Diversity to Homogeneity

Diversity to Homogeneity

in a multicultural and multireligious world


 In many texts and discourses about interfaith dialogue, the keeping to the own identity, is being considered as an essential element of each participant to come to a dialogue and mutual participation with other faith communities. Such dialogue and sharing means a participation in the growth of humankind from diversity to homogeneity, from variety to unity. Dialogue must result in an mutually enriching experience and even in a sharing of some of the other’s values and an integration of them into the own identity. Such sharing can only be understandable and acceptable as a participation in the growth of humanity from diversity to homogeneity.

The human spirit as emanation of the infinite divine Spirit

How can the keeping to one’s own identity be reconciled with this kind of mutual sharing?

Diversity is now a much discussed theme in the media. Diversity cannot be unlinked from change. Diversity is a quality of all sentient and non sentient beings, and is possible because all existing material in this universe is subject to change. Material matter as subject to change is transient, and supposed to have a beginning and an end. Inequality in permanent change is an essential property of diversity. On the other side, where there is no change, there is no diversity, no space, no time, and in a situation where there is no change, the existence of one permanent unchanging eternal identity can only be surmised. Diversity means a growth process which goes from less to more, from good to better, although sometimes the reverse happens, and in the case of human beings a process from animal to human properties, accompanied by a permanent growth in spiritualization, like Teilhard de Chardin it has expounded. It is noteworthy that this is an evolution which occurs only in the human world. It seems not to occur in the material and animal world. The human spirit can be considered as an emanation of the infinite eternal Spirit, which we have called God, who has been at the origin of the ‘big bang’ and the coming into existence of all transient goods. It has taken 2.8 billion years of evolution from materials to vegetables and animals to come to expression of the spirit in the homo sapiens in human beings, now only 200.000 years ago.

    There is a lot of discussion going on now about different views on the origin of our world such as evolution in a darwinistic sense, creationism, intelligent design, etc., and about which interpretation is part of science and which of religion.. As nothing evolves from nothing, different beliefs in darwinistic evolution, in creationism or intelligent design can be reconciled when in the beginning all elements and possibilities of the later evolution were already present in the primal matter. It is the task of scientists, philosophers and religious thinkers to work out the how and when of this beginning and of its ending. Might the Hindu and Buddhist insight paradox of the “all is no-thing” and “the no-thing is all” be near the truth? Could it be interpreted as: in the all there are no material things and material things cannot be without the all. The “all” is in the big bang but also present and active in all created matter as formgiver and vision of the future. What is creation else than improving things, evolving from good to better. The better must however already be in potential present in the good. So the evolution of all matter is a constant creative process. The “all” has evolved over millions of years from lifeless matter into the spirit of human beings and it is this spirit that seeks its way to the homogeneity and the unity of all things in the All. This All corresponds then with what the religions teach about the Divine and about what they understand as God, the creating and sustaining Power in the Universe.

Growth in homogeneity   

Besides the by many stressed diversity, a more than before spectacular growth can now also be observed in the human world towards homogeneity and unity. This growth has taken place from the big bang beginning on but has become much more pronouned in recent times. In our European history, we observe this growth towards greater mutual unionizing from landowners and villages of farming and fishing people to towns and cities, duchies, kingdoms and empires up to the unification of the European nations into the European Union of today. This has been accompanied by unbelievable atrocities in continuous fighting for possesssion and power, with in the first part of the 20th century almost 100 million victims. This centuries long period in human history of confrontation has now at last changed into a new area of dialogue and collaboration. Between the current 28 countries of the European Union, frontiers with their custom houses and passport controls have disappeared. Local country laws are becoming continental European laws, compounded and enforced by Parliament and Commission. There is freedom and equality in the choice of residence and employment. The importance of the political states decreases while the language territories become more important as geographical structures and spheres of influence. The many are becoming one. While diversity is growing and expanding everywhere in the universe outside the human sphere, it is a most remarkable fact that an evolution towards unity and homogeneity is occurring only in the world where the human intellect reigns. Could this be seen as the growth of humankind towards the Omega destination of the final spiritualization of human beings in their union with the Ultimate Spiritual Reality, as Teilhard de Chardin has described it, a growth towards a final global unity in the political, economical, cultural and religious field?

