Kajal D Mehta –  Perusing MBA at Thakur Institute of Management Studies & Research , Mumbai

Religion connotes a belief in a supreme being and his worship through a specified ritual. Religion is based on a moralistic outlook or way of life. In its doctrinal perspective, it may be defined as a system of general truths which has the effect of transforming characters when they are sincerely held and vividly apprehended. Every religion has its own belief. Religion shapes the way we see the world.

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. Whether we realize it now or not, religion plays a very crucial role in the affairs of our nation. Unfortunately, religious issues are deliberately avoided even when our collective future is being threatened by unfounded misunderstanding and suspicion of each other. As religious people, instead of being our “brothers keepers” we have rather opted to be our “brothers killers” and this is widening the gap for atheism and secularism to destroy our nation. 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. It is necessary to try and reduce the influence of the religious factor in the political arena.

Religion is deemed to be a private affair, something between individual beliefs and their god’s), a relation that should not spill over into the public domain whereas religion is expected to limit itself 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 the relations with the state. The formal separation between the fields of religion and politics has been the hallmark of Western democracies for centuries and was introduced to other parts of the world, notably those which were colonized by Europe, and by extension, countries that were long under the influence of Western Europe and North America. The worldwide resurgence of religion is increasingly seen as challenging the basis of secular state.

Differences among the religions have been one of the main causes of wars & communal riots all through the human history. Even in the normal peaceful society, many people harbour prejudice and ill will towards the followers of religions other than their own. As said by Swami Vivekananda, “there is nothing that has brought to man more blessings than religion yet at the same time there is nothing that has brought more horror than religion. Nothing has made more for peace and love than religion; nothing has endangered fiercer hatred than religion. Nothing has made the brotherhood of man more tangible than religion; nothing has bred more bitter enmity between man and man than religion.”

Today, when we study the history of religious conflicts, we can see that the nature of conflicts has undergone much change during the past few centuries. These changes have been caused by changes in the role of religion in the human life. Before the 18th century religions were almost wholly concerned with salvation. With the progressive secularization of religion which began with French Revolution, Industrial Revolution etc, religion came to be identified with humanistic concerns. As a consequence, religious conflicts in modern times are not over doctrinal differences but over social, economic and political issues.

Today, India is a model for religious harmony.  India, where different religious traditions “live harmoniously”, is a model to other parts of world, and should continue to keep this tradition. India has great heritage. There is harmony among different religious traditions. India is a land where people of different religious faiths can live peacefully and harmoniously here. India’s tradition is very relevant in today’s world.  Different religious traditions  including Buddhism, Jainism have flourished here in the last 2000-3000 years . India is a land where people of different religious faiths can live peacefully and harmoniously here. India’s tradition is very relevant in today’s world. For thousands of years,  India carried the message of ‘Ahimsa’ which was relevant even today.  In the 21st century, people everywhere talk about money and material value. That is also important. Material wealth provides physical comfort. Mental comfort is possible only by faith. A disturbed mind is very bad for health, while a healthy mind and health body go together. Material wealth alone will not bring happiness.

I feel touched by the keen concern of many Nigerians and I feel indebted to the nation and have to offer some ideas to promote religious harmony as the main strategy for preventing further religious crisis and killings. From my understanding of the religious situation in Nigeria, I think that we are fundamentally losing grip of the core mission and purpose of religious life and what the various religions stand for. We are more focused on rituals than on the righteousness that all religions teach. In the midst of these religious conflicts caused by religious ignorance, we need to be re-educated on religious issues. We need religious education but unfortunately, the presentation of religious education from the perspectives of Christianity and Islam today seem to portray a conflicting teaching than a message from a common Creator. Hence, the need for a new vision of religious education, which should lead us to (1) build a national interreligious culture which promotes interreligious cooperation, thereby setting an interreligious way of life as a nation, (2) establish interreligious institutions, programs and projects thereby producing interreligious citizens and communities, and (3) generate, utilize and commit national resources to interreligious cooperation.

There is a need to promote Interreligious Harmony for National Unification in the 21st century.