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Contemporary Times-Role of Religions
02/06/2007
By Ram Puniyani

Current times are witnessing violence of severe nature all around in which religion is projected one of the reasons. It is also projected as a clash between people of two religions and that people belonging to a particular religion are violent due to their faith, also   that some violence is a retaliatory violence to check the activities of others who are out to convert the gullible people by luring them.

In India one has seen the intensification of violence in the name of religion more so from last two decades. After Babri demolition a wave of violence rocked the nation. In 1998, a Pastor working amongst leprosy patients was burnt alive along with his two innocent sons. Anti Christian violence has been the marker of our times. The burning of Sabramati express in Godhra followed by the massive anti Muslim violence, the genocide, was another blot on the national life. The 9/11 events, resulted in the death of close to three thousand people of all religions. Along with this came the thesis that current time is the one of clash of civilizations, the backward Islamic civilization is out to destroy the advanced Western civilization. One can see the underlining element of the attempt to relate the violence and religion in some form or the other.

Along with this came the misunderstanding about other religions. This misunderstanding has assumed mammoth proportions today and it provides the base for the violence and the policy of aggressions/acts of violence and terror. There is a clear need to understand the difference between religion and politics, there is a need to understand the rise of violence from these misconceptions.

Most of the religions came as a set of moral vales to guide the people to cultivate the feelings of love for mankind. There began a process of institutionalization of religions to ensure that these values are sustained and percolated to the broad layers of people. At the same time the emphasis on rituals began to be heavier while the focus and emphasis on moral values took a back seat. There have been numerous attempts to ensure that the basic unity between people of different religions is sustained though the efforts of saints and others who preached the values of humanism in right earnest.

Today the vested interests have launched the efforts to suppress the weaker section of society and weaker nations for the sake of their material interests. As these attempts are undertaken in the name of religion a feeling of alienation amongst people overtakes the real spirit of religion.

Here at home those associated with RSS and politics in the name of Hindutva have been spreading the hate amongst different communities. The result is there for all to see. This hate has been spread against Muslims and Christians both. Muslims have been projected to be fanatics, aggressors, having more wives, converting through sword and being more loyal to Pakistan. This has resulted in a broad social common sense which sees Muslims as the 'other', their demonization, the consequent violence at different places even on the smallest of pretexts, the fear and insecurity leading to their ghettoisation. At global level the US has been resorting to War against terror which is a ploy to attack the areas in oil rich countries and to create a global Islamophobia. World wide this hate against Muslims is on the rise. In India the problem is worst confounded as the US goals worldwide and RSS goals at home match and worsen the problem. In many a Muslim majority countries similar processes are going on against the other religious minorities.

In India even the tiny minority of Christians has been accused of conversions through allurement and fraud. As a matter of fact the population of Christians is declining from last four decades ( 1971-2.60%, 1981-2.44%, 1991-2.32% and 2001-2.30 %), despite that a sustained scattered attacks on Christina missionaries is on the rise. Similarly the myths against Muslim minorities have no truth but have captured the minds of people, the destruction of holy places done by kings in the past for the sake of power and wealth is being presented as the insult of faith, the conversions in the past are being presented as due to coercion, the demographic profile which is due to social factors is being shown to be due to religion, the loyalty to other nations is a mere propaganda meant to suit their political goals, and that all Muslims are terrorists also does not hold any water as neither is terrorism due to religion nor all terrorists belong to Muslims.(LTTE, ULFA, Khalistainis, Irish Republican Army and so on)

The responsible people of different faiths do realize that this is not in tune with the spirit of their religion. They are watching helplessly this whole process of demonization of certain religious communities and the social rifts being created due to that. Faith in the values of humanism is paramount in the values of religion. This current scenario is pushing back the aspirations of poor people and so it is needed that the situation is overcome for the sake of better world, for the sake of peace and amity. While the political forces bent upon creating this mayhem are very powerful and almighty, have control over resources of different types and on media, the people with genuine faith in human values need to come forward to ensure that this dark phase of human history is overcome in the spirit of dialogue. The need for inter community relations and dialogue was never needed more than at present times.

The isolation due to this political process is not only creating emotional walls amongst different communities, it is also resulting in the retardation of social development. The kernel of present efforts for peace lies in the process of building bridges amongst communities and that process can be started only by a genuine dialogue amongst people of different faiths, by coming close to each other by abolishing the artificial boundaries created by the politics of hate being practiced by various forces, globally and locally.   

These dialogues amongst different religious communities are needed at all the levels, starting from the basti, mohalla to the leadership of religions, scholars of religions, the activists engaged in dispelling hate from the society, and those working for human rights, all of them need to be involved in this process of dialogue. The present impasse which is presenting religions as the separating points need to be overcome and the understanding that religious differences and plural ways of life are a strength not an obstacle to peace. The dialogue amongst religions needs to be supplemented by the cooperation in the field of social work to alleviate the pain and misery of the mankind, there is a need to encourage and coordinate in the field of struggles for the human rights of deprived sections of society. We aspire for peace and we remind ourselves that the peace desired by us can not be achieved without justice for the people. Justice is a mandatory prerequisite for peace. The spirit of service to mankind has to prevail over the current assault on the basic human values in the name of religion.

We need to look into the recent high level committee of UN which went on to counter the thesis of Clash of civilizations put forward by the US professor Samuel Huntington. This thesis forms the cover for US ambitions for its aggressions in West Asia. The UN committee (http://www.unaoc.org/repository/report.htm) has put forward that there is no clash between civilizations, as a matter of fact civilization have an alliance for a better tomorrow. On the similar lines one will like to say that there is no clash between the moral values of religions, it is the alliance between these values that the human race can look forward to a better future, a future which will eliminate poverty, hunger, disease and misery from the world.   It is this alliance which will ensure that the focus of world policies has to be brought back to the issue of Human rights of weaker sections of society. Nothing short of a genuine dialogue amongst people of different faiths can overcome the obstacles created by the political forces misusing the religious identity for their political goals.