"Need for Understanding of Religions to Promote Interfaith and Culture of Peace"
Prof. Zeenat Ali
(Professor of Islamic Studies Si. Xavier College. Mumbai)
As we stand on the brink of the new millennium, whatever time calendars we follow, this threshold moment offers us a historical opportunity to begin to sow the seeds of a true peace, bring about a new level of interreligious cooperation to commit together to a culture of peace and offer a gift of hope for the generations that will follow us. As we have seen, all religions have taught love. Let us love in the name of religion. Let there be healing and forgiveness (Kofi Annan). Let us, the people of India, take the lead role and demonstrate to the world our solidarity to sow the seed of love and peace. Let not the forces of divisiveness and negation divide us. Instead of entering into an acrimonious debate as to whose religion is superior, let us be the superwomen and men of enlightenment that each of our religions teach. It is time to understand that the religion belongs to realm of ethics (which presently we rarely encounter). Those dissatisfied by liberal argument between the different faiths ignore the fact that argument between faiths can seldom be resolved through insolvent minds.
The freedom of spiritual choice with any pressure becomes an axiomatic part, a tangible, expression for the exercise of spiritual freedom. The branding of other religions and isolation and exclusiveness must stop. Religion, contrary to its true ideals, in our present social milieu, has become a competitive driving force. As a result, instead of illuminating the world with ideas of fairness, justice or .social solidarity, as essential teachings-of all religions, it has become a force of hostility, hatred and violence. It is also being misused as a platform for the mobilisation of public opinion, as a result, thousands of people are massacred in the name of religion.
Islam etymologically springs from the word "peace". Hinduism believes in "Shanti" and follows the concept of vegetarianism or respect for all lives. Yet in the last 50 years much blood has been shed in the name of these religions. Let us rise above the medieval witch hunting and zero tolerance in the words our Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayeeji. History shows us just in a distant past both these communities had joined hands culturally, economically and socially build up a united India. If is time to rejuvenate that process and walk hand in hand and demonstrator .the world, how two communities (unity in diversity) can live harmoniously together- and bring peace, prosperity, progress and happiness. This is the message that both the religions can offer the world in the new millennium. This is the contribution that these two great religions can make to the world towards the promotion of culture of peace in the next millennium.
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