By Francis Sunil Rosario
Kolkata, August 19: 2019: The residence of Catholic archbishop in Kolkata hosted an Inter-Faith dialogue meeting on August 18 where people cutting across religious voiced concern over changing pattern of leadership in India.
Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta welcomed members of different religious to the brain storming discussion towards evolving a strategy to build peace and harmony in society.
The meet that gathered some veteran leaders already engaged in interfaith dialogue took place because of the initiative Satnam Singh Ahluwalia and Imran Zaki, representing Sikhism and Islam. Both said they uphold their belief in the religion of humanity.
“It was an initiative to go beyond our own religious boundaries and parameters and put the tenets of each religion into practice to build humanity. All religions in fact, are committed to build a new humanity of freedom, justice, fellowship and peace,” they said.
The participants observed some dark clouds hovering around in the present national scenario. The slow rise of religious fundamentalism is giving insecurity to some religious minorities, the voiceless, oppressed and dispossessed of society, they added.
They also noted that the country was passing through a phase of disarray, dismay, and disillusion and in the state of confusion. There is a silent fear growing in the minds of common folk and survival itself is at stake, they added.
While the country celebrated its 73rd Independence day, many asked if the country was really free today. The country is under the grip of oppressive system, where the rights of individuals are tampered and their freedom of speech curtailed. The hidden fascist regime has encroached into our democratic rights. Some felt that our Constitution itself is under the threat to be scrapped.
India being one of the largest democratic nations in the world and a Secular country, it is the duty of all citizens to voice their concern to preserve Secularism and allow the people of all faith and cultures to uphold the dignity of individuals and allowing all to live in freedom. Hence, it’s a clarion call to build up consensus among the citizens of our country and stop any infringement into the human rights and dignity of individuals, those who are most vulnerable of the society.
Archbishop D’Souza highlighted on the concern for dialogue in present scenario. Dialogue has become almost imperative and essential for every one as we live in a pluralist society. People of all faith and cultures live here in harmony. Our economic, political and social issues that affect the lives of common people should be looked into, in the spirit of dialogue, respect for human dignity and life and deeper understanding.
Satnam said, “Religion should play a positive role to build humanity and peace.” Father Franklin Menezes, director of Seva Kendra, said, that there are others who may not believe in any religion, but they too uphold human values, they should also be included into the process of building peace.
Syed Irfan Sher said, “The very idea of India is under attack today.” O. P. Shah, Forum for Peace, said, “We need to have an introspection of mind and try to understand deeply our national issues. We should also include those who are opposed to our views and how we can respond together to sort out those differences and continue our process of dialogue to build humanity.” Among others who spoke were Qari Fazlur Rehman, Imam, Bhikkhu Pala (Buddhist monk) Gurbux Singh, Gold Medalist in 1964 Olympics in Hockey and member of Minority Commission, West Bengal), Mr. Sunil Lucas, former President of Signis India, Brahamakumari from Bangur centre .
At the end of discussion, the organizers said that a realistic plan for further discussion will take place soon. Some of the proposals that came out from the floor were to organize workshops to understand the urgent need for dialogue, some introspection of our own state of mind, by way of panel discussions to remove some of the misconceptions, ignorance and baggage we carry against certain religions. Some proposed that our social media should play a positive role in promoting harmony, peace and towards a better humanity.