, which for her wasn’t about theological discussion but about bringing people together for the common good. In time, she became a moderator of the United Church of Canada, a President of the Canadian Council of Churches and later of the World Council of Churches and later a Canadian Senator. In all of that she never lost perspective that change begins around kitchen tables and in community halls.  (*ecumenical means faith groups working together; some define it as only Christians and others as multi-faith)

This month there are 2 not well-known invitations to sit around some global kitchen tables and to imagine and see beyond our familiar faith traditions. January 15 is World Religion Day, originated by Baháʼís “to call attention to the harmony of spiritual principles and the oneness of the world’s religions and to emphasize that world religion is the motivating force for world unity.”

I do not need to look very far from home to see the collaboration of faith communities for the common good. Faith leaders from around Ontario have formed the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition to advocate with the Ontario government for social assistance that will lift people from poverty.
(http://isarc.ca/) In Toronto there is also a Multi-faith coalition for homelessness. These initiatives give me hope.

January 18 – 25 is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, an initiative of the World Council of Churches and its constituent members. The week is described as “both the seed and the fruit of striving for ‘unity in diversity’”, not uniformity, but rather development of respectful relationships so that we can work together in common action.

For me the message of World Religion Day and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is that we are all part of the human family and find hope and help in caring for one another. We do not need to be afraid of our differences. There is goodness everywhere. We can gather around kitchen tables and in community halls with people of diverse faith traditions as well as others of good-will to effect change for the common good. In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Gratitude Prompt: Give thanks for friends who help us through tough times and give thanks for movements of goodwill for the common good.

Resources to learn about other faiths: I like this goal of Encounter World Religions: “to transform our response to difference from one of threat to opportunity, from fear to curiosity, exploration and growth”
Since I have always approached interfaith dialogue from a Christian perspective, I am delighted and encouraged to find these interfaith education pieces on this Muslim website:
A permanent link for both of these sites will remain on the Resources page of this website.