Ketki J Sanghavi – Bachelor Of Commerce , Persuing MBA at Thakur Institue of Management Studies & Research , Mumbai

To began the topic on a literal note , we need to understand what do we mean by religious harmony ?

Religious harmony is brought about through realizing that ‘Truth is One but the Paths are Many.’

When we realize that the goal of every religion is essentially the same – the search for Truth then we can foster an attitude of open dialogue and mutual exchange of ideologies rather than imposing our beliefs on others by force. Through the correct practice of religion we should develop not only harmony between faiths and nations but a harmony or state of peace within ourselves and gradually a harmony or experience of Oneness with something greater than ourselves! This is Religious Evolution – which starts with Harmony or Peace.

Culture shapes the way we see the world. It therefore has the capacity to bring about the change of attitudes needed to ensure peace and sustainable development which, we know, form the only possible way forward for life on planet Earth. Today, that goal is still a long way off. A global crisis faces humanity at the dawn of the 21st century, marked by increasing poverty in our asymmetrical world, environmental degradation and short-sightedness in policy-making. Culture is a crucial key to solving this crisis.

It is a common and idealistically beautiful notion, that all the religions of the world essentially practise and preach the same teachings for the betterment of the world. But are all religions exactly the same upon closer look? Realistically, of course not – this is why there are different religions in the first place, even though there might be certain teachings which overlap in between. If we truly wish to deeply comprehend various religions, we need to not only look at the similarities, which many tend to prefer to stop at, but to look at the differences too. In this ever-shrinking global village called the world, there is increasing interaction between adherents of various faiths. Depending on how this happens, it can be for better or worse. Rub shoulders in a friendly way and mutual understanding is fostered. Rubbed the wrong way, enmity is stirred up instead.

The most common problem in inter-religious dialogue is disagreement on perspectives of Truth. But disagreement is not the real problem if there is mutual agreement to disagree. The true problems arise from insisting to others that one’s disparaging view of their religion is correct, and the imposing upon them that one’s own religion is the only true one worth following. There is nothing wrong though, with sincere personal belief that one’s faith is the best. That would be “making peace” with oneself. However, when one insists others to agree likewise, that would be “making war” with others. Asoka, the great Buddhist emperor (circa 304 B.C.) had this to say
“ Growth in essentials can be done in different ways, but all of them have as their root restraint in speech, that is, not praising one’s own religion, or condemning the religion of others without good cause. And if there is cause for criticism, it should be done in a mild way. But it is better to honor other religions for this [or that] reason. By so doing, one’s own religion benefits, and so do other religions, while doing otherwise harms one’s own religion and the religions of others.

Describing India as ‘Arya Bhumi’ In the last 2000-3000 years, different religious traditions, including Buddhism, Jainism, flourished here. “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,” he said.
For thousands of years, India carried the message of ‘Ahimsa’ which was relevant even today. We should ourselves create inner peace by practising love and compassion in daily life.

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,” the spiritual leader Dalai Lama said.

We are 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.

With a national interreligious culture established, we need to create institutions, programs and projects that will embody the culture. For instance, in addition to building churches for Christians and mosques for Muslims, we need to have Interreligious worship centers open to all religious people. Muslims can worship on Friday, Adventists on Saturdays and other Christians on Sundays, among others. Thirdly, it is so unfortunate that much of our national resources are not committed to promoting and supporting religious activities. There is the need for a National Interreligious Fund which is sustained through the partnership between budgetary provision by the government and voluntary donations by religious people as well as corporate tithe by institutions and organizations, including churches and mosques.

Culture shapes the way we see the world. It therefore has the capacity to bring about the change of attitudes needed to ensure peace and sustainable development which, we know, form the only possible way forward for life on planet Earth. Today, that goal is still a long way off. A global crisis faces humanity at the dawn of the 21st century, marked by increasing poverty in our asymmetrical world, environmental degradation and short-sightedness in policy-making. Culture is a crucial key to solving this crisis. India’s ethnic composition encompasses myriad streams of culture and religious faiths and sects. As a multi-lingual and multi-cultured society, India has served as an outstanding example of unity in diversity among the fast maturing democracies across the world.

Cultural diversity as a major component of secularism has been widely recognized and acknowledged in the recent past throughout the world when many countries have suffered ethnic violence and constant conflicts of faiths and beliefs. Today an already well-built cultural diversity of India needs constant nourishment and it is in this respect that a great responsibility is thrust upon the youth of India today.

The legacies of our saints and leaders remain a living source of inspiration for the youth of today. These luminaries desired to see India emerge as a lasting identity of communal harmony and secularism. These two formative components of Indian society have been attacked frequently, especially in recent times by divisive fascist forces, which are bent upon upsetting the social fabric of a peace loving and fastidiously growing democratic society. The young minds therefore must know that the traditions of communal harmony and tolerance and respect for diversity have always been the redeeming features of our civilization. Democracy cannot survive without strict adherence to secularism. Religious extremism is also a version of terrorism.

In the 21st century, India can march ahead with equal participation of every community in the process of maintenance of social harmony. The cooperation and contribution of youth of every section of society is essential. The politics of mono-culture has no place in the present social structure of India, which greatly owes its strength to secularism. Communal disharmony and conflicts are fuelled by fear, suspicion and hatred. It depends on local conditions whether the division expresses itself along religious, economic, political, caste or color lines. Whatever be the form, insecurity is perhaps the major cause of individual and social dissensions. The societies, individuals and specially youth must rise above fear, jealousy and hate.

When such individuals combine themselves into a community, the problem of communal jealousy and discord will disappear. The positive assertive role of both majority and minority communities to lessen the fear, hatred and suspicion is essential to generate communal harmony.

Humanism, love and compassion are the core values of all religions and hatred and violence are travesty of religions. Genuine religion builds bridges of solidarity between peoples of different faiths. Religion, as Sri Ramakrishna explained, is like a river leading its followers to the great Ocean of God. When the human relates to the Divine, there flows a process of the human being elevated to the realm of the Divine. ‘To be fully human is to be divine’. No religion preaches hatred. A true religion is transformative having the power to create “a new heaven and a new earth”. We all need to know, “Violence causes trauma and unhealed trauma causes more violence,” To put it more succinctly, “hurt people hurt people.” Unhealed and unaddressed trauma can cause individuals to hurt themselves or others, leading them to the aggressor’s cycle. Father Richard Rohr, a Catholic theologian said that “pain that is not transformed is transferred.”