TEXAS FAITH 20: How can religious leaders keep Fort Hood incident from creating fear, tension and misunderstanding?

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Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

We had an excellent exchange last week about how to sustain a meaningful interfaith dialogue. But two days later, Fort Hood erupted with violence. An Army psychiatrist who was about to be deployed to Iraq took the lives of 13 people on the base and wounded 31 others.

The shooter, we've learned, is a Muslim. News reports claim he shouted "God is Great" when beginning his slayings. News reports also indicate that he felt harassed by fellow soldiers for his faith. Muslim leaders have strongly denounced his actions.

Perhaps we will learn more in the next several weeks about his real motives. But even if we learn the shootings had little or nothing to do with his faith, this event will undoubtedly create tension between American Muslims and those Americans who believe Islam is an inflammatory religion.

This is where interfaith dialogue gets hard. When religion is wrapped up in the story of such an atrocity, religious leaders need to step forward.

So, here's this week's question:

How can religious leaders -- Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and any other -- keep this incident from creating fear, tension and misunderstanding?

Read on to see what our panelists say.

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas

We can only have universal brotherhood and peace by accepting that we all have the same father. Krishna states in the Bhagavad Gita a peace formula (5.29), "One who can recognize that God is the owner of everything, everything is meant to be done for God and God is everyone's best friend such a person can be peaceful." Religious leaders who canvas followers for their own agendas, not recognizing that the same God is being worshiped in all the major religions, perpetuate strife.

It is not that all paths lead to the same goal, for if that were so it would eliminate any sense of free will. However there is only one God, and all genuine traditions state that God is attracted by love.

God is not purchased by dogma, or club affiliation, but rather genuine love and service free from personal motivations. Religious leaders must become themselves pure in heart and teach by example what it means to be devotee of God. Such a soul, free from all dogmas, and personal agendas, can see different degrees of genuine love of God in all traditions.

So religious leaders, who lead by example, eradicate spiritual ignorancewhich is the cause of all ill behavior and fear.

Hare Krishna :)
Your humble servant,
Nityananda Chandra Das
To see all the responses from the Texas Faith Panel click here