Respect for all of God’s creatures is a common theme in many religions

Today marks the start of Be Kind to Animals month, and while at first glance this topic might seem like an incongruous topic in a newspaper section devoted to religious beliefs, it doesn’t take much effort to find the link. . Respect for life and kindness to animals is a common theme in almost all religions.

The revered Mahatma Gandhi of Hindu descent said, “The lower animals are our brothers” and “In my opinion, I hold that the more powerless a creature is, the more entitled it is to man’s protection from cruelty. of man. ”

Judaism has an ancient tradition of showing kindness and compassion to animals. Indeed, the Jews are considered to be the first people in the world to have recorded and adopted teachings prohibiting cruelty to animals. These teachings included the prohibition to pass next to an animal in distress or an animal mistreated.

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Probably the first person that comes to mind as a Christian exponent of compassion for animals is the beloved Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals. His sympathy for all living creatures is legendary, and stories of his preaching to birds and taming ferocious animals such as the Gubbio wolf abound. No doubt such stories have been added to over the centuries, but they are still valid illustrations of how believers should view animals.

From Islam we have the story of the Prophet Muhammad and the sleeping cat. There are several versions of this story. Here is one that I particularly like: Muhammed had a great love for cats, especially for Muezza, his favourite. One morning, as the call to prayer was being called, the Prophet fetched his prayer robe and found Muezza asleep on one of its sleeves. Choosing not to disturb his sleep, He cut off the sleeve, put on the robe, and hurried off to morning prayer.

In the scriptures of the Baha’i Faith we find the following words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “O friends of God! You should not only have benevolent and merciful feelings for mankind, but you should also show the utmost benevolence towards every living creature. And further: “Educate children in their infancy so that they become extremely kind and merciful towards animals. If an animal is sick, they must endeavor to cure it; if he is hungry, they must feed him; if he is thirsty, they must quench his thirst; if he is tired, they must give him rest. Man is generally a sinner and the animal is innocent; no doubt, one should be more kind and merciful to the innocent.

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The benefits of what religions have taught about animals have been amply confirmed by science. Studies have shown that being kind to animals and helping them increases happiness, helps us heal from trauma, and nurtures a sense of purpose. Showing kindness, whether to other humans or animals, increases the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin — chemicals that Eva Ritvo, MD calls “the trifecta of happiness.” “.

Studies by the American Heart Association show that heart attack and stroke survivors have a reduced risk of death if they own a dog. Research also validates the mental health benefits of pet ownership. These benefits include lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress.

The Pets for the Elderly Foundation is a national charity committed to connecting older adults with therapy animals. Research from this group shows many physiological and psychological benefits of interacting with pets, including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, improving activity levels, increasing interactions with others and less loneliness.

Albert Schweitzer was both a man of science and a man of God. Who better, then, to synthesize the teachings of the two? His words: “When man learns to respect even the smallest being in creation, no one has to teach him to love his neighbor. Compassion for animals is intimately connected with kindness of character, and one can confidently say that one who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man. And, “Through ethical conduct toward all creatures, we enter into a spiritual relationship with the universe.”

Nancy Flood-Golembeck is a retired teacher and longtime member of the Baha’i Faith.

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