Nehal Ruwala  –  Persuing MBA at Thakur Institue of Management Studies & Research , Mumbai

As the twentieth century draws to a close, we find that the world has grown smaller and the world’s people have become almost one community. Political and military alliances have created large multinational groups, industry and international trade have produced a global economy, and worldwide-communications are eliminating ancient barriers of distance, language and race. We are also being drawn together by the grave problems we face: overpopulation, dwindling natural resources, and an environmental crisis that threatens our air, water, and trees, along with the vast number of beautiful life forms that are the very foundation of existence on this small planet we share.

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 worth while progress in any field of activity is possible. 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 man kind .Our aim should be to enlighten and educate the masses about all the religions, so that the message of universal brotherhood is spread throughout the world. This is where schools can play an important role.

Various factors divide mankind, such as, race, ethnicity, colour, language, nationality, ideology and religion. Among these, religion is most emotive. Scholars propound 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.

Religion preaches ethics, good character, virtues and values. So Religions ought to unite. But in practice they divide due to lack of understanding of the purpose of religion. Also wrong interpretation by followers of the teachings of Prophets and founders result in tragic consequences. Politicians have always used religion to gain power and to acquire territory and followers.

But certain developments during the last fifty years may help to break down the barriers caused religious fanaticism and extremism. Technology has brought peoples of the world together. Rapid transport, Instant communication, IT and E-mail, Computers and associated gadgets have enabled peoples all over the world to know more of each other, thus removing ignorance and opening up their minds to facts. Globalization of business and trade has compelled industrialists and mangers to focus on growth, profits, raw materials, markets, talents etc, and to ignore all the divisive factors. MNCs are operating in many nations where their managers are drawn from all over the world. Narrow loyalties to nationality, race and religions are waning. 200 million tourists leave their home and travel all over the globe every year.

They see for themselves how others think and live. Finally, education levels are going up which removes rigidity and opens up the mind. Genuine secular and democratic governments try to reduce religious conflicts. The need to separate religion from politics is being recognized.These are favorable factors which promote inter-religious understanding.

World population now stands at 6.2 billion. Christianity with 2400 millions is the majority religion in 100 countries, and Islam with 1200 million in 60 countries. Hinduism has 820 million followers who are the majority in INDIA and tiny Nepal. Buddhism has 600 million adherents who are majority in 10 countries in the East, who coexist with other cultures following the teachings of Confucius and Lao Tse.

When we rise in the morning and listen to the radio or read the newspaper, we are confronted with the same sad news: violence, crime, wars, and disasters. I cannot recall a single day without a report of something terrible happening somewhere. Even in these modern times it is clear that one’s precious life is not safe. No former generation has had to experience so much bad news as we face today; this constant awareness of fear and tension should make any sensitive and compassionate person question seriously the progress of our modern world.

It is ironic that the more serious problems emanate from the more industrially advanced societies. Science and technology have worked wonders in many fields, but the basic human problems remain. There is unprecedented literacy, yet this universal education does not seem to have fostered goodness, but only mental restlessness and discontent instead. There is no doubt about the increase in our material progress and technology, but somehow this is not sufficient as we have not yet succeeded in bringing about peace and happiness or in overcoming suffering.

Every being wants happiness and does not want suffering. If we, as intelligent human beings, do not accept this fact, there will be more and more suffering on this planet. If we adopt a self-centred approach to life and constantly try to use others for our own self-interest, we may gain temporary benefits, but in the long run we will not succeed in achieving even personal happiness, and world peace will be completely out of the question.

We practitioners of different faiths can work together for world peace when we view different religions as essentially instruments to develop a good heart – love and respect for others, a true sense of community. The most important thing is to look at the purpose of religion and not at the details of theology or metaphysics, which can lead to mere intellectualism. I believe that all the major religions of the world can contribute to world peace and work together for the benefit of humanity if we put aside subtle metaphysical differences, which are really the internal business of each religion.