Komal Sharma-   Persuing MBA at Thakur Institue of Management Studies & Research , Mumbai

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.

Interfaith understanding is vital if there’s to be any hope for world peace.

… we cannot afford to waiver in our determination that the whole humanity shall remain a united people, where Muslims and Christians, Buddist and Hindu shall stand together, bound by a common devotion not to something behind but to something ahead, not to a radical past or a geographical unit , but to a great dream of a work society with a universal religion of which the historical faiths are but branches.

   – S. Rddhakrisnon-Kindu Philosopher

Swami Vivekananda has said, “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”

No one living in the 21st century will feign ignorance of the diversity of the human race. The Telecommunication Industry has made the world a global village and open vistas never dreamt off by generations gone by. Beyond the diversity of the human race also lie the conflicts ranging in many regions especially as a result of religion. It will be foolhardy to pretend that religion has not been a source of major conflicts in centuries past, however religious intolerance has raised its ugly head in the early part of the 21st century. Ever since the event of September 11, 2001 a new chapter opened in the religious turf.

Achieving religious harmony in the 21st century is the job of all.

“For building a better world, the transformation should begin at individual level”

The key to peaceful co-existence in the global world rests on religious tolerance at all levels of human interaction.

The Idea of Religion

The concept of “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.

One 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. A very beautiful example of religious harmony can be seen in Bali. Living among their predominantly Hindu neighbors on the islet, the Muslim community on Serangan feel very much at ease and happy, far from the intimidating atmosphere that can sometimes come with being in a minority group.

United Nations (UN) said that the first week of February be devoted to spreading the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship based on love of God and love of one’s neighbor or on love of the good and love of one’s neighbor, each according to their own religious traditions or convictions.

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.

In the 21st century, the world 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. Communal harmony is the sine qua non of a pluralistic society such as ours. Guarding and strengthening this core ideal, upon which our policy is based, requires ceaseless vigilance.

Nearly six hundred years ago, the saint Kabir blended the mystic aspects of the various religious traditions of our country, and provided to later generations a sense of what we would today call Unity in Diversity.

 ‘Jaisay til mein tel hai, jyon chakmak mein aag,
Tera saayin tujh mein hai, tu jaag sakay to jaag.’

People who summon the will and courage to protect the life and property of others professing different faiths remain in the vanguard of our movement for secularism

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”. One of the main problems about religion is its plurality or diversity. Each religion has its philosophy, mythology and ritual. The different religions differ from one another in many ways mainly at the level of rituals and mythology and at the basic fundamental level they share the common ideals and aspirations of the human mind and society. Each religion claims to show the right way of life and claims to provide supreme peace and fulfillment to its follower. The increased interactions and interdependence of the different religious communities in the modern technological global context have made it imperative that the basic ideals of the different religions be appreciated and the superficial differences between the religious practices be understood for their different historical origins and not only just tolerated but cherished for the diversity and breadth that they bring to the human society. The function of religion is to overcome cosmic loneliness. Religion has a bright side. Religion is the source of great literature and art, the motivator of deeds of love and mercy and self-development, and the doorway to transcendence and mystical experience. Religion is the chrysalis of the meanings, values, and norms of society, supporting the different rituals which mark the turning points of our lives.

Religion has a shadow side. The shadow side of religion has an ugly face. Religions claim to speak the truth for all, making all other religions wrong. Religion makes its bed with politics, war and extreme forms of nationalism. Religion often gives imprimatur to terrorism and sanctions control of others. Religion is involved in ugly wars around our globe. Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims are killing each other in their homeland and in Kashmir. Christians kill Christians in Ireland. Buddhists and Hindus are hurling grenades in Sri Lanka. Jews and Muslims are slaughtering one another in the Middle East. No nation or religion can live wholly unto itself in isolation. The surviving options are cooperation or conflict. We can draw closer together to work for the good of all if we acknowledge and celebrate what religions hold in common.

An honest and courageous conversation among our religions is possible, but we have not yet achieved it.

A single stream runs under and through all of the great religious traditions.

Even while the surface waters of the traditions are vastly different, a single stream of mystical experience, belief, and practice unites the world’s religions in a subtle way.

While all religions of the world have a “that without which” part of their belief systems, the areas on which they agree are so vast that we should have hope that a new dawn can be born out of our present world crisis. Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam agree on many points.

Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama, today said India, where different religious traditions “live harmoniously”, is a model to other parts of world, and should continue to keep this tradition.

Describing India as ‘Arya Bhumi’, the Nobel Laureate said “we consider this country spiritually very, very important.” Solving the scourge of racism, religious fundamental and terrorism is the work of all. The whole world must unite in condemning acts inimical to human rights, but we also must be part of the healing process. No one thinks, this fight will be easy, but it our belief that Religious Harmony can be achieved in the 21st century and beyond.