Saurabh Panthary -B.M.S , Persuing MBA at Thakur Institue of Management Studies & Research , Mumbai
André Malraux (1901-76) famously declared that either the twenty-first century “will be religious or it will not be at all.”Undoubtedly this declaration should be placed with the pronouncements of other great nay-Sayers, the Nietzsches, Kier kegaards, Corteses, and Solzhenitsyns, who, having said something profound but partial, the age in many ways passes by. I assume that what Malraux meant is that the kind of being that at least the European and American world of the twenty-first century will have without religion is a being not worth having. This world has been the subject of savage satire, as in Patricia Highsmith’s setting of one of her stories, “Please Don’t Shoot the Trees,” in a suburban Los Angeles of the future in which, all the children having been raised on too much TV, semi-autism rules. But clearly the twenty-first-century world is more complicated than that, and while semiautism may be found in parts of it, the most serious reflection on life may be found in other parts. Thus the most likely answer to our question “Epoch of Secularization or Cosmos Regained?” is “Both at once”. Secularization implies the continuation of processes long in place working for the Marginalization or elimination of religion; quest for a more sacral view of the world implies deep reaction to and criticism of these processes.
The twentieth century so far is leaving millions of people hungry and homeless and hopeless. Nightly television shows the pathetic pictures of bloated stomachs, bodies distorted by disease, and the agonies of death by starvation. These dark images of misery and degradation stand in stark contrast to equally deplorable images of the overfed, overweight, and overindulged devotees of consumer religion espoused by those in overdeveloped countries.
The extremes of economic disparities run around the globe. The poor have always had a special place in the thoughts and practice of major religions. Yet, as deprivations grow, traditional religions have limited themselves largely to making statements and providing temporary handouts. They have seldom tackled the systemic economic changes required in the world at the end of this century.
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 it’s ugly head in the early part of the 21st century. Ever since the event of September 11, 2001 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. Over the last few years amazing changes have taken place in many parts of the world (Martenson 1993:927).
We must be quick to add that the said changes that have taken place n the world have not affected human relations. Difference is perceived as inferiority and inequality, and an avenue to perpetuate actions detrimental to human race and relations. The theory of Race Relations have always pointed out that there is no scientific proof and backing on some of the assumptions peddled by the dominant group. The question is: How do we achieve religious harmony in the 21st century? To this we now turn.
Achieving religious harmony in the 21st century is the job of all; beginning with the state, institutions and individuals. His Holiness the Dalai Lama said he is optimistic for a much peaceful and better world in the 21st century, and emphasized India’s role in strengthening the world peace.
Now let’s talk about India. India is one of the most diverse places in the world geographically, religiously, culturally, and lingually. Religiously, Hinduism, the largest religion in India accounts for 80% of the population; Islam, the second largest religion, accounts for 13% of the population; Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism taken together account for 3% of the population; and Christianity accounts for 2% of the population. Other religions such as Zoroastrianism and Judaism, have a centuries long history in India.
Constitutionally, India is a secular and in practice the religious diversity of India extends to highest levels of government. Currently, the Prime Minister of India is a Sikh, the President of India is a Hindu, Vice President of India is a Muslim and the chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is a Christian.
Now if we talk about Singapore, the Declaration of Religious Harmony of Singapore is a statement that affirms the importance of, and the commitment of Singaporeans towards, religious harmony. It is a basis for Singaporeans to reflect on religious harmony, and what should be done to achieve it.
The idea of having a Code on Religious Harmony was proposed by the then Prime Minister (now a Member of Parliament) Goh Chok Tong in September or October 2002. This followed strains in racial harmony in the country following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States of America and the arrest and detention of members of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist network in Singapore in December 2001.
The Declaration was issued in 2003 by a working committee chaired by Minister of State Chan Soo Sen and involving the national bodies of all mainstream religious groups in Singapore, after six months of intense debate over its wording. Subsequently, an Inter-Religious Harmony Circle (IRHC) comprising representatives of the religious groups involved in the working committee was formed to promote the Declaration. The IRHC has encouraged Singaporeans to recite the Declaration during the week when Racial Harmony Day (21 July) is marked every year.
Religion can be used to Solve Global Crises. Traditionally, religions have engaged in several strategies of dealing with crises. For example, leaders have theologized and verbalized issues in an attempt to relate the religious traditions to the crises at hand. Such an approach may be helpful in moral and ethical development, but it would seem historically to have had only limited success.
A second strategy of religions is ameliorative action, such as charity to the poor, food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, and so on. This band-aid approach may salve guilty consciences and give temporary symptomatic aid to victims but does not attend to structural and institutional causes of the crises.
A third strategy is direct action around selected problems. This may be seen in the civil rights movement among blacks in the United States and elsewhere, nuclear protest groups, revolutionary action of conservative Muslims and radical Marxists, religious wars, and so on. Such religious and ideological actions seem to be increasing, whether for good or ill, and may be expected to continue into the next century.
A fourth action of religions is inaction — withdrawing from the crucial issues of the world. Such disengagement often takes the form of religious communities, parishes, monasteries, and so on. Here, religious values and practices are cultivated in ghettos of communal privacy, cast off from the mainstream of human concerns. This religious disengagement may be expected to grow in the face of earth’s mega crises.
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.