Religion is the most constructive force that defines human identity, gives purpose to life and is at the roots of motivation for the majority of the inhabitants of the earth. It is the most powerful instrument for civilizing human character and for the establishment of order in the world. Yet today we can see how the powers of religion can be misused and distorted by vested interests. Religious prejudice, today, is an increasingly dangerous force in the world.
With every day that passes, danger grows that the rising fires of religious prejudice will ignite a worldwide conflagration the consequences of which are unthinkable. he crisis calls on religious leadership for a break with the past as decisive as those that opened the way for society to address equally corrosive prejudices of race, gender and nation.
Against a backdrop of blind religious prejudice fuelled by ecclesiastical leaders and horrors inflicted by religious extremism in different parts of the world, one can see the impact of genuine efforts made by people of goodwill including leaders from a wide range of religions and denominations, as well as academics, journalists, educationists, human rights advocates, judicial luminaries, civil society actors, and statesmen raising the call for a change in perspectives and a united move towards promoting religious coexistence, freedom of belief and respect for diversity.
Commitment to religious harmony and respect for human dignity is the dire need in the conflict-ridden societies in many nations and states. Globally one can perceive a spurt of intolerance and discrimination against the minorities of all kinds. We need to celebrate diversity and acts of courage which build a peaceful and just society.
In our efforts towards the acheivement of world peace, human prosperity and well-being, it is important to work collectively towards building a whole society where love and justice become the operating principles. To achieve aunity of thought, vision and action in this vital direction necessitates engagement in discourses that promote religious co-existence, bridge the religious-secular divide and reconcile religion, secularism and common good. It is important to give greater space in society to the positive influence which the concepts and principles of religious thinking can provide, that freedom to believe is a necessary condition in secular societies even as we safeguard the gains in social harmony and the richness of culture which pluralism brings to modern societies.
Educational institutions can make efforts to raise human consciousness and build capacity of their wards towards building inclusive, transformed societies. Efforts on moral and spiritual development of children, adolescents and youth to become protagonists of their own progress and development, to see their social responsibilities towards others and enhance their power of expression, to engage in discourses that emphasize the moral and spiritual dimension of development and social progress are the need of the hour.
The 6th International Interfaith Conference intends to explore together with all its distinguished participants the following:
Let us overcome the dichotomies of religious-vs-secular, public-vs-private, faith-vs-reason and commit ourselves to working for the good of our whole society. This is a challenging and extremely rewarding enterprise. Are we ready for this spiritual, ethical and moral challenge?
- The role of religion in socio-economic development and social change
- Moving beyond religious co-existence towards acceptance and respect for diversity
- Religious exclusivity –vs- oneness of religion: Religious pluralism and the concept of common good
- The role of youth as protagonists of social transformation.
- Secularism: its merits and demerits