The contemporary world is in the throes of violence. All around the world, people are being killed, terrorized and threatened in the name of religion. The religious shysters and war-mongers have spread hatred to such an extent that even very roots of peace in society have been shaken. Sectarian violence and intolerance have also reached epidemic proportions. It is due to this fact that the very word “religion,” unfortunately, is now considered synonymous with terror and fear. In this dismal state of affairs, interfaith harmony is pressingly needed. Besides cultural, linguistic and racial diversity, Pakistan hosts a number of religions, with Islam – the religion of more than 90 percent of Pakistanis – Hinduism, Christianity and Sikhism being the prominent ones. But, despite the fact that these four major religions exist in the country, the notion known as ‘inter-religion dialogue’ in the community is almost non-existent. Every religion has its own flavour and values; no religion around the globe professes hate and discord.
“Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.” (Buddha)
The term interfaith dialogue refers to compliant, productive and positive interactions between and among the peoples having different beliefs or religions at individual or institutional levels with an aim to bring peace, progressive change and harmony to the masses. Harmony gives one the right to live and let others live peacefully. It surely paves way or directs one towards peace and prosperity. In a changing world order, which is determined by competitive world politics and topsy-turvy economic conditions, promotion of interfaith harmony is inevitable.
Interfaith harmony is a condition which suggests a pacific coexistence of followers of various religious beliefs, with an objective to abolish violence. With a practical model of interfaith harmony, it proposes understanding of all religions and respecting everyone’s beliefs without disturbing the surroundings. All religions taught peace, love, tolerance and respect for humanity and stressed the need for dialogue among different religions and civilizations for promoting harmony and tranquility. To have harmony and peace, people should shun their differences and share their experiences.
A number of communities live in Pakistan and in spite of being an Islamic state, the country guarantees the provision of all basic human rights as well as civic freedom to its minorities. Flag of Pakistan is not complete without its white part, i.e. minorities. However, during the past few years, unfortunately, religious extremism, intolerance and terrorism have increased, and minorities, too, were not immune to its effects. Their places of worship were targeted to sow the seeds of discord and distrust among the followers of different faiths.
But, one thing that needs to be acknowledged here is that it is not a new phenomenon; men have been suffering throughout history from lack of toleration for others’ beliefs. With the cry “Deus Vult!” (God wills it), rivers of blood have flowed as a result of religious intolerance. Crusades, Inquisition, Holocaust at Auschwitz, are but some examples. Moreover, activities of Holy Offices, which were established by the papacy in the Middle Ages, for seeking out, trying and sentencing persons of heresy, as well as brutal massacres and inhumane torture of Hispanics and of Albigensian of southern France, leave the man of our age with no doubt that intolerance is destructive. Thus, for all of us to survive on this planet, respecting religious beliefs of others and learning how to have a peaceful and harmonious religious coexistence under the principle of ‘the right to believe as one chooses’ is inevitable.
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