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Religious Harmony, A way to the development

By Athar Ali Shah

Nowadays, talking about religious harmony is the most frequent subject matter of debates and conversations at every corner of the world in all possible levels of the human society. How to reduce religious conflicts, if not totally at least partially? This question not only bothers the world leaders but also agitates mind of every common man at some point of time or other.

Here, the most important question which remains in our minds for years and years and has been unanswered till the date, “what is the main motive behind religious cacophony”? The answer lies somewhere inside us. Yes we are liable for the gratuitous mess. A harsher word is more harmful than the knife because when some parts of our body are cut by the knife, the injuries can be healed within some days, but the injury of hearts caused by the harsh word cannot be easily healed, instead it remains years after years unhealed. People at times while giving out their views on religion have a trend to damage sentiments of individuals belonging to the other side of the line i.e. different religion.

As it is unknown to none that India is the homeland of numerous religions, and when we read the holy scripts of every religions we can come across to know that each and every religion of this land preaches to its follower peace and harmony. One religion tells us “salam alaikum” may be peace with you”while the other religion says “love your neighbor” still another religion tells “bhavatu sabha mangalam or sarve bhavantu sukhinha” may all beings be happy. Be it Islam, Christianity or Hinduism every religion promotes peace and amity. The promotion of compassion is the sole objective of all religions.

When every religion encourages its followers to make them compassionate then why atrocities on the name of religion are done even today? Actually, there are some people who use their scriptures in advocating hatred and intolerance to other religions. They break out a particular passage from its context to justify their actions, first actions are done then the people escort to the scriptures for the justification, no doubt it is an act of irreverence to the religious scriptures.

We are the sons of an ancient land that has promoted many different schools of philosophy and spirituality over the millennia. Despite some remote and rare instances of bloodshed, our country has been a model of peaceful co-existence. Approximately, in 3th century B.C this land was ruled by Ashoka the Great, whose realm stretched from present-day Afghanistan to Bangladesh. During his magnificent ruling period, this sympathetic ruler spearheaded constant efforts to all group of religions of the time and caused edicts to be inscribed on stone, proclaiming that all faiths should be respected; and as a result, followers of all spiritual traditions felt secure under his sway. In some places such governments and rulers even now exist. An example is the noble king of Oman, who has showed his friendly relation for other religions as he sponsored land for churches and temples of other faiths while practicing his own religion with all devotion and diligence.

We should keep always in our minds that the country where we are living is not state of any monarch, but it is a democratic country ruled by the people for the people. Above this all we have also a set of laws in the form of written constitution which every Indian citizen trust on. The preamble to the constitution describes India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic and republic. It secures to all citizens the liberty of thoughts, expression of belief, freedom of faith and worship. Articles 25 to 30, in particular guarantee to everyone the right of religion, freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate his or her religion.

This is actually a glad tiding for the new generation that today the distance between different religions is gradually decreases. Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Christians are showing their capability of living in peace together like they have done for centuries in India. As a matter of fact there are even now some mischievous and malignant elements in our society who divide people, much like the British divided and ruled India for years.

When we hear the news of companionship, love and self-sacrifice by people of different religions towards those from other backgrounds than theirs, we delight. They are bound to re-establish your faith in humanity and your country. An event which can be said as an excellent example of religious harmony took place in a very famous municipality of Sendhwa in Barwani district of Madhya Pradesh where Hindu and Muslim inhabitants of the municipality gathered at the place where75-old-year Sitaram  was hoped to be cremated, he had no next of kin left behind. People from Hindu as well as from Muslim communities attended the funeral ceremony and bid an adieu to the soul of Sitaram with full respect.

When one hears about the practice of Muslims who are living in the Malappuram district of Kerala, he does not remain unsurprised, here an unimaginable tradition of celebrating an 18th century Hindu martyr continues even today. A man from Hindu community namely Kunheli became the most respected figure among Muslim community when he lost his life along with 43 Muslim fighters in a battle, which was fought as a revenge from a ruler of Kozhikode who attacked Malabar; the event occurred about 290 years ago. Kunhelu, who was a goldsmith, joined his Muslim friends in that battle, it is said that the battle started on an issue of taxation. Now it became the annual habit of a group of Muslims who gather at the Valiyangadi Juma masjid to pay homage to the martyr, buried at the premises of the mosque. Not they only come and celebrate the martyrdom of this bold man but the descendants of Kunhelu are also invited during the occasion.

An unforgettable story of a Muslim couple proved a strong motive for those who believe in religious harmony. A 27-year-old Ilyaz Shaikh was taking his pregnant wife Noor Jahan to the hospital in a taxi in Mumbai. In the midway Noor Jahan went into labour and they became shocked when the cab driver ordered them to leave the cab as he did not want her to deliver the baby in his car. The couple saw a Ganesha temple at some distance; they went there in order to seek help, as the couple walked towards it, they were helped by a group of women who created a makeshift delivery room in the temple. A successful delivery of a beautiful baby took place by the help of some strange Hindu women for a strange Muslim woman. This story did not end up here, but to commemorate this awesome day, Noor Jahan named her son “Ganesh”.

Likewise a beautiful event which is worth to be written in the history of India with gold ink took place in the summer of 2015; actually this example is stronger than others mentioned above, that the heart of a Hindu man was transported across Kerala for a Christian patient in dire need of a new one. Funds were raised by a Muslim businessman to pay for the operation, which was performed by the state’s top heart surgeon who was a Christian. The entire state became gripped as the story unfolded. An Indian Navy helicopter and an ambulance, both dispatched by Kerala’s then Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, sped the heart from Thriven drum to Kochi and a life was saved by the collective effort.

In my humble piece of advice there are some factors; if we are really firm to uproot the religious disharmony from our land and from whole world and mould a world of mutual understanding, compassion and affection we should affectively implement those factors in this world. Religious education to co-exist in peace and harmony in a multi-religious society all over the world is one of those factors. Every country should have a sound religious education with strong emphasis on moral and ethical values as the first positive step towards better understanding and mutual cooperation amongst all religionists. All religionists should unite and co-operate with one another to promote and institute a proper and systematic religious education, welfare activities, and fellowship meetings. The institution of community service programmes and other social and welfare activities where all religionists work hand-in-hand for a common humanitarian cause, to uplift the lot of the more unfortunate ones in society will help to present a good example of co existence and multi religious community.

Every individual mirrors his society. To crush the religious fanaticism, an intensive effort must be geared towards individual enlightenment on the imperative of religious harmony, and everyone should keep this in his or her mind that violations of human rights often start with individual before it becomes a collective phenomenon. So, it became cut and clear that when individuals acknowledge the norms of both democratic and human rights principles and strive to live it, then the government  and human rights agencies will have less work to do. Solving the scourge of racism, religious fundamental and terrorism is the work of all. The whole world must unite in condemning acts inimical to human rights, but we also must be part of the healing process. No one thinks, this fight will be easy, but it is our belief that Religious Harmony can be achieved in the 21st century and beyond. We are eagerly waiting for the dawn when a new sun will rise with its colorful rays joining each other to shine the whole universe, the sun will be our country and the colorful rays will be we, Indians.

(Author is a Research scholar, DHIU, Kerala, India)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the article are solely of the author in personal capacity and do not in any way represent views of any institution, entity or organization that the author may have been associated with. The views do not necessarily reflect the views of India CSR and its Editor.

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