By Roshan Sajan:
Faith in the divine brings a balance to one’s thinking and behaviour. But it should not be a blind belief which would result in superstitions. It should be faith juxtaposed with understanding. Faith is like a flame in the dark. The flame makes the letters of the scriptures with their message clear. Our faith in God should be combined with love and humility. Devotion to such a faith can be projected as practical, useful and self- empowering rather than guilt-creating and fearsome. The idea must be to enable the youth to become ‘god-loving’ rather than ‘god-fearing’. Some of the world’s most famous and successful people have had God as a partner in all they did. The convulsion arises when rationality is pitted against faith. One can have both — together.
Tolerance, or active engagement, of believers in one faith with those of another faith is an essential need. Every religion and its followers have fundamental ideas on god, human beings and the world. If one rejects the provisions in other faiths, it is prejudice.
Interfaith is a beautiful train with many compartments. Each compartment has group of followers who identify with a faith. A person can go to each compartment and listen to what they say. S/he will discover that everyone essentially says the same thing, and that there is no difference in fundamental ideas and teachings of various religions. The inter-religious relations and religious resources of the world must be conceived as the common property of the whole of humanity. All religious experiences and traditions are simultaneously ours.
Intimate familiarity with one’s own religious system alone reflects religious poverty. We need to create a better understanding among people of different faiths to facilitate the process of reconciliation and dialogue. The efforts should be grounded in the contemporary context of prevalent inter-religious misunderstanding, often resulting in violence.
The potential of women to form opinions and engage in Interfaith dialogue and cooperation must be understood. This includes Interfaith meetings, seminars, workshops and interaction with local religious groups. It involves in identifying women’s perspective in underlying issues in existing conflicts. It is also important to explore alternative models of conflict-resolution and peace-building, something which could arise out of women’s experiences and collaborations. Investing in today’s youth is about investing in future and not doing so is the surest recipe for the spread of social tensions. As echoed by several religious leaders time and again, religions are different roads to the same destination. Morality, justice and love form the cornerstone of the major religions of the world.
What is earnestly needed is to reinterpret our scriptures for a society meant for all, where living together is possible, regardless of our identity. Truth, love and sacrifice form the underlying theme of all religions. In the end, religion is a noun which brings fruits of adjective and takes the shape of a verb for a harmonized society.
We are better together. Join us.
The author heads the Active Pluralism Project which seeks to build a greater cooperation amongst faiths and non-faiths by focusing on gender sensitization at the Kutumb Foundation, which is generously funded by the US Department of State and Interfaith Youth Core. They will be opening applications for volunteer positions shortly. Join the Facebook group “Interfaith Leaders at Kutumb Foundation” for more details.