– By Jose Kalathil
NEW DELHI: At a time when there is so much hatred in the world, inter-faith dialogue is essential for creating cordial relations with people of all religions. To this end, Institute of Harmony and Peace Studies (IHPS) organized a session “Fellowship of Religions” in New Delhi. A book with the same title was also released on the occasion.
Speaking on the subject, main speaker Padma Bhushan Prof. T K Oommen, Professor Emeritus, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, said, there is a need to move from hierarchisation of religion to horizontalisation of religion. He also stressed the need to have fellowship first to accept the identity of religion.
“Spirituality should be experiential and not experimental,” said Prof M H Qureshi, former Professor and A M Khwaja chair, Jamia Millia Islamia. Stressing on the need to have inter-faith dialogue, he said this will also help understanding or remove misunderstanding about religion. He also said that spirituality should be experiential and not experimental.
Prof. Deepali Bhanot, former professor, Delhi University, said inter-religious collaboration is essential for social harmony. During natural calamities, religious communities or organizations should come forward to help people of all faiths. “Love towards others” should be the motto. She also said that on such occasions youth should also be involved. Quoting Swami Vivekananda she said “You have to grow under yourself, nobody is there to teach you.”
Justice Jaspal Singh, former Judge, Delhi High Court said, in his presidential address stressed on communal harmony. Recommending the book to all he said, “here is a book that should be tasted and chewed by all.”
Dr M D Thomas, Editor and Coordinator of the book and founder Director of IHPS asking “Is religion a blessing or a liability?” said religion is a motivational force.
On the book, “Fellowship of Religions,” Dr Thomas said it is a ‘mini-encyclopedia of religions,” on the diverse dimensions of fellowship among religions, or better among believers of diverse religions and even much beyond. All traditions of faith, ideology and culture are the ‘gifts of the same Creator or God’ and they are the ‘shared cultural heritage of the human society.’ ‘Sharing in’ the values of the faith of the other, while ‘sharing with others’ the values of one’s faith, is the sublime culture of a true believer, may he or she is affiliated to any tradition, he said. In other words, he said ‘faith meets faith’ or better, believers meet believers’ is the spiritual drive that leads believers to the attainment of ‘fellowship of religions.’
“Fellowship of religions,” as a phrase, admittedly, is fairly a new concept for the religious world and it brings to light a meaningful, elevated and a pleasing idea, and therefore, a well welcome idea too. Without a doubt, communication among people of diverse traditions of faith, ideologies and civilizations and for that matter, even among people who claim no religion, has been prevailing in the world from time immemorial, in some way or other. Definitely, various modes of relations, even exchange of views, among groups and communities of religious, ethnic and social affiliations were very much present in India too.
The contributors to this book are prominent scholars and leaders of all communities, whose inspiring and noteworthy messages as well as informative and enlightening articles make up the valuable resource of this book.
Dr A K Merchant of the Bahai’s Faith urged all participants to read the book and encourage others to read. He also said that all international organizations including the United Nations should motivate other groups to buy the book.
Jose is a senior journalist based in New Delhi. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org