Tushar Singh – Bsc.IT , Persuing MBA at Thakur Institue 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. In the 21st century with the promotion of human rights, this ought not to be so. We must note that religion has always been a thorny issue, not with the Christian crusades and the Islamic Jihads. We believe times have changed and each individual should be able to practice his faith without necessarily impuning his fellow.

With this at the back of our mind we seek to examine religion by offering some proposals towards religious harmony in the 21st century.

The Idea of Religion

The concept of “religion” connotes a belief in a supreme being and his worship through a specified ritual. Religion is based on a moralistic outlook or way of life. In its doctrinal perspective, it may be defined as a system of general truths which has the effect of transforming characters when they are sincerely held and vividly apprehended. There are more earthy explanations of religion, though Karl Max described it as the opium of the masses, the implication being that it makes people insensitive to the pressing problems of survival. Another view is that religion is “merely an instrument to contain man’s primordial fears- fear of the present, fear of the future, fear of life and death. The connection between religion and human rights arises as a problem globally because of diversity of homosapiens.

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. After decades during which religion seemed to be largely and effectively relegated to the private realm, religious activists are staking out a new claim for religion as a central feature of public life. The wish to restore religion to what is considered its rightful place at the heart of society is the most notable common denominator of today’s religious fundamentalist movements. In order to achieve their aim, members of such movements may employ several tactics, including violent ones. They justify their use of violence by reason, often referring to a perception that we are not living in normal times, and that exceptional circumstances ask for exceptional measures. As a result, an unusual alliance has been forged in many cases between religion and politics.

The emergence of certain interest groups that do not shun violence and seem to be inspired by a particular religious ideology has tempted many observers, notably in the West, to assume an intrinsic connection between religion and violence. Hence, it is common today to consider religion as a source of conflict rather than a resource for peace. The logical conclusion then is to try and reduce the influence of the religious factor in the political arena. Typically in such a view, religion is deemed to be a private affair, something between individual believes and their god’s), a relation that should not spill over into the public domain. Whereas religion is expected to limit itself exclusively to regulating human relations between the visible and invisible words, it is politics, on the other hand, which is deemed solely responsible for regulating their relations with the state that they live in. the formal separation between the fields of religion and politics has been the hallmark of Western democracies for centuries and was introduced to other parts of the world, notably those which were colonized by Europe, and by extension, countries that were long under the influence of Western Europe and North- America. The worldwide resurgence of religion is increasingly seen as challenging the basis of secular state.

Many commentators, at least in the West, have lamented the fact that religion is reassuming a public role, bringing together again two fields of operation that in the Western tradition of the enlightenment have long be kept apart.

Due to recent conflicts in which religion also played a role, and notably after the events of September 2001, religion is often associated in the West with violence. The question is, however, are we simply dealing here with religious conflict, as is so often suggested, or has religion become a suitable instrument for political mobilization, providing a resource that-like any other- can be effectively exploited for rather mundane purposes.

For anybody to answer that question, it is of vital importance to analyze the role of religion in society, and to do so from a historical perspective. This is important, first to be able to understand today’s world better, and second, in order to analyze the specific properties, and therefore the potential of religion.

Achieving Religious Harmony in the 21st 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.

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.

The Role of the State in Achieving Religious Harmony

The state is the political system of a body of people who are politically organized from the definition of a state, we construe a state to be that organ of government which is responsible to people but locally and internationally.

Many modern states have signed and ratified Human Rights instruments such as Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) etc. What is important is the implementation of all these instruments.

Religious harmony cannot be devoid of human rights, it is the respect for human rights that will curb religious disharmony. State must ensure that these principles are part of National Laws and their citizens must be educated on the importance of adhering to rights principles in human relations.

The Role of Institutions in achieving Religious Harmony The United Nations through its various arms such United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, are saddled with the responsibilities of seeing to the implementation of human rights in various regions of the world.

The Role of Individuals in Achieving Religious Harmony

The society and the state is made up of individual, it is the individual who gives effect to laws and policies. Every individuals mirror his society, In tackling religious intolerance, a concerted effort must be geared towards individual enlightenment on the imperative of religious harmony. Violations of human rights often start with individual before it becomes a collective phenomenon. When individuals accept the norms of both democratic and human rights principles and strive to live it, then the state and human rights agencies will have less work to do. One of the major examples of violence done on individual level on the basis of religion is Racism. Racism is the theory or idea that there is a causal line between inherited physical traits and certain traits of personality, intellect or culture and combined with it, the nation that some races are inherently superior to others.

Conclusion

Religion doesn’t belong to a single person but it belongs to everyone. Religion teaches a person to live life and not to take life. Hence it is very important of everyone to ensure that they do their every bit in contributing to Religious harmony in 21st century.