Religion and ethical values
Ethics is a branch of Philosophy that deals with moral principles. Ethical values govern a person’s behavior in any kind of activity.
Every profession hasethical code like medical ethics. Almost every professional ethics consists of values such as fairness, justice, right and all matters of value.
Ethics deals with questions of human morality by defining concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime.
In religion, ethics is studied as moral theology that deals with virtues with the aim of union with God andin peace in life.
World religions have laws and commandments that govern human behaviour. The source of religious law is God. The Prophets ensures that these laws are observed (https://www.bing.com).
The Ten Commandments (the Decalogue) are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and Christianity.
The commandments include instructions to worship only God, to honour one’s parents, and to keep the Sabbath, as well as prohibitions against idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery, theft, dishonesty, and coveting.
The commandmentswere givenby God atMount Sinai (Exodus 20:1–17; Deuteronomy 5:4–21).
The Shari’a is the body of Islamic law. The term means “way” or “path”; it is the legal framework within which public and some private aspects of life are regulated for those living in a legal system based on Muslim principles of jurisprudence.
Islamic shari’a is the religious legal system governing the members of the Islamic faith. It is derived from the religious precepts of Islam, particularly the Quran and the Hadith.
The sharīʿah, is a body of moral and religious law derived from religious prophecy, as opposed to human legislation (https://www.bing.com).
For some Islamic scholars, “Islam is not a new religion, but the same truth that God revealed through all his prophets” (http://www.islamicity.com). The Arabic word, ‘Islam’ stands for ‘Submission’ or ‘Peace’.
In a religious context, it implies the peace that reaches out to one when one completely submits oneself to the will of Almighty God.
This is achieved only when the individual acts in accordance with the direction of his Creator in all spheres of life (http://www.nicheoftruth.org).
In the world today where some people perceivereligion as a problem to be solved, the different religious adherents through their different religious ethics must prove that religion is a problem solver and not a source of problems.
If every Christian and Muslim obey the laws as prescribed in the religious legal code, I believe there will be peace in the heart of every person and this peace will radiate to the world in a way and manner that peaceful coexistence would be a natural flow.
All the religious laws can be summarized in two words, namely, love and peace. This is expressed in the Islamic and Christian greeting, “peace be with you!” You cannot wisha person what you do not have.
So you cannot tell somebody peace with you if you have no peace in your heart.
This means that the core ethical value for every Muslim and Christian is peace that reveals the love in your heart. The peace of God transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
This peace is a state of tranquility that transcends all human desires and conditions.
The gift of peace like true love is therefore unconditional. It is given freely because we received it freely from God.
In Christianity, Jesus is the true peace (Ephesians 2:4) and peacemakers are called children of God(Matthew 5: 9).
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27). The peace of Christ calms all fears.
“Onthe evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors were locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).
Since Islam is a complete way of life, every Muslim is enjoined to demonstrate in words and deeds that peace and love of God that transcends all human desires.
The five pillars of Islam, namely, faith, prayer, fasting, alms (Zakkah) and pilgrimage (to Makkah) should be true expression of that divine peace that dwells in the heart of the human person.
If the adherents of Judaism, Christianity and Islam respect the ethics of their religion, the world would be a new heaven and a new paradise where “the wolf can dwell with the lamb, the leopard lies down with the goat, the calf and the young lion live together with a little boy to lead them.
Yes, aworld where the cow and the bear grazes and their young lie down together without hurting one another” (Isaiah 11:5-7).
Let us therefore concentrate on peace as a core ethical value in religion.
The dictionary defines “peace” as the absence of war but the meaning is deeper in a religious context. Peace is a transformation of all forms of hostilities.
It is freedom from quarrels and disagreement; harmonious relations; inner contentment; serenity; peace of mind and respect for law and order.
The word “obey” comes from the Greek “hupakou” meaning, to listen attentively to a command or authority.
The word “submit” comes from the Greek “hupeiko”, to yield or surrender to an authority.
Submission and obedience are similar in the sense that this action is performed in freedom without force.
Jesus teaches that those who hear the word of God and put it into practice are ever more blessed (Luke 11:28).
Even in his passion, Jesus accepted the will of God” (Luke 22:39-42). Even in his suffering, Jesus said, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5, 44).
Jesus thus gives light to those in darkness, those who dwell in the shadow of death and guide us into the way of peace” (Luke 1:76-79).
He thought his disciples not to resist those who do evil (Matthew 5:38-42) by vengeance as practiced by the Jewish ancestors who believed in “eye for eye and tooth for tooth” (Matthew 5, 38; Exodus 21, 24).
The desire of Jesus for human beings is to be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50).
He lamented and wept for Jerusalem for their ignorance of the message of peace. He wished that if only Jerusalem had known the value of peace (Luke 19:42).
Jesus practiced what he preached. During his trial, “One of the guards standing there hit him.
The guard said, “You should not talk to the high priest like that!” Jesus answered, “If I said something wrong, then say it.
If the things I said are right, then why do you hit me (John 18:21-23)? Jesus did not fight back.
In his most excruciating pains and agony on the cross, he did not curse his executioners. He prayed for them, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
He had warned his disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
In sending out his apostles, he said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21 & 26)! The Qur’an affirms that Mary was given a sinless son who is faultless and perfect in the eyes of God so that Jesus, the son of Mary, would be an example to all the nations of the world (Sura Maryam 19:19).
This should be an invitation to all who call on the name of the true God to seek peace on earth. The world prays that the dead may rest in perfect peace.
This means that peace is heaven where whoever lives on earth has as a final home. I pray that all those who still think that whoever is not a fellow adherent is an enemy may have conversion of heart.
This conversion is not from one religion to the other but an interior conversion to peace.
Fr. Cornelius Omonokhua is, National Coordinator and Ex
ecutive Secretary of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) wrote from Lagos