Bonding Together Beyond Differences: Reasons to Live

Muslim youngsters need to develop the qualities of attentive listening, acknowledging, and sharing. They must recognise the importance of positive efforts to promote interfaith and inter-community dialogue.

By Haris F. Farooqui
A dispassionate discussion about religious beliefs between people of different faith backgrounds is the need of the hour today. People of different faiths must come together to discuss their beliefs, practices and the values that they follow, or claim to follow. They need to engage in dialogue rather than confrontation and learn the art of living amicably together even though they may have differences in matters of faith.
Positive interactions between people from diverse religious backgrounds is really essential today. Members of different faith communities should try to see the brighter side of each other’s religions, for which establishing friendly interpersonal relations between people from different religious communities is very important. While such relations are vital for learning about others, they are also necessary for effectively explaining or sharing one’s own worldview with others. Peaceful dialogue is what is needed, not one-sided speeches, which is often perceived as moralizing, biased and even boring. People like to be heard more than being talked to.
In this context, Muslim youngsters need to develop the qualities of attentive listening, acknowledging, and sharing. They must recognise the importance of positive efforts to promote interfaith and inter-community dialogue.
Recently, I happened to attend a workshop organised by a group known as the ‘Inter-Religious Harmony Movement’ (IRHM). It was held at Ashirvad, a Catholic-run centre off St. Marks