• Antara Basu


The water trickles down her temple, glistening, as the sun struggles to rise and she performs the ablution, responding to the call of the morning Fajr Azan. And not very far away, another continues draping herself in her heavily embroidered saree and as she prepares her flowers, she wonders where she left the incense sticks again. The Mandir isn’t very crowded in the early morning, nonetheless, she takes her time. And once she starts to walk towards her car, she almost collides with someone she’ll probably never see again, but as she smiles apologetically and for the brief moment that their eyes meet, she couldn’t help but notice the beautiful chain around her neck, adorned with a studded miniature of the holy cross. And they walk on. The three of them are unconnected in every way, strangers in all aspects, and yet connected by nothing but faith.

Faith is woven with love, coloured in peace and laced by amity and that engulfs within itself daunting power, even the power to unite human civilisation. But today as the world becomes increasingly labelled by stereotypes, it cultivates spurious social norms and hence enforces the idea that we as individuals belonging to various religious factions are fundamentally different. And that these differences cannot cohabit alongside each other for they are believed to be inherently antagonistic. This is what manipulates the temperament of true faith, this has twisted inner spirituality and emotion and created the pervasive state that today, religion exists in, pitting people against each other invoking hatred, and inflicting fanatical atrocities.

However what human society fails to understand is that hate is a human attribute, no religion preaches enmity, nor does it proselytize hostility. The most unfortunate aspect is that religion has been distorted by people themselves, by men and women of cloth who are revered and indeed have considerable sway over general masses. By the individuals occupying political offices for electoral victories or perhaps by the teachings being propounded within families itself which are bound by orthodox and conformist ideals and refuse to take the necessary step towards achieving acceptance and equal respect. The rising levels of disdain that people experience against certain individuals solely judging by the religion they practice is thus, not exactly astounding and although we wouldn’t want to admit it but prejudice today is intricately intertwined within religion and this is something that cannot be blamed on faith, this is entirely on mankind. Considering the myriad instances of religion-based violence, like The Holocaust during 1941 – 1945, the Gujarat Riots of 2002, or the Christchurch mosque shootings in 2019 it is evident that the situation hasn’t recovered much.

Currently, it is essential that we grasp the concept of equality and forsake the conceptions of superiority and inferiority amongst religious communities. It is time that people realise that the existence of religious plurality does not threaten the beliefs and customs of their individual faith, instead, these multifarious practices mould an incredibly diverse world that procures its beauty from the amalgamation of all these cultures to give dawn to a universal coexistence. Today the menace of religious disharmony has left society vulnerable to conflicts and tensions and thus it is imperative that we make efforts to combat religious conflicts, preserve religious unity in the world and sculpt a society embedded in goodwill and unison and to accomplish these objectives, we’ve to start to think of humanity as the foremost religion. Humanity is above all the guiding force of civilization and if we aspire to form a universal identity inclusive of all, which doesn’t harbour any bigotry against selective religious sections, we need to ensure that faith doesn’t become synonymous with fanaticism.

And although we cannot deny that contentions will always remain an integral part of the varied religious ideologies but looking at the broad spectrum, it is quite distinct that a basic structure preaching love, service, and harmony is common to all religions. And we have to acknowledge that the coinciding of diverse traditions emerging from diverse religions allows for the enrichment of our faiths. The key to inter-religious harmony can never be tolerance, it needs to be acceptance. Acceptance of certain ideas that may be very dissimilar to ours but to recognise that they have a beauty of their own is what we need to work on. And since we all realise that we live in a multi-religious community, there must exist mutual respect for each other.

The problem of communal discord concerns the growth and development of nations and in turn, the international community, and these issues are further aggravated by intentional misinterpretation of religious tenets. Furthermore, these influences are very effective in corrupting people's understanding because of their blind faith. It is necessary that people are made aware of accurate religious instruction and are capable of differentiating between religious norms and social vices. The matters of religious harmony are of considerable importance to a nation’s progress and social welfare, so governmental efforts to impart a sense of belongingness so as to dispel the insecurities faced by certain groups, say religious minorities, as well as the efforts to guarantee an equal status to all religious groups, is a prerequisite to authenticating the ideal of an egalitarian society. But above all, it eventually boils down to the people inhabiting multi-religious societies, their determination to attain social inclusion, their efforts to make sure that they respect the religious sentiments of all. And to ensure that they treat people with the respect they are entitled to irrespective of whichever religion they follow.

The three strangers, though they may never know, will always know a part of each other, the part that connects them when they pray, the part that connects them when they think about the deaths of their husbands in communal riots, and the part which can connect us all, our faith.