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Communal elements threaten religious freedom: Iyer

“Religious freedom guaranteed by the Indian Constitution faces a real threat from communal elements in the country,” said Justice VR Krishna Iyer, the former judge of the Supreme Court of India, while inaugurating the first meeting of the Kerala unit of the International Interfaith Dialogue India, an organisation formed in Delhi on 21 February aiming at the promotion of interfaith dialogue and building mutual understanding among different religions in India. Justice Iyer, while talking to the audience at the programme held at Gogulam Park of Kaloor in Kochi on 9 June, said religious freedom had been misused by some people. “A true religious person cannot hate another person just because of religious differences. Such hate-mongers are really anti-religious. They clearly prefer violence over dialogue. Pluralism was India’s great contribution to world civilization. We have to build up a culture of intellectual pluralism by spreading an ethics of political participation, human rights, non-violence and religious harmony,” said Justice Iyer who is also the chief patron of the movement.

Justice PK Shamsuddin, one of the patrons of the organisation, called upon the people of different religions for a proactive pluralistic interpretation. An ongoing network of religious leaders and theologians from all over the country should come together to rejuvinate different religions from the perspective of pluralism, gender justice, social justice and environmental action, said Justice Shamsuddin, a former Kerala High Court judge.

Prof. MD Nalapat, President of the movement, who presided over the function, argued that Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam are all built upon diversity and hold within themselves an amazing variety of teachers and teachings. “In the dawning global age we can no longer claim that any one religion is the only truth for all humanity any more than we can claim that one language, one culture or one way of life is the best for all. We are all children of a single God and this theme should unite us all,” said Prof. Nalapat who is UNESCO Peace Chair and Director of the Department of Geopolitics at Manipal University.

Padmabhushan Dr. KJ Yesudas, who is the “Ambassador of Peace” of the movement, in his felicitation address emphasized the need for the peaceful co-existence among religions in India. “Our country is secular and I strongly believe that music is a spiritual bridge between religions. My father taught me not to be an exclusive part of a particular stream. I didn’t understand its fuller meaning at my tender age. Now I realize its wider insights. I believe in spreading the essence of religious harmony by singing psalms and songs using Indian classic ragas,” said Yesudas who is one of the best classical musicians and playback singers of the country. He cited Qur’anic verse 2:62 to prove Islam’s fundamental theme of pluralism and also quoted ‘Isavasiopanishad’ to prove that Monotheism is the foundational principle of Hinduism.

Fr. Albert Nambiaparambil, secretary of the World Fellowship of Inter-Religious Councils, stated that all the people should come forward to appreciate variety rather than singleness. “A garden is attractive because of pluralism in the colours of the flowers. Making all religions the same is a denial of pluralism and can breed another form of intolerance. Pluralism in any field does not mean that all alternatives are the same but that we do have different choices, which not all may be good or equal. Having pluralism in food, for example, means that we can choose from many different types of food. It does not mean that all food articles are of equal nutritional value or of the same taste. It is the acceptance of variety of choice,” said Fr. Albert.

Justice KA Abdul Gafoor, vice president of the movement, Prof. KM Bahauddin, former PVC of AMU, Rev. Jacob Core Episcopa Mannarprayil and Dr. KS Radhakrishnan also spoke at the occasion. V K Abdul Aziz presented the policy declaration of the movement. The programme was attended by eminent figures like Fr. Roby (Director, Chavara Cultural Centre), PK Mohan Das (Secretary, Kerala Shanti Samithi), Benny Joseph (State Convener, Janapaksham), Francis Peruman, Dr. CM Radhakrishnan, NM Jose, Fr. Alfred, Mr. NM Sharafuddin, KM Abdul Salam, and Col. V.S.M.Makkar.

Speaking to The Milli Gazette, VAM Ashrof, Secretary of the Movement, said that the platform was formed in a situation where religious intolerance was spreading among different communities that are parting each other in all the spheres. The organisation will hold discussions, seminars and symposiums to make people from different religions understand each other with Kochi being the base for its functioning. It will also organise special programmes to make women, youth and children aware of the cause.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 July 2010 on page no. 6

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