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Call for ‘moral authority’ influenced by Dominican education

This transcript was written in Jordan by Nathan Mihelich during a recent ecumenical tour.

Nathan Mihelich with the former Crown Prince of Jordan, HRH Prince El-Hassan bin Talaal

In a cramped conference room with a dozen Christian journalists from the United States and Canada, the former Crown Prince of Jordan, HRH Prince El-Hassan bin Talaal, revealed to the group that it is his belief that politics, not theology, shape attitudes among Muslims, which are often anti-western and cause ill will. The Prince asserts that the world needs to elevate religion above politics, in not only how it thinks but how it acts. He believes a moral authority or alliance among religious traditions, grounded in moral principles shared by faiths, can bridge the spiritual struggles between Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Collectively, this authority could calm rising hostilities and soothe grieving wounds.

Believing that the separation of church and state is crucial, he said, “This moral authority could rise above politics and be empowered to rebuild the institutions of religious learning. What’s wrong is that everything in Southwest Asia is unilateral with no institutional structure or systemic representation.” He continues by stating that it is important to highlight the commonalities between cultures to fight discrimination and to establish a recovery process similar to the Helsinki Process, which was a process of debate and dialogue that led to the empowerment of individuals to challenge the injustices in societies. “Putting a halt to the hatred industry won’t happen by condemning them and falling into their trap of engineered polarity. It will be by doing something for the people and improving our governance,” he exclaims. He has on a previous occasion written that terrorists do not have the right to speak for Islam, which is a point that is urgent for the Muslim world to convey.

The Prince made it known to the group that he was educated by the Dominicans in the 1960s in Jerusalem, and said calling for a moral authority is derived partly by that schooling. He shared that his Dominican education taught him the traditions of other religions, concepts, and philosophies.

“This conversation is not about the religion but about human dignity,” Prince Hassan stated. “Ethics, morals, and values are our inspiration, and at the end of the day each of us has our own historical narrative. We know what is important when we come to the table unambiguously, and we know where we stand on civil liberties, on stewardship, on custodianship, and on our physical environment and our human environment. That is where religion has a benign role to play, a positive role to play. And, it’s only in the creation of a moral authority, possibly in Jerusalem one day, so that religion can rise above politics and not be influenced by politics.”

The Prince emphasized that both Christianity and Islam share in the basic philosophy of worshiping one God and loving one’s neighbor. He emphasizes that although the world’s religious groups differ in the concepts of deity and beliefs, they all share in the ethic of reciprocity. “The golden rule of reciprocity… do unto others as they would do unto you… is a common theme among those using those very words,” he states.

The Prince’s message comes at a time when acts of terrorism continue to strain relations between Christians and Muslims. Tourism by Americans has tapered off even though the head of state, King Abdullah II, has called upon Christians, Jews and Muslims to come together instead of clashing. The King has accused terrorists of attacking civilization and invites American Catholics to come to Jordan to visit the holy places where the Bible comes alive—the Jordan River, Mount Nebo and the Dead Sea, to name a few.

Nathan Mihelich is the communications director for the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois.

View Nathan’s Documentary: Renewing Faith Where Christianity Was Born, A Travel Log For Catholics

Mihelich's Jordan documentary designed to reinforce faith, by Terry Dickson of the Gulf Pine Catholic

Photos from Nathan’s ecumenical tour of Jordan