Special Reports

IOS-Magadh ‘Varsity interfaith seminar

Gaya: A two-day national seminar on “Importance of Inter-Religious Understanding: Its Implications for Mankind” jointly organised by Forum for Inter-religious Understanding, Institute of Objective Studies (IOS) and Deptt. of Buddhist Studies & Directorate of Distance Education, Magadh University in Bodhgaya, was held here during 24-25 September. The deliberations that started on September 24 saw the convergence of religious leaders from six main religions who unequivocally underscored the need for the creation of a congenial atmosphere for peaceful co-existence, harmony, mutual respect and tolerance.

Maulana Saeedur Rahman Azmi speaking at the seminar

The inaugural session was opened by President of Bandhua Mukti Morcha and a prominent Arya Samaj leader, Swami Agnivesh who held that God is one, but He is called by several names. We fight among ourselves because we err in understanding Him. He said that the causes of the problem of misunderstanding among different religions were the rituals and ceremonies that were performed in the name of religion. All of us are creatures of the same God, yet we nurture the idea of being separate entities. Nobody knew where this idea came from, he wondered. He maintained that while Gautam Buddha spread the message of love and compassion, Islam praised God as “Rabbul Alameen” (Nurturer of the worlds).

Vice-chancellor of Magadh University, Prof. Md. Ishtiyaq, in his welcome address held that today’s world was faced with problems like communalism, nepotism, intolerance, yawning gap between poverty and wealth, etc. He was elated that the seminar was deliberating on such a serious issue in the land of Mahatma Buddha who spread the message of peace, brotherhood, goodwill, forbearance and cooperation. He lamented that though the Indian Constitution had guaranteed the right to equality and freedom to the citizens of the country in order to strengthen national integration, certain vested interests were busy working against brotherhood and striking at social harmony. Holding that social harmony pre-supposed prosperity, he said that religious heads had given a fillip to peace and goodwill. He expressed the confidence that the confluence of religious leaders would herald a new dawn.

In his presidential remarks, the Chairman of IOS, Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam informed that the institute was completing 30 years of its existence. “We have one of the finest Constitutions of the world, but it is not being implemented in accordance with its spirit. Similarly, laws exist, but are not being properly enforced to maintain law and order”, he regretted. He hoped that the clouds forming at the national seminar would rain over the world spreading the message of tolerance, goodwill, love and respect for other’s religions. Addressing the delegates, Acharya Dr Lokesh Muni of the Ahimsa Vishwa Bharti, New Delhi, said religion only strengthened bonds and never broke them. He felt strongly that the country would not transform unless the outlook of society underwent a change. In a democracy, diversity of views was essential for development, he said.

The President, All India Ramacharya Mantralaya Vishnupad, Gaya, Pandit Ramacharya defended the Sanatan Dharma by saying that it did not hold a critical view of other religions.

Lt. Gen. RK Sharma said the goal of all the religions was one, but the ways differed. We should find a common path. He said that like other religions, army was also a religion where followers of different religions worked together as a single family. Defending the country was their religious duty as for soldiers country came first and other things later. He said that the military was the only organisation where all-religion prayers were conducted and soldiers professing different faiths visited them.

The chancellor of the Integral University and Principal, Nadwatul Ulema, Lucknow, Maulana Saeedur Rahman Azmi, observed that Allah created man so that he could benefit from the earth and extend those benefits to others. He divided people into different communities, so that they could recognise and love each other. Referring to the Qur’an, he said that the greatest among the human beings was one who recognised his Creator. Man was the most respectable among all creatures. All of us were one because we had a common mother and father. The solution to the problems facing us today lay in coming closer to each other. We must learn to trust each other, he added.

Nine business sessions followed on various themes related to inter-faith dialogue.The valedictory session was addressed by the governor of Bihar and the chancellor of the university, Ram Nath Kovind as chief guest. He made special mention of the booklet titled “Messages of Peace” brought out by the Magadh University. He said that the letter ‘I’ was especially important because it was common to all the six religions - Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam and Christianity, mentioned in the booklet. He said ‘I’ symbolised unity among all these religions which was so essential for national integration. One character of each of all religions together thus made “INDIAN”. He cautioned people against religious radicalism which posed a danger to the unity of the country.