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Empathy is the key to peace

by Margaret Lee
As a Catholic, I strive to follow the Golden Rule: “do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). There is a motivation to do better, to be a better person for myself and the greater community. In the 10 Commandments, we are given a code of behaviour towards God and each other. This is fundamental to our faith life. 
On the other hand, others expect people of faith and representatives like priests and nuns to be more righteous and morally upright than themselves. This is due to conduct that is expected of them, along with the servant leadership they are to reflect while being messengers of the Word of God. However, recognising that even priests and nuns are humans, just like us, will help us empathise with them.
Religious leaders like priests, are often scolded for not making the right choices, according to how some view it. 
A new law in effect in some parts of Australia, requires Catholic priests to break the seal of confession to report child abusers, creating controversy within the Church and around the globe. Archbishop Christopher Prowse of Canberra and Goulburn, pointed out that, “Priests are bound by a sacred vow to maintain the seal of confession.” 
I find that their intentions may be good. However, they do not understand what this means for people of faith. As someone who goes to confession, this breaks the trust that is created. Therefore, conforming to the law would go against the vow and would forfeit the trust of many individuals who want to go to confession. 
Some argue that child abusers would go unpunished if their confession is kept private. Priests are then further criticised for not doing the world any justice for not reporting criminals to authorities. This is not to say these things might not be true in some or many cases. However, breaking the Confessional seal threatens a Catholic’s religious freedom and go against a sacred vow, it would also not help prevent child abuse. People have to put themselves in the priests’ position and be empathetic towards the unjust situation that they are being placed in. 
The justification behind the societal norm wherein the faithful are expected to be more upright is the implication that we possess the greater the motivation to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:31) and to follow the commandment of God. However, this is not always the case as some people would actually use their interpretation of religion as an excuse to commit bad acts. For example, the goal of ISIS is to create an Islamic state called a caliphate across Iraq, Syria and beyond, according to CNN
While some commit sin under the guise of religion, true faith is not a free pass for propagating hatred and prejudice. 
People of faith are admonished for not being role models. Whether an individual or group is good or bad, does not solely depend on race, economic background or religion. We have to acknowledge that no human is ever perfect, and we are allowed to make mistakes. Nobel Prize winner in physics, Steven Weinberg once said, “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things.”
Our version of our faith is not something we should hide behind to do bad things. But people should not be condemned just because they can’t meet expectations all the time for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). 
Moreover, a person should not be judged based solely on their religion. Living one’s faith is not about being perfect in the present, but uniting in our belief in acknowledging that we are not perfect, and together, striving towards the perfection to which we are called.
Margaret Lee is a grade 12 student currently studying at the
Canadian International School of Hong Kong.