Annu Mishra –  Persuing MBA at Thakur Institue of Management Studies & Research , Mumbai

“With dialogue, we can combat hate. With inter-faith harmony, we can build bridges to better future”. Various factors divide mankind, such as, race, ethnicity, color, language, nationality, ideology and religion. Among these, religion is most emotive.

Scholars propound that religion is responsible for making man a civilized being, spiritual growth and for taking mankind nearer to God. But it is a sad fact that more people have been killed in religious conflicts and battles than in wars for Conquest of territory. Religion has been misused for political and personal gain.

Cruelty has been inflicted on millions of human beings and animals in the name of religion. Millions are being sacrificed even now. This proverb rightly indicates how essential it is for a person to be spiritual. Dialogues when spelt in the right way can lead a person to attain a stage where in he is loved by every individual due to his appropriate and mild way of communicating about a religion. But when this essential factor goes wrong it can lead to disharmony. Now a days, talking about religious harmony, is the most common topic of discussion at every corner of the world in all possible levels of the human society. How to reduce if not totally eliminate religious conflicts, is not only bothers the world leaders but also agitates mind of every common people at some point of time or other. The most convincing answer to this problem, is from a from a speech which has been delivered little before the 9/11 has happened. I believe answer to all the questions, today’s world is asking, about the disturbing religious conflicts, is addressed in that speech. I dare not to touch the purity of the speech with my ignorance and limited capabilities, so just applying my most used skill of my professional life.

The major question which has been unanswered till date is what is the main reason behind religious disharmony. The answer lies somewhere within us. Yes we are responsible for the unnecessary mess. “ A bitter tongue is sharper than knife” maybe I am the first person to create this proverb but on a serious note to some extent it proves to be correct. People at times while giving out their views on religion tend to hurt sentiments of individuals belonging to the other side of the line i.e. different religion.

India is characterized by more ethnic and religious groups than most other countries of the world. Aside from the much noted 2000-odd castes, there are eight “major” religions, 15-odd languages spoken in various dialects in 22 states and nine union territories, and a substantial number of tribes and sects. Three ethnic or religious conflicts have stood out of late: two occurred in the states of “Assam and Punjab; another, the more widely known Hindu-Muslim conflict continues to persist. The Assam problem is primarily ethnic; the Punjab problem is based on both religious and regional conflicts, while the Hindu- Muslim problem is predominantly religious.

Of all the religious and ethnic issues in contemporary India, history has cast its deepest shadow on Hindu-Muslim relations. The most critical contemporary phase of this history was the partition of 1947. A Muslim sovereign state of Pakistan was born amidst ghastly communal violence but almost as many Muslims as there were in the new constituted Pakistan, for various reasons, stayed in India. The partition did not solve the Hindu-Muslim problems; it caused the situation of the Muslims in India to deteriorate. They were blamed for the division of the country, their leadership had left and their power was further weakened by the removal of all Muslim-majority areas except Kashmir. Most of all, the conflict between India and Pakistan kept the roots of the communal tension perpetually alive and pushed Muslims into the unfortunate situation of defending their loyalty to India. Even 66 years after independence, the problem has not been overcome; Hindi-Muslim riots have in fact increased in the last few years.

These were the few examples of religious disharmony out of the trunk which is full of such brutal incidents.

Such incidents trigger the need for an element called as “religious harmony” the need of religious harmony is the key ingredient of world peace.

We need religious harmony in order to win back the fading prosperity. Religious disharmony leads to nothing but destruction.

Swami Vivekananda has stated that all religions lead to the same God in essence, and that differences are in non-essentials. Christianity and Islam do not believe in rebirth. Hindus accept that all religions are different paths to the same God. Sri Ramakrishna declared that he realized God by observing the principles and practices of Christianity and Islam. Islam is against idol worship. But Hindus, though believing in one Supreme Being, pray to hundreds of Gods and Goddesses as different manifestations of the one God.

Whatever be our religious affiliation, we have to live in amity with others who belong to other religions. All of us belong to the same human species. Man is only one among one million animal species, and therefore, a human birth is a rare privilege and a gift of God. Thus, having a negative attitude toward the religion we learned as a child blocks our spiritual development. It is also unrealistic, for despite the things we do not like or disagree with, we did learn many good things from our childhood religion. For example, it instilled in us many ethical principles that enable us to live in harmony with others. It taught us the value of love and compassion. It encouraged us to believe that something was more important than our self-centeredness. It taught us that there is another kind of happiness besides the short-term happiness we receive from pleasures of the senses. All these things laid a foundation in us for further spiritual training, and thus in part helped us to connect with the spiritual beliefs of our new religion. When we think deeply, we realize that we received benefit from our childhood religion, even though it may not be the one we choose to practice as adults. We must avoid painting anything as all good or all bad.

To conclude I would just like to add a quote by Swami Vivekananda which goes like this, “Of all the forces that have worked and are still working to mould the destinies of the human race none, certainly, is more potent than that, the manifestation of which we call religion”