It is very heartening to see that about a thousand religious leaders from 125 countries and from 17 faiths have gathered in Lindau, Germany at the Religions for Peace Conference 2019 that began on August 20 and ended on August 23. This is the 10th edition of the World Assembly for religions. The assembly theme this time was “caring for our common future.”
For me and many others, the news of this conference has come as a hope for all populations from all faiths, in a world mired in religious conflicts. However, I am not so sure about the outcome of this conference, but it’s certainly a great step towards putting some impact on the strife-ridden attitudes of the followers of various faiths across the world. I would love to see more such conferences at the international level, as well as the small gatherings of all faiths at the national levels.
When I was a child, my parents told me about God and the religions that he sent for humans. They taught me how to worship God and care for other people around us. They also told me their faith, Islam, was meant to spread peace across the world. I believed what they taught me.
However, as I grew up, I had a different experience and observation. There were too many conflicts going on around the world in the name of religion. We also couldn’t behave properly with the people belonging to other religions. I also noticed that there was little respect for one another. We all thought that the religion “we” follow was the best and all others either inferior or false.
But the followers of all major religions worship the same creator — Allah, God, Bhagawan — of the universe. Unfortunately, almost every religion wanted to dominate other religions. The followers of the religion always wanted that everyone should follow the religion that they themselves follow.
And this attitude has been the main source of religious conflicts across the world. We always thought we were the best and wanted to subdue others. This is what I don’t expect from the religions across the world. I believe that God has given every human the wisdom to analyze and assess all scriptures and religious views. We might invite someone to the religion that we follow, but we cannot force someone or a group of people to follow our religion. We cannot invade another land or country in the name of religion.
Over the past decade, there has been a sharp increase in violent religious tensions. Islamic extremists have waged global war and there have been conflicts between Sunnis and Shias in the Middle East; the Rohingya in Myanmar have been persecuted, and there have been outbreaks of violence between Christians and Muslims in many countries of Africa.
According to World Economic Forum (WEF), in 2018, more than a quarter of the world’s countries experienced hostilities motivated by religious hatred, mob violence related to religion, terrorism, and harassment of women for violating religious codes.
The WEF has quoted a 2018 Minority Rights Group report, saying that mass killings and other atrocities are increasing in countries both affected and not affected by war. While bloody encounters were recorded in over 50 countries, most reported lethal incidents involving minorities were concentrated in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The report added that hostilities against Muslims and Jews also increased across Europe, as did threats against Hindus in more than 18 countries. Making matters worse, 55 countries, including Egypt, Russia, India, Indonesia, and Turkey, imposed many restrictions on religions.
The world isn’t very peaceful when it comes to religion.
Peace means to live properly, with empathy. It does not mean that everyone should only follow one faith. Peace means I also look after the well-being of the followers of other faiths. Peace means to keep religion away from political conflicts and wars. It means religious leaders should keep their followers from feeling hatred against each other. Peace means followers of faiths shouldn’t abuse politics. Peace means to find a common and healthy atmosphere to live together.
I expect the followers of the world religions to be more interested in human souls than politics and war. By that, I mean we should love one another, we should do good to the creations of God, we should create such an environment in which we can develop our inner selves and accept others.
Claiming oneself as the very best creates many hegemonic elements within a religion, which ultimately may lead to various kinds of conflicts and loss of human lives.
First published in Dhaka Tribune.
I always try to listen to people around me and understand what they are thinking as they s…