Nidhi Sakaria  –  Persuing MBA at Thakur Institue of Management Studies & Research , Mumbai

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”. Religion is an organized collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. As such 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 CIA (Central Intelligence Agency ) World Factbook gives the world population as 7,021,836,029 (July 2012 ) and the distribution of religions as Christian 33.35% (of which Roman Catholic 16.83%, Protestant 6.08%, Orthodox 4.03%, Anglican 1.26%), Muslim 22.43%, Hindu 13.78%, Buddhist 7.13%, Sikh 0.36%, Jewish 0.21%, Baha’i 0.11%, other religions 11.17%, non-religious 9.42%, atheists 2.04% (2009 est.).

History records wars that appeared to have a religious purpose or justification, although many group dynamics are usually at work, including the sheer delight one group enjoys when waging war against other groups. In 16th century France, wars between Roman Catholics and Protestants were popular. In the 17th century, German states, Scandinavia, and Poland hosted battles between Roman Catholicism and Calvinism. In Northern Ireland, bloody battles between Roman Catholic and Protestant groups continued through the 20th century. And in 21st Century Often news such as “Six Persons Have Already Died from In- juries Received in the Fights — The Mohammedans and Hindus Still Very Bitter Against Each Other – Business Places Closed for fear of Another Out”. are headlines in India. Infact throughout the world, no major religion is exempt from complicity in violent conflict. Religious conviction certainly was one of the motivations for the September 11 attacks and other violent actions by Muslim extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some Buddhist monks assert an exclusively Buddhist identity for Sri Lanka, fanning the flames of conflict there. More than 40,000 Christians in india have had to flee their homes in Kandhamal district, one of India’s poorest, in the eastern state of Orissa. Their homes have been systematically attacked, looted and burned down by Hindu mobs since the end of August as the local police have looked on helplessly. Christians and their organisations have been periodically attacked in other parts of Orissa and across India by Hindu mobs particularly during the six-year rule of the BJP that ended in 2004.Most Western politicians and intellectuals assumed religion was becoming marginal to public life; faith was largely treated as an irrelevance in foreign policy. Symptomatically, State Department diaries ignored Muslim holidays until the 1990s. In the 21st century, by contrast, religion is playing a central role. From Nigeria to Sri Lanka, from Chechnya to Baghdad, people have been slain in God’s name; and money and volunteers have poured into these regions.

Today, a lot of people from different religious backgrounds are present here. In every religion, there are transcendent things that are beyond the grasp of our mind and speech. For example, the concept of God in Christianity and Islam and that of wisdom truth body in Buddhism are metaphysical, which is not possible for an ordinary person like us to realise. This is a common difficulty faced by every religion. Dalai lama emphasizes that it is extremely important for practitioners to sincerely believe in their respective religions. Usually, I say that it is very important to distinguish between “belief in one religion” and “belief in many religions”. The former directly contradicts the latter. Therefore, we should resolutely resolve these contradictions. This is possible only by thinking in contextual terms. 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. President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa states “Unity among communities and religious harmony are vital factors for the development of the country. Divisions among us will strengthen various hostile forces seeking to deny us our freedom. When all communities rise in unity, the forces hostile to the country will be weakened and freedom further strengthened. We celebrate the 65th anniversary of independence with firm determination and clear commitment to national unity.” “In order to maintain harmony, we must be sensitive and respect each other’s race and religious sensitivities either through our words or actions,” Najib ,Malaysia’s president quoted as saying by The Star Online, in his opening address during the Federal Territories Day 2013 celebration at the Kuala Lumpur Football Stadium in Bandar Tun Razak today. Each religion does have a particular set of religious rites, of commands, restrictions and ethical principles to follow but their teachings teach us that the foremost of all is to spread love, peace and happiness. The Islam teaches tolerance not hatred, universal brotherhood, not enmity, peace not violence. The Bhagavad Gita very clearly says be compassionate and gentle and show good will to all. And the Bible simply says Love your Neighbour as you love yourself. The Religious Books tell us so much but we sometimes choose to turn a blind eye to wise teachings. We ought to re-embrace the calls of our respective faiths for individuals to show respect for all and compassion for the most vulnerable, notwithstanding their differences, in recognition of God’s image not only in ourselves but in everyone else – however they may worship and wherever they may live. It is rightly said that “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 honour other religions for this [or that worthy 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.” The expectation of higher economic growth is in the balance, if communal and religious harmony that are preconditions for economic stability and growth, are not in place. Several sectors of the economy could be affected adversely if fissiparous tendencies in the country are not contained. Among them is the flow of foreign investment so vital for the country’s economic growth. There could be a setback to the current booming tourist industry. Religious intolerance and violence could also lead to international sanctions and embargos on our exports. These are horrendous economic repercussions for an export dependent economy that is already feeling the consequences of the global recession and the withdrawal of the GSP(generalized system of preferences-exemption from general rules of WTO) Plus status in the all important European market. Tourism thrives on peace and security. A country may have the best beaches, finest scenery and environment and every prospect may be pleasing, but where there is violence tourism will not prosper. Several countries with a booming trade have suffered: Egypt and Indonesia and Mexico are among them. And peace is achieved through religious harmony.

The best way to bring harmony among the world’s religions is to have economic growth. This may sound dumb, but the conflicts between religions tend to spring up most among people who are not as well-off as they might be. If we could have better global economic development, conflict between religions would diminish because people would simply be happier in general.