Nikita Rastogi-  Perusing MBA at Thakur Institute of Management Studies & Research , Mumbai

Religion is an organized collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the Universe.

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.

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 – 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.

“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.

For thousands of years, India carried the message of ‘Ahimsa’ which is relevant even today, he said, adding, “We should ourselves create inner peace by practicing 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.

Former President A P J Abdul Kalam said there is need for a combination of economic prosperity and spiritual way of life.

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.

In India from time immemorial, people belonging to various religious faiths lived in harmony and peace. There are fundamental values and traditions in our culture that promote integration among different communities. This was helpful for the growth of a great civilization in the Indian sub-continent. It will be our endeavor as the citizens of this country to preserve the rich tradition of Social Harmony among diverse religious and ethnic groups and pass it over to the future generations. Even though communal tensions in India are well under control, there is no place for complacency as many internal and external forces are waiting with their ulterior motives sowing the seeds of ill-will.

Human needs can be found as the same everywhere in the world if we look at it from biological and psychological perspectives. Irrespective of the geographic, linguistic or religious differences humans everywhere have common biological needs like hunger, thirst, sex etc; the satisfaction of which is essential for their survival. Similarly man has psychological needs like, need for recognition, need for companionship, need for security, need for prestige etc. the fulfillment of which is inevitable for maintaining sound mental health. Man cannot satisfy most of such needs through his own individual efforts. He requires the assistance of his fellow members of the group in this regard. That is why human beings are considered as social animals. A cooperative integrated society is most congenial for leading a healthy social life.

Religion is one of the social institutions found in all human societies. It assists man to establish and maintain harmonious relationships with the supernatural forces that are believed to have direct influence in the fortunes of man. Moreover religion is one of the agents contributing to the integration of society. Religion provides ‘we feeling’ among its members. Performance of religious rites, participation in festivals, leadership provided by priests and religious functionaries, following many common beliefs and values, etc reinforces the unity among the members of a religion. Even though holy books and teachings of each religion claim that they help man reach God, none of them propagate hatred against other faiths. All religions in their essence assist people to live in harmony with members of the society. According to Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India “the communal problem is not a religious problem; it has nothing to do with religion.” Nobody can blame the presence of diverse religions for the emergence of communal problems in the world.

Even though all religions proclaim the universal brotherhood of man, history is full of bloody, violent conflicts between members of different religions. Many battles were fought between Muslims and Christians, Jews and Muslims, Hindus and Muslims and so on in the past. Many such struggles are going on even now like the conflict between Muslims and Jews in Palestine.

A deeper analysis of the causative factors of these conflicts shows that in all these situations non-religious, often political and economic interests were instrumental to these problems. Religious identity was used as a mask to cover up the vested interests of the conflicting parties. Therefore the root cause of communalism is not the presence of many religions in the country. When religious sentiments are exploited with an economic or political motive the resultant effect gives rise to the genesis of communalism. According to Madan (2001) communalism is the political expression of religion. He defined communalism as an ideology, which envisages the religious community as a political group committed to the protection and promotion of its social and economic interests and cultural values.

While communalism is a feeling or state of mind existing at a psychological level, communal conflict or riot is its overt expression. Once generated, communalism remains in the minds of people always, and communal conflicts emerge only occasionally when there is a total breakdown in the good relations between two communities. From a sociological perspective social conflict by its very nature cannot continue indefinitely. During communal violence each community used it as an occasion to harm the interests of the rival community who may be socially or economically sound.

One must not confuse communalism with communal violence, rioting etc. Poorly conceived Communal ideology leads to communal violence. Communal violence is a consequence of the spread of misunderstood and ill-conceived communal ideology. But it is not the crux of the communal situation at all. Communal ideology cannot only exist, but can grow for decades before it takes the form of violence. Religious groups and faith-based NGOs have been increasingly active in international peace-building in recent decades.

Sampson, a scholar who has worked on symbolic dimensions of peacebuilding, has noted a number of future trends in religious peace-building: “Religious communities are taking an increasingly systematic, intentional approach to peacemaking.

Religious universities have developed conflict and peace programs, and churches are incorporating more explicit peace-building efforts into their outreach and development activities. Interreligious organizations are also following that trend. Non-religious peace-building groups are targeting religious groups as ripe for training and mobilization. Religious relief and development NGOs are expanding their mandates and training to include peace-building activities. Indigenous religious groups are being called upon to provide spiritual, emotional and psychological support to people who have suffered from violent, protracted conflict. There is also an increased number of religion based citizen’s groups focused on bringing about peace, justice, and reconciliation. The Internet has allowed people from across the globe to hold dialogues within and across denominations and religions.