Dyuti Mahesh Deshpande –  Perusing MBA at Thakur Institute of Management Studies & Research , Mumbai

‘Religious Harmony’……….When I googled the term, I got a list of sites giving meanings of the term….each site of a different religion…. I wondered which site to refer…..as even my religion became the ground for selection! ….And then I doubted even google whether such a term really existed!

The two words ‘religion’ and ‘harmony’ themselves do not seem to be harmonious these days.

It is quite an irony.

Then I decided to search the two words individually….They said : “Religion is an organized collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values.”….well defined.

Religion (from O.Fr. religion “religious community,” from L. religionem (nom. religio) “respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods,”obligation, the bond between man and the gods” So now the question arises who sees what as GOD? According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world. A global 2012 poll reports that 59% of the world’s population is religious, 23% are not religious, and 13% are atheists. Whatever the statistics say…..i believe that they were derived from humans!! The term harmony derives from the Greek ἁρμονία (harmonía), meaning “joint, agreement, concord”, from the verb ἁρμόζω (harmozo), “to fit together, to join”

Harmony is different from “indifferentism”. Each religion has, through centuries of development, acquired a distinct profile with so many features- a philosophical framework, vast literature, But I would like to note that harmony is different from toleration. Swami Vivekanand said, “ Not only toleration, for so called toleration is blasphemy, I do not believe in it. Why should I tolerate? Toleration means that I think you are wrong and I am just allowing you to live. Is it not a blasphemy that you and I are allowing others to live?”

In terms of religion, ethnicity, wars, and conflicts, Jack David Eller states: “When a pure or hybrid religious group and/or its interests are threatened, or merely blocked from achieving its interests by another group, conflict and violence may ensue. In such cases, although religion is part of the issue and religious groups form the competitors, or combatants, it would be simplistic or wrong to assume the religion is the “cause” of the trouble or that the parties are “fighting about religion”. Religion in the circumstances may be more a marker of the groups than an actual point of contention between them.”

Even in societies where Freedom of Religion is a constitutional right, sometimes adherents of religious minorities voice concerns about religious discrimination against them. Insofar as legal policies are concerned, cases that are perceived as religious discrimination might be the result of an interference of the religious sphere with other spheres of the public that are regulated by law (and not aimed specifically against a religious minority).

Freedom of conscience is of course the basis of freedom of religion and no person can be penalized or discriminated against because of their religious views, but this does not prevent government from either requiring the doing of some act for forbidding the doing of some act merely because religious beliefs underlie the conduct in question. In this case the Government would not be interfering with religious belief but with conduct (Akande, 1982: 35).

All over the world, Religion holds a primal place. Everyman is said to believe in a ‘god’. Ordinarily there should be no feud in matter of religion, because religion is a personal decision. However, in recent times religion has become an issue and many crimes are committed on the basis of faith. In the 21st century with the promotion of human rights, this ought not to be so. We believe times have changed and each individual should be able to practice his faith without necessarily impuning his fellow. With this at the back of our mind we seek to examine religion, human rights and the challenge of freedom by offering some proposals towards religious harmony in the 21st century. Another view is that religion is “merely an instrument to contain man’s primordial fears- fear of the present, fear of the future, fear of life and death (Akin Ibidapo-Obe 2005:143). The connection between religion and human rights arises as a problem globally because of diversity of homosapiens.

Religion is often viewed today as having a negative role in world politics, particularly in cases where a religious revival is perceive to be taking place. After decades during which religion seemed to be largely and effectively relegated to the private realm, religious activists are staking out a new claim for religion as a central feature of public life. The wish to restore religion to what is considered its rightful place at the heart of society is the most notable common denominator of today’s religious fundamentalist movements. In order to achieve their aim, members of such movements may employ several tactics, including violent ones. They justify their use of violence by reason, often referring to a perception that we are not living in normal times, and that exceptional circumstances ask for exceptional measures. As a result, an unusual alliance has been forged in many cases between religion and politics.

The emergence of certain interest groups that do not shun violence and seem to be inspired by a particular religious ideology has tempted many observers, notably in the West, to assume an intrinsic connection between religion and violence. Hence, it is common today to consider religion as a source of conflict rather than a resource for peace. The logical conclusion then is to try and reduce the influence of the religious factor in the political arena. Typically in such a view, religion is deemed to be a private affair, something between individual believes and their god’s), a relation that should not spill over into the public domain. Whereas religion is expected to limit it self exclusively to regulating human relations between the visible and invisible words, it is politics, on the other hand, which is deemed solely responsible for regulating their relations with the state that they live in the formal separation between the fields of religion and politics has been the hallmark of Western democracies.