Jyoti V. Sharma-  Persuing MBA at Thakur Institue of Management Studies & Research , Mumbai

North Andover, Mass., school’s Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian- Muslim Relations announced the award of its Goldziher Prize to Prof. Mark Cohen of Princeton University. The prize is named for a 19th century Jewish scholar of Islam, Ignác Goldziher, a Hungarian who respected Islam and who legitimated Islamic studies in European universities.

Cohen, a rabbi, teaches Jewish Civilization in the Near East and is author of Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages, which focuses on advantages Jews in that era had when they were governed by Muslims. Muslims and Jews got along better than they usually do today.

What was more prominent in these two stories? Most hopeful about this award is the very existence of Merrimack’s Jewish-Christian-Muslim center which I wasn’t aware before. A press release describing the Goldziher award said the center has expanded its mission from mostly Jewish-Christian relations studies to include Islam.

“It’s extraordinarily important that Americans learn about Islam, understand Islam and know and respect Muslims. That’s the primary need. Today, not just India but the world needs to be aligned in the frame of ‘religious harmony’.

Harmony, peace, prosperity is all a buzz word nationwide. People live together, move together, still a grief in their minds persists. We forget the fact that it’s not the grief but the offenses we have towards others in our mind. We live together but forget the essence of peace and love.

India, a country with diversity in physical features along with its race, region, caste, language, landform, flora and fauna, in this 21st century is altogether repainted into a new picture. But all that India speaks is the ‘religion’. But what is religion? George Bernard Shaw says ‘Religion is a great force – the only real motive force in the world’. There is a common misconception that religion means ritualistic religion and nothing else. The word religion actually means laws, both natural and moral, that ensure right living .Religion stands for an integral development of the personality, a comprehensive view of life.

Only human species has the ability to transmit information and knowledge from one generation to the next. This ability has given man his cherished civilization and culture. An enquiring mind naturally seeks for an order, for a unifying principal behind the apparent diversity. It is well known that faith infuses energy and grit, without which no worthwhile progress in any field of activity is possible.

Incarnations, Saints, Prophets and Sages have appeared in different parts of the world from time to time in order to teach men how to live in harmony. These great souls, on the basis of personal experience explained the essential ideals and values in life and taught how they can be achieved. In addition to their moral and spiritual teachings, almost all the religious teachers and reformers of the world gave out a plan and a system of their own on which human society would best be organized .It was thus that every faith helped to establish customs and conventions, with rites and rituals, amongst the communities of mankind and gave birth to a particular type of civilization and culture which naturally differed from others. This is how different religions came into existence.

Various factors divide mankind, such as, race, ethnicity, color, language, nationality, ideology and religion. Among these, religion is most emotive. It was propounded 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. Politics divides people, and politics is in command in all nations.

The customs, traditions, rites all end up on just one aspect religion and all we need to understand is just the essence of ‘harmony’. ‘Truth is one but paths are many’, this is what each person, as a human being needs to understand. The whole sagacious story of religious harmony just says until we realize that the goal of every religion is essentially the same – the search for Truth only then we can foster an attitude of open dialogue and mutual exchange of ideologies rather than imposing our beliefs on others by force.

We humans experience spiritual reality under three aspects: as the unfathomable mystery that surrounds and transcends our life, as our own innermost being, and as the life breath and love energy that flows through the universe and holds all things in harmony. Different traditions emphasize different aspects of this continuum. This alone creates a great diversity, within which historical, geographic, and cultural conditions make for amazingly rich variations. The closer we are to the heart of our own tradition, the more freely we will appreciate the forms in which others celebrate the supreme mystery for which every human heart longs.

Today we all are at the verge of atomic destruction and when everybody is busy in the mad rat race of materialistic pursuit, religious harmony will be a relief. We should make an effort to peep into the prominent religions of the world and find out a secular message for the mankind.

Einstein has stated that “Religion without Science is blind and that Science without religion is lame. Rationality, rather than blind faith and superstition ought to guide mankind.

All we could do is let Spirituality and Ethics, Science and Rationality slowly triumph over narrow sectarianism, and make the Planet shine with Love and Brotherhood.