Evolution from diversity towards homogeneity

The exceptional growth in communication since the end of WWII, which nobody could have foreseen in the years before, has had an up to then unknown influence on the evolution from diversity to homogeneity. Also the internet websites fulfill therein a substantial role with their choice possibilities of different languages and even now the possibility of automatic free still-to-be-corrected language translation of almost all texts which can be downloaded. The new knowledge of other countries and cultures with their higher prosperity in the past years has been at the origin of the gulf of immigration which has swept over West-European countries. The European communities are developing from an up to the end of WWII stable way of life and beliefs into rather unstable and continuously changing multifaith and multicultural societies. The subsequent exchange of values between the different countries, cultures and philosophies of life shall result not in impoverishment but in a mutual enrichment with a coming closer of each to the others and to a greater collaboration. The centuries long age of confrontation is now changing into a new age of dialogue and collaboration in mutual understanding and acceptance.

    European diversity is converging on a way of no return to European homogeneity. The consciousness of the citizen is changing from a local consciousness towards a European consciousness. Belgians, French, Germans … are becoming more conscious Europeans and somehow and maybe unconsciously less Belgian, French or German. Diversity will still be with us for a long time while however the homogeneous evolution will continue on its way to a final unity. With the European Union as model, we see a similar political and economic evolution around the world by e.g. the creation of an African Union, a South-East Asian Union and a Union of South-American States. This will automatically lead to a growth in homogeneity between the different states and between the different human communities of these Unions. Also here this will result in a higher unifying collaboration with less conflicts and more long lasting peace. This growth in homogeneity is since the end of WWII also active in the industrial and financial worlds by the transnational mergers of industrial and financial enterprises and by the creation of tens of international organizations like the United Nations Organization to name only one (See in my website “Global Evolution of the Faith Communities”). Humans have become conscious as citizens of their belonging not only to their own country and community but also to the great human world family.

    This is an evolution which can be explained only as part of the workings of the human intellect by humans who are becoming more interdependent and closer to each other. Intellectual knowledge is at the basis of this evolution towards homogeneity. While in the world of nature and of animals diversity is going its way to more diversity, only the human world is growing towards more uniting and more homogeneity. Could it therefore be said that homogeneity and unity are properties of the human intellect and of the spiritual world?

Union on a world scale

§  In this 21st century we are witnessing an unto now unseen growth towards world unity by the creation of a multitude of international organisations of which the main ones are as follows:

  • World Bank in 1944 with 184 member countries, 7.000 employees in Washington headoffices and over 3.000 in offices in other countries.
  • United Nations Organisation created on 24.10.1945 with now 191 member states. Preceded by the first international organization in our world, called the League of Nations, signed in Paris in 1919, at the Peace Conference after WWI., joined by sixty one nations but without the United States
  • International Monetary Fund (IMF), established in 1945 as an international organisation with now 184 member countries.
  • North-Atlantic Treaty Organisation in 1949 consisting of 19 country members.
  • International Court of Justice established as a judicial organ of the United Nations which began work in 1946 in the Peace Palace in The Hague in the Netherlands, when it replaced the Permanent Court of International Justice which had functioned there since 1922.
  • World Trade Organisation (WTO) which came into being in 1995 as successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) established in the wake of the Second World War.
  • European Union, becoming a reality by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, followed by the implementing of the Euro as common currency on January 1, 2002, uniting now 25 countries since 2004 with a population of 455 million.
  • African Union of 53 African nations, established on July 9, 2002, Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), signed on May 23, 2008, and a similar move in Asia with ASEAN (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations) established on 8 August 1967 consisting now of 10 nations.
  • Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders in 2000 attended by more than thousand religious leaders from all world faith communities, a global gathering of religious leaders that was held, in part, in the UN General Assembly Hall, and that involved UN officials, but which was not officially endorsed by the UN.
  • World Social Forum which took place in 2003 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, which was attended by more than 100.000 people from all over the world.
  • Towards a Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). The SEPA implies that customers will be enabled to make payments throughout the whole euro area as efficiently and safely as in the national context today. In the White Paper of May 2002, 42 European Banks and the European credit sector associations declared that a full migration to the SEPA would be achieved by the end of 2010. This can be considered as one of the steps leading in the future to a global worldwide payment system.  
  • Universal Declarations of Human Rights in 1948, of Non-Violence in 1990, of a Global Ethic in 1993, and of Human Responsibilities in 1995.

