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Arshan Khalid Addresses the Global Ethic Assembly

Good afternoon everyone. I got the task of reconciling truth and tolerance. And you know almost felt like an oxymoron at times when I was thinking about how to put those things together. And so to begin one of the incredible sayings of the wisdom traditions in the Islamic canon that I’ve come across says “Oh God, make me speak the truth whether the truth is against me or for me.”

In my life and in my understanding of the religious traditions and the religious paths, I find this principle to be commanding truthful, and eliciting humility. But truth is a complex phenomenon. As this third incredible directive of the global ethics reminds us there is a way in which truth and tolerance or truth and compassion can go hand in hand.

What is the purpose of truth? Is it to bring about a realization of faults that exist in systems, in communities, in governance and peoples? Or is the purpose of truth liberating? Does it seek to cause you to search for freedom? Does it elicit compassion? And finally, does it lead to a creation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Beloved Community?

My favorite folk singers like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, I believe were on such a quest. There was a deep desire to look for a path that brought together truth and compassion. These words by Springsteen for me highlight this marriage between truth and compassion. Better than any other. Springsteen sings “Where are the eyes? Where are the eyes? The eyes with the will to see. Where are the hearts? Where are the hearts that run over with mercy? Where is the love? Where is the love that has not forsaken me? Where is the work? Where is the work that will set my soul and my hands-free? Where is the spirit that will reign over me? Where is the promise? Where is the promise from the sea to the shining sea?”

Truth does not need to trump compassion and compassion does not need to trump truth. For truth to be present, compassion does not need to be given away and for compassion to be present, the truth does not need to be dimmed. They go hand in hand and both work towards a realization of a global ethic and a dream that we thought to achieve and highlight by being participants and signatories of a document like this.

That there are common binding principles that bind humanity together regardless of color, caste, race, religion, status, and community. I’ll leave you now with these words from Muhammad Ali. From a poem he entitled The Truth, Muhammad Ali who is a conscientious objector, a boxer, a kind man and the people’s champ:

The breast of truth stands forward,
The gaze of truth is straight,
Truth has neither fear nor doubt,
Truth has patience to wait.

The words of truth are touching,
The voice of truth is deep,
The law of truth is simple:
All that you sow you reap.

The soul of truth is flaming,
The heart of truth is warm,
The mind of truth is clear,
And firm through rain or storm.

Facts are but its shadows,
Truth stands above all sin;
Great be the battle in life,
Truth in the end shall win.

The image of truth is Christ,
Wisdom’s message its rod;
Sign of truth is the cross,
Soul of truth is God.

Life of truth is eternal,
Immortal is its past,
Power of truth will endure,
Truth shall hold to the last.

Thank you very much.

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