Laxmi S. Singh –  Persuing MBA at Thakur Institue of Management Studies & Research , Mumbai

Religion occupies a special place in the life of man, so also human rights has become as accepted way of living. Our problem has been balancing religious freedom with human rights principles.

Religious harmony is 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!

Countries across the globe are trying since ages to seek religious harmony. India is one such example. It is one of the most diverse places in the world geographically, religiously, culturally, and linguistically. Indian social structure is very plural in nature. Religious harmony and amity between different cultures in India has been observed. India is the place of origin of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. So, co-existence has been a part of faith in India. Hinduism, the largest Indian faith by population, is itself pluralistic and polytheist which gives each individual enough space to practice ones faith. Buddha was the first to teach the universal brotherhood of man. Also, Buddha has been considered as one of the incarnations of Vishnu and worshipped by Hindus for years. Another eminent person Swami Vivekananda says that what makes Indian civilization great is the fact that it is based on the idea of the coexistence of faiths –Sarva Dharma Sambhava. This notion implies that Indians have equal respect for all Dharmas, for all faiths. Elaborating this idea he quoted from an ancient hymn

“As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, sources in different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.”

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 i.e. the attack on The World Trade Centre in United States of America, a new chapter opened in the religious turf. The reality of the human rights situation in the world today is a picture of stark contrast, on the one hand, undeniable progress on the other, the painful reality of widespread violations.

Achieving religious harmony in the 21st century is the job of all; beginning with the state, institutions and individuals.

Many modern states have signed and ratified Human Rights instruments such as Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) e.t.c. What is important is the implementation of all these instruments.

Religious harmony cannot be devoid of human rights, it is the respect for human rights that will curb religious disharmony. State must ensure that these principles are part of National Laws and their citizens must be educated on the importance of adhering to rights principles in human relations.

Institutions can also play a vital role in achieving religious harmony. Institutions like The United Nations through its various arms such United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, are saddled with the responsibilities of seeing to the implementation of human rights in various regions of the world.

The United Nations must maintain and reinforce existing international machinery for the protection of human rights. The UN must ensure that all states irrespective of their economic and social systems, to work for the basis of humane order based on freedom, justice and peace, correcting inequalities, redressing injustices, and accelerating economic and social development would help to eliminate wrong notions and ideas about society, and expectations.

It is not only the duty of the state and the institutions but also the individuals and the society as a whole. The society and the state is made up of individual, it is the individual who gives effect to laws and policies. Every individual mirrors his society. In tackling religious intolerance, a concerted effort must be geared towards individual enlightenment on the imperative of religious harmony. Violations of human rights often start with individual before it becomes a collective phenomenon. When individuals accept the norms of both democratic and human rights principles and strive to live it, then the state and human rights agencies will have less work to do. 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 21 st century and beyond. As George Bernard Shaw rightly says it “there is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it.”

Therefore to sum it up Religion and Human Rights can co-exist if all and sundry will believe, accept and practice human rights principles and ideas alongside the tenets of their religion.

“Let’s peace together our world.”