 Also the common people have now become conscious of their being citizens not only of their own country but also the continent in which they live and work,  and of the human world community and world family.

The intercultural and interfaith dialogue movement

This is an evolution which should also become part of the intercultural and interfaith dialogue movement in order to realize the creation of a world forum of the faithcommunities. Also here we see a growth from diversity to homogeneity. The gulf of immigration into many countries of the EU from North-African and other countries has been at the origin of multicultural and multifaith communities in the EU. This immigration gulf is only the beginning of a merger and mutual integration of human cultures, and means a growth in homogeneity. As a consequence, a belonging to more than one religion or other ideology is becoming a commonly accepted phenomenon. Christians practice Buddhist Zen-meditation, Catholic monks and nuns spent some weeks in Buddhist monasteries in Japan, Korea and India, while Buddhist monks and nuns stay for weeks in Catholic monasteries in Europe and in the VS. Japan can here be mentioned as the only country where homogeneity has been and still is being practiced in a high degree in most spheres of society.

    On occasion of my recent visits to and participating in communion celebrations in Anglican-Methodist and other churches in England, I have been able to observe, as a rather unknown example of homogeneity, the surprising likeness of the celebration with Catholic Eucharist-celebrations, which, as one of the priests told me, have been a result of the Catholic renewal after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). These Eucharist celebrations should be a basis for further ecumenic approaches between catholic, orthodox and protestant churches.

    Another example of this growing of faith communities towards each other in the past ten years is the creation of Councils of World Religious Leaders:

  • in 2000-2001 the ‘World Council of Religious Leaders’, with a thousand religious leaders of all possible faith communities present at its creation, sponsored by the UNO at New York.
  • in December 2003 the ‘Board of Religious Leaders’ by the Eliyah Interreligious Institute in Jerusalem, with 45 religious leaders of the 5 major faith communities from 20 different countries.
  • in September 2003 the ‘Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions’ with representatives from all the major faith communities from 17 different countries and presided for by Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan at that time.
  • in March 2002 the ‘European Council of Religious Leaders’ established by the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP), and with Cardinal Wilfried Danneels of Belgium as Catholic board member.

These councils of world leaders of the major faith communities mean a gradual closing of the ranks by the major faith communities on a continental and global level.

A United Faith Communities Organization

This could be the time and the occasion for the creation of a world forum of the faith communities as an acceptable discussion partner to the United Nations Organization, with e.g. as namesake United Faith Communities Organization (UFCO). Such organization with its 4.5 billion believers as background members and with the Golden Rule as conduct basis could become a world conscience to push the political leaders towards more efficient measures in the solving of our world problems as poverty, inequality in welfare, environment, etc. This was one of the main and often expressed aims of Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the UNO. Its realization will without doubt take time and the dedication of many. The soil however is ready now for sowing and harvesting.

Collaboration between the politcal en religious world

A looking for collaboration with the faith communities has, in the past ten years, come forward also from the political world. Such collaboration with regular meetings is already taking place in the UK, and is since some years also the aim of the EU Commission. The year 2008 has been declared by the Commission as ‘The European Year of Intercultural Dialogue’ (EYID) with as main program 7 evening debates about “Together in diversity”, and with “Interfaith Dialogue” as theme of the 3rd debate on May 14, 2008. This is an evolution of world importance by which the EU is playing a forerunner’s role also in this field.

A dialogue between the World Band and religious leaders was initiated by James Wolfensohn, president of the Bank, by inviting representants of the world religions in February 1998 in the Lambeth Palace in London, in order to study together ways of collaboration to deal with the problms of poverty. This was followed by a meeting in Johannesburg, South-Africa, convoked by Mr. Wolfensohn and the Archbishop of Cape Town, Rev. Njongonkulu Ndungane, which was attended by leaders of the Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Jewish, Sikh and Tao faith communities.

*    *   *                                                                                                                                                             Lucien F. Cosijns, Binnensteenweg 240/A26, 2530 Boechout, Belgium

Tel.: +32 3 455.6880          lfc.cosijns@gmail.com