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Children of a Greater God, or For a Religious Ecology

Written by Paulo Mendes Pinto
February 15, 2017

Throughout our History there were several moments when we were forced to take sides, to choose a position, when circumstances forced us to do so. While regarding the high value of stability, times of crisis and radicalization can lead us to a clarification of positions and to a civic positioning for the common good.
A few months ago I attended the main Friday Islamic prayer at a quasi makeshift mosque, in a poor space, deprived of any wealth, free from any ostentation. What was significant, in what was happening in that ordinary backstreet of Amadora, was simply the fact that hundreds of believers, mostly of Guinean origin, were gathering to declare before themselves and God, that they are part of a community who feels Islamic, according to the original meaning of the word: believing and submitting to God.
It was such a rich experience, almost unspeakable. I expected the reception to be friendly, and it was. I expected to receive the regular greetings, and I did receive them. But what really amazed me, what struck me most emotionally, was the sense of humanity I found there.
I was confronted a number of times with the statement (from the leaders of the community, to the Imam, passing through a large number of believers): “We are all brothers. In creation there were no religions. We are all equal. Religions came later. We are all brothers.” Some of the Muslims who told me this hardly spoke Portuguese, but they knew this theological and philosophical message and had it internalized: we are all equal before a Divine Creation. What a lesson of humanity I received among this small Islamic community!
Today many Muslims, with a strong desire not to be confused with alleged-Countries-even-more-alleged-Islamic, express loud and clear their idea of Islam referring to the essential, the creative moment in which all Men are Brothers in a genisiac fraternity.
This has been, in fact, one of the great breaches in the immense theological currents of monotheisms: how to combine a certain spirit of “election” or “choice”, inherent to believers and practicing believers, with the inevitability of all being “creatures of God” through the creative act.
This is the right time to declare the separation between those who kill, or simply ban the infidels, and those who bear the disturbing difference and say that, after all, we are all equal, considering the primeval moment. If the sense of belonging and community leads us often to exclusion and exclusiveness, the notion of common origin – which in no way negates the previous notion -, brings us to inclusion, tolerance or even to communion.
Theologically and anthropologically, this stance is the basis, not for dialogue, but for coexistence. More than desiring idyllically that we will dialogue with each other, what interests us today is that we wil surpass the death barbaric baseline.
In the commonplace of civil institutions, we are all citizens and we are all entitled to the same human rights. How pragmatic it would be if from the evangelical Christian fundamentalists to the Jewish ultra-Orthodox, passing , of course, through the Islamic fundamentalists, all were able to take on what their Holy Texts say in such a crystalline way: in Creation there were no believers or infidels!
Once the omnipotence of God places Him so much above what is utterable that we represent Him as Creator of everything, including Time, only the smallness in each of us, limited in everything, especially in time, leads us to say that some are more children of creation than others. This idea of Humanity is, above all, the Ecology of the Human and of the planet, itself, of the Common House to which we are irrevocably linked.
Only then can we follow up Luther King’s idea: either we learn to live as brothers, or we perish  as … as what we have been over the centuries! That’s what we have done more: to kill in the name of God.

Science of Religions Programme Director at Lusófona University – Lisbon – Portugal