According to the Bible, righteousness and justice are sides of the same coin. Without justice there cannot be peace and harmony. We often come across the incidence of injustice in society. The Bible shares a great concern for the poor and the weak like the Qur’an does. “Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but (true) righteousness is (in) one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; (and who) establishes prayer and gives zakah; (those who) fulfill their promise when they promise; and (those who) are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous.” [Qur’an 2:177]
Religions teach adherents to work for a better world order and a more equitable society for all. Their basic tenets essentially concern for human dignity and for the fulfilment of peoples’ aspirations. But, as we see, the religions being practiced and exploited in their institutional, structural and ideological manifestations they have become instruments of subjugation and alienation. It is of great importance that we discover essential human values and portray them in the life of people in a realistic manner in order to liberate them from indoctrination and domination by the powerful. The people must be, first of all, treated as people: people created as imago Dei. This fosters inter-faith diapraxis. It is not easy to have inter-religious dialogue or diapraxis in a place where the gap in number among the people of various faiths is somewhat of astronomic proportion and especially where the percentage of enlightened people among them is quite low.
Recommendations for promoting religious harmony:
We can sincerely try to join hands with our brothers and sisters from other faiths to promote an environment that will contribute to solidarity for the greater interest of identifying, facing and transforming realities of this present world for mutual enrichment and for ensuring a meaningful life. We can achieve this goal through implementing these recommendations:
l The teachers and preachers of each religion should incarnate first what they teach or preach to others. There is no alternative to an enlightened clergy in any faith to ensure that there is authentic spirituality.
l Scriptures of each religion should be interpreted properly to identify and address real-life issues of this challenging world including, poverty alleviation, socio-economic disparity, ecological imbalance, adverse effects of globalisation, corruption and violations of human rights.
l Religious education and value formation should be in place up to a certain level in academic institutions. Both doctrine and values need to go hand in hand.
l Exploitation of religious values should be prevented.
l Any injustice to or attack on the minorities of any religion anywhere in the world should be stopped.
l Faith-based or value-based NGOs, groups and agencies should play important roles to initiate inter-faith dialogue and interfaith seminars on various issues of common interests.
l The media should play their active roles in spreading the news on interfaith harmony and tolerance for strengthening communal harmony in the country.
Religions are meant for widening the mental horizon of their adherents. They create a broad spirituality that reconciles man to God and man to man and they can minimise the gap between people and create an inclusive mentality and attitude conducive to social and communal harmony.
It is worthy to note that the UN adopted a resolution for observing the first week of February as the World Interfaith Harmony Week. Meaningful interfaith dialogues can play roles to this end. Leaders of all religions should teach their own people the holistic spirituality that sees all of God’s creation as sacred. With their meaningful directives, hopefully, religious communities will act as driving force for ensuring justice, peace, solidarity and tolerance in society.
The writer is a former Principal of the College of Christian Theology, Bangladesh