Rachana Patel  –  M.Com , Perusing MBA at Thakur Institute of Management Studies & Research , Mumbai

All over the world, Religion holds a primal place. Everyman is said to believe in a ‘God’. Ordinarily there should be no feud in matter of religion, because religion is a personal decision. However, in recent times religion has become an issue and many crimes are committed on the basis of faith. With this at the back of our mind we seek to examine religion, human rights and the challenge of freedom by offering some proposals towards religious harmony in the 21st century. No one living in the 21 st century will feign ignorance of the diversity of the human race. Religious harmony cannot be devoid of human rights, it is the respect for human rights that will curb religious disharmony.

At present we are living in age of corruptions, greed, conflicts, violence & terrorism, which is known as ‘Kali Yuga’ i.e. Age of darkness & impurities, which is an extremely explosive troubled times where the context of human life is changing every moment. Religion is often viewed today as having a negative role in world politics, particularly in cases where a religious revival is perceive to be taking place.

Religion and peace building refers to the study of religion’s role in the development of peace. Religion has been, at different points in history, both advantageous and ruinous to the promotion of peace . However, there have been many approaches to explaining this variability. These approaches are categorized into three models. The first is “peace through religion alone”. This proposes to attain world peace through devotion to a given religion. The second model, a response to the first, is “peace without religion”. The third and final approach is known as “peace with religion”. This approach focuses on the importance of coexistence and interfaith dialogue.

About India, India is a model. Different religious traditions live peacefully and harmoniously. 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. 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 monoculture has no place in the present social structure of India, which greatly owes its strength to secularism.

Communal disharmony and conflicts are fuelled by fear, suspicion and hatred. It depends on local conditions whether the division expresses itself along religious,economic, political, caste or color lines. Whatever be the form, insecurity is perhaps the major cause of individual and social dissensions. The societies, individuals and specially youth must rise above fear, jealousy and hate. When such individuals combine themselves into a community, the problem of communal jealousy and discord will disappear. The positive assertive role of both majority and minority communities to lessen the fear, hatred and suspicion is essential to generate communal harmony.

At a time when the nation is passing through some turbulent times with incidents of vandalism in some places against some communities marring the secular and tolerant image of the country, shouldn’t the youth, hailing from all across the country, leaving behind the baggage of faith and religious identity commit themselves to foster communal harmony, strive for social justice, play a proactive role in maintaining communal and social harmony?

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 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”.

Building and maintaining religious harmony as well as presenting enlightened examples of leadership are part of the requirements needed to settle conflict. Cultural and religious beliefs vary between groups and countries. They have also changed over time as circumstances demand. Despite this diversity, many principles for living sustainably are shared, not only among indigenous peoples, but also between different religious traditions.

Peace and religious harmony come about through taking action, not necessarily through making prayers and good wishes. In order to carry action out, enthusiasm is very important, and enthusiasm comes from being clear about our goal and the possibility of our fulfilling it. Here, we need educate young people about our ultimate goal, peace in the world, and how to fulfill it by cultivating inner peace within them.

The present world is faced with many problems – social, political, economical, educational, cultural and Environmental––due to deterioration in values. Human values are eroding at a very fast rate resulting in decline of the quality of education. It is a matter of great concern for all the people, particularly Educators and Social scientists. Peace Education for sustainability plays an important role in building peace and harmony and also in developing nonviolent global sustainable society. Peace Education and teachers are key drivers for attainment of sustainable development.  The principles of sustainable development foster creation of a society where there is mutual respect and responsibility, equity and equality in all dimensions of economic, socio-cultural, physical, environmental and political life. Teachers play a critical role in informing and facilitating transdisciplinary understandings, values, perspectives, commitment and practice of sustainable development.

Religion is neither inherently good nor bad for peace, and that its influence is undeniable. Peace with religion, then, emphasizes promoting the common principles present in every major religion. Basic Principles on which Universal Harmony is based are, First it should recognize and respect the unique features of each religion and its right to retain its individuality. Second is to recognize the fact that the religions of the world are not contradictory to each other but complimentary to each other and third is that Religion is something dynamic it assumes that religions of the world freely interact with one another for the common welfare of humanity.

Interfaith harmony is a critical task for all religions in the 21st century. It’s not just about moving beyond the terrible history of interreligious persecution and bloodshed – though we desperately need to do that. It’s also more than just being politically correct or promoting tolerance. It’s fundamentally about acknowledging that God is bigger than any of us can grasp, even within the best of our religious systems. Our hold on the sacred, on revelation, on truth, is always provisional. We take hold of it in humility and with all the faith we can muster, like catching water in a net. With this attitude, we can learn from other traditions without compromising our own and grow in the spirit of love and compassion that is common to all the major faiths.