What do you think needs to be done to make the world a safe place with Muslims, Christians and Jews living side by side in peace and prosperity?
There is no panacea – applicable to all situations – for the issue of religious intolerance. Each society will have to develop its own set of steps, which are most suited for its own particular circumstances. These measures may have to include some alterations in the legal, political, penal, communication and educational systems if required by the particular circumstances. Nevertheless, some of the important academic steps, which need to be taken in this regard must include:
The appreciation of the beliefs of others and empathy towards their stance. We may disagree with the beliefs ascribed to by any of our friends and associates, yet a healthy, meaningful and peaceful dialogue cannot be initiated and maintained on the topic if the two parties are not willing to respect and honor the stand of the other;
Keeping the doors of communication and dialogue in matters relating to religious differences open. Nothing is likely to be more injurious to the situation than lack of healthy communication and dialogue between the adherents of the various creeds living in the society;
The appreciation of the fact that a person’s religious affiliation is primarily dependent upon his internal value system rather than his apparent affiliations. A person should be allowed and encouraged to ascribe to the set of beliefs which he internally holds to be true, without any external socio-cultural or legislative pressures;
A good understanding of the fact that if God has allowed His creation the free-will to ascribe to the religious beliefs, which they hold to be true, than no individual or collectivity has the right to restrict the individual’s freedom in this respect;
A general training of the society with reference to the point that even though only one set of religious beliefs can be completely true, yet the understanding and the interpretation of the truth by human beings can be different. In the ultimate analysis it is not the individual’s ascription to the ‘whole truth’ that guarantees his eternal salvation, but his sincere ascription to what he has honestly understood and interpreted to be the ‘Truth’; and
A general promotion of the point that only those people have a right to demand respect for their religious beliefs, who are themselves willing to give respect to the beliefs of others.
These are only some of the more important requirements for the said target that come to my mind. Nevertheless, a sincere effort by the societies and their clergies and religious scholars in the promotion of these points can, in my opinion, go a long way in promoting the desired targets.
I hope this helps.
September 10, 2002