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Writing samples: article

appeared on the Talk City website, December 1999 (no longer available online)

Title: It’s a small world - let’s talk!

I’m often struck by how much smaller the world is now than it must have seemed to my ancestors a century ago. For my ancestors, a journey of a hundred miles was a major undertaking; a round-trip letter exchange took days if not weeks. Today, I’m able to connect with friends half a planet away with a few hours of jet lag or the speed of a mouse click.

Even more significant is the ease with which I can rub virtual elbows with those of different cultures and spiritual beliefs - whether it’s reading e-mail from a Buddhist monk in Nepal, or chatting online with a college student in Argentina.

This smallness comes with a pricetag - and that price is sharpened awareness of differences and conflict. We don’t have to look further than the evening news to see examples of where those of differing faiths are *not* at peace with each other - whether it’s Kosovo or Northern Ireland, the West Bank in Israel or outside an Army base in Texas.

We live in a world of religious diversity and, yes, conflicting beliefs - whether we like it or not. Short of isolating ourselves, I don’t think it’s possible to live in the world today and not be aware that vast numbers of people do not embrace spirit in the same way we do - and I think it’s safe to say those differences are not going to go away anytime soon.

If we truly want to see peace on earth - a shared goal for most if not all faiths - what has to change for us to live peacefully with our differences?

I see much of the conflict arising from three sources. First, faith is often emotionally “charged” - and not something we arrive at from an intellectual decision. Second, many are ignorant or misinformed about other faiths - whether through simple lack of exposure or from resistance to learning about them. And third, a number of religious traditions maintain that everyone *should* believe as they do - and actively seek to convert those who don’t.

How do you personally approach the differences in our religious views and spiritual paths? When someone expresses a spiritual belief different from yours, what’s your reaction, and how do you respond? What has helped you “make peace” with religious differences? What “peacemakers” have touched your life and inspired you to act in new ways?

I invite you to share your personal experiences. E-mail your thoughts to FlowCCC@xxxx and we’ll share the best of them here in future weeks. Or jump into our discussion boards and share your views now.
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