By Lee Macqueen Paul
I learned about Global Peace Festival Foundation (GPFF) from a friend of mine, and I visited its website. One thing that impressed me was the punch line ‘One family under God’. This punch line touched me and I was driven to read more about the organisation’s vision and mission in detail, and believe me, I was not disappointed. This punch line conveys the message of equality, dignity, and unity for all mankind.
The misread ‘Faith’
Interfaith /interreligious is a word that has often, if not always, drawn less valuable attention of the ‘religious’ leaders and the socio-cultural and religious jurists. I view and understand the world and settings around me from the lens which has become secular and more humane after I started pursuing a career in the development sector. I started exploring disturbing aspects of one’s religious faith and the term ‘human’ and ‘humanitarian’, vis-à-vis the learning from my Christian religious background. There is a vast difference between what different major faiths of the world aim out to preach in principle and what is propagated and executed by human beings. They take pride in massacring and ostracising people of different faith, trying to legitimise and prove their point and religious beliefs as supreme over the others. I have strongly opposed blaming of the religions and use of it for justifying macabre acts of fanatics, who are as distanced from the real meaning behind the scriptures as east from the west.
The distorted face of religion
It is needless to talk about the communal riots across the world and not just communal, but ethnic violence also. The above photo is of the 2002 Gujarat violence, which was a series of incidents including the Godhra train burning and the subsequent communal riots between Hindus and Muslims in the Indian state of Gujarat. According to an official estimate, 1044 people were killed in the violence – 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus including those killed in the Godhra train fire. Another 223 people were reported missing, 2,548 injured, 919 women widowed and 606 children orphaned. Unofficial estimates put the death toll closer to 2000, with Muslims forming a very much higher proportion of those killed.
A Change that is possible!
A change is possible and badly needed to prioritise communal harmony across the globe. It is important that our coming generations and the current one understand that there has to be unity in diversity and respect for God’s handmade. How can God ever be biased, is a critical yet simple logical question I always ask myself, and get answered. I believe all human beings of diverse cultures and religious etc. should ask this question to themselves and be ready for obvious answer, for God is not human to discriminate.
Give and receive abundantly
Human beings are gifted with ‘feelings’, ‘emotions’ and ‘love’, which should not be limited to only one’s own kith and kin. Share these gifts and receive more in abundance. I see that inter-religious dialogues are too invisible in India, though religious institutions claim holding such dialogues but mere lip service or symbolic talks are not enough. The change is possible only when the premise for our newborns become secularism and respect of human beings in all characters and shades. This change will come only when the religious leaders of all major faiths will be willing to let go of the rigidities and conservatism, and allow mutual respect and quid pro quo of other’s religions for mutual enrichments. This could be possible through interfaith marriage alliances, beyond dialogues, which so far are not supported by any major religion in India and even worldwide. I don’t know how much of this is practically possible given the difficult religious terrain across the world.
Let’s meet up and expand
Nevertheless, I am glad I came to know of GPFF, where one of the three pillars is Interfaith Partnerships. The focus is on essential principles that are affirmed by all major faith traditions. The true interfaith experience is rooted in the universal principles, values and aspirations that bind all people together as one family. I really wish more such platforms emerge in each country, to weave the commonality between different religions to make this earth a mutually liveable habitat.