Hans Kung’s global ethic

Last week, Hans Kung was visiting Santa Clara University for a conference on human rights and a global ethic. Kung is founder of The Foundation for a Global Ethic. He has been a strong advocate for a global ethic, rooted deeply in the religious traditions of the world. He expresses his conviction in this way:

  • No peace among the nations without peace among the religions.
  • No peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions.
  • No dialogue between the religions without global ethical standards.
  • No survival of our globe without a global ethic.

Last Thursday, he met with a group of local religious leaders as part of a conference sponsored by the Local Religion Project of the Religious Studies Department at SCU, the National Conference for Community and Justice, and Interfaith Space. Kung has developed a display consisting of 12 panels that describe the common values of the world’s religious traditions and how they might support a common set of ethical standards. The local leaders were invited to view the display and then discuss with Prof. Kung and each other how well the display reflected their own traditions, and what they had learned about others.

The exhibit (which will be on display until June 30th in the lobby of the Arts and Sciences building at Santa Clara University) presents brief summaries of Hinduism, Chinese Religion, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It also presents the outline of a global ethic:

  • treat every human being humanely
  • have respect for life (non-violence)
  • deal honestly and fairly (economic justice and ecological consciousness)
  • speak and act truthfully
  • respect and love one another (no abuse of gender or sexuality).

Many participants noted that the common themes of respect, concern for others and peacemaking were, indeed, part of their traditions, but often were not lived out as fully as one might wish. And, while interfaith conversations often center on understanding one another, or being engaged in specific social advocacy, for the most part we have not even begun to talk about a shared ethic.

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