Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity: Working Together for a World of Compassion, Peace, Justice and Sustainability


Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate – TRANSCEND Media Service

Mairead Maguire

Mairead Maguire

Presentation to the World Parliament of Religions, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA – October 15-19, 2015

 Dear Sisters and Brothers,

It is a great joy for me to be with you at the wonderful Parliament of Religions being held in Utah. This gathering is a great cause for joy and celebration.

I believe in the power of people and here at the WPR with thousands of people gathering from around the world from all faith traditions, and none, gathering in a spirit of love, dialogue, respect, peace, is itself a great light of hope and inspires and empowers us all.

I believe all the religions and spiritual traditions have an important role to play in helping humanity to reclaim its heart and through their collective wisdom have potential to be channels of enormous good.

The human family after many years of violence and war needs to regain its trust and confidence in itself and each other, and for this many look to Religious/Spiritual traditions and leaders to give hope and faith and shine a light in our beautiful world.

We are all increasingly aware that we live in an inter-dependent, interconnected multi-faith and multi-cultural world with rich diversity brought into our lives, in an unprecedented way by modern technology. We can ignore, reject, or embrace, diversity, be it ethnic, religious, cultural, political, or we can embrace it and rejoice and celebrate it.   Learning to live together in our diverse traditions is not always easy, as we people often don’t like diversity or change, but change we must in our fast changing world!

Reclaiming the heart of our humanity, where we can together discover the spirit of God living in each human being, and begin to serve each other out of a deep love and compassion will lead us to a new place, a civilization with a heart for all living beings and nature. A deep awareness arising out of a vision of the sacredness of life, both our own and others, and the environment, should led us to treat everyone and everything with care and respect and into a gentle kinder way of living and treating each other. Nonkilling and Nonviolence become as natural as breathing when we become infused with a vision of the sacred and the mystery of life, the planet and the cosmos in which each of us, and all living creatures, has an important part to play. This will involve a change of mindset from force to cooperation and necessitate we use the tools of dialogue and diplomacy instead of force and the threats of force. I am profoundly convinced that dialogue based on absolute respect for each other and our differences, recognition that there are many paths to God, and focussing, not on the past, but on peaceful solutions, will release our imagination, creativity, and humankinds’ genius. It will help us to find solutions and a way out of ‘chaos’ into a new way of living together as the human family, in our shared home, here on earth.

An honest admission that alone no one country can solve our problems, but we need each other so everyone is welcome at the ‘table of dialogue’ with their ideas. This Parliament of Religions gathering is one such table, as is the United Nations, which represents the international community, and whilst acknowledging it needs to renew and reform, deserves all our support as it endeavours to set out universal standards of International Law and Human Rights and works to fulfil its mandate ‘To save the world from the scourge of war’.

This deep dialogue will raise may questions, such as ‘How can the world religions and spiritual movements work together, and with others, to help find peaceful solutions to humanity’s challenges, which themselves open the door to new possibilities?. Perhaps we need a more unified vision we can all share. What if we agree that a disarmed, demilitarized world, one without capital punishment, nuclear weapons and war, is possible, and no matter what area we choose to work in, be it inter-church, interfaith, ecology, mediation, conflict resolution, feminism, demilitarization, whatever? We can share the vision of a disarmed world believing passionately that ‘Peace is possible’ when we reject militarism and war, and build peace by cooperation, disarmament and law.

Speaking about a disarmed, demilitarized world without war, may seem like a dream as we the human family are faced daily with increased violence and wars. However, we all know in our hearts that this is not how people should live and around the world, millions of people are arising to say enough!   We want a different world. Women are at the forefront of this movement for change. Above all women are asking for parity of esteem and therefore for their rights and freedoms to be fully recognized by all Faith traditions.   Religions when acting out of the deepest respect for dignity, for mutual respect, esteem and equality for other persons’ religion and recognizing the right of conscience of each person, working in cooperation and partnerships, help bring forward solutions to many of the problems faced by the human family and the environment.

We face an ecological crisis, with global warming, etc., and for our very survival we need to change course from violence to nonviolence and take the path to peace wherever we live. The wisdom of Gandhi inspires us in our actions to protect the environment, when he said, ‘We cannot have ecological movement designed to prevent violence against nature, unless the principal of nonviolence becomes central to the ethics of human culture’. Gandhi lived the concept of ahimsa, which means nonkilling or more broadly non-harming and the religions and philosophies of Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism also share the concept of Ahimsa.

However as we know, there are extremist sects in all religions, which distort their religion, preaching hate and intolerance towards believers of other faiths, or none.   Not only must we not support these movements of violence, but it challenges us to the importance of connecting faith with the vision of a nonkilling/nonviolent world, and teaching nonviolence in our religious institutions and at all levels of society.

Ideological extremism and fundamentalism, whether religious/political, or of any other kind, cannot be bombed out of existence and there are no military or paramilitary solutions to many of the violent conflicts we are now living through.   Only education and tackling the roots of such violence, can win hearts and minds to alternative ways of changing society and tackling injustice. Applying the Golden Rule ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ (Mt.7:12) means talking to your enemies, not killing or bombing them. All faith traditions can share their rich wisdom of peaceful conflict resolutions and reconciliation. Forgiveness is a key to peace and with God’s help we can forgive and be forgiven. This will be necessary as we move from the suffering, pain and anger, after wars by western governments, and others,   against Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, where millions of people have died and untold thousands fled these countries to safety, into Europe and further afield.

Many fanatical religious and political extremists have said there are fighting a ‘Holy war’ and ‘Christian Just war’. Such misguided mindsets come from violence supporting theology (i.e. Just War theory) in different faith traditions which needs to be replaced with a theology of nonkilling and love, more in the spirit of the founders of the great religions, who in their lives and times, lived out of an acknowledgement of the sacredness of life, nonkilling and loving service to all. I believe that ideologies of hatred, sectarianism and violence, should have no part in Religions that claim to worship a loving Creator. For myself, coming as I do out of a Christian tradition, I reject the ‘Just War’ theory of the Christians, and I agree with the words of the late Fr. John McKenzie, the American theologian, when he said, ‘The Just War theory is a phony piece of morality’. I believe the greatest service for humanity and peace would be for the faiths of all traditions to proclaim a new Theology of Peace and Nonkilling then we could truly reclaim the heart of humanity together.


Mairead Corrigan Maguire, co-founder of Peace People, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. She won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. Her book The Vision of Peace (edited by John Dear, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a preface by the Dalai Lama) is available from She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. See:

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 19 Oct 2015.

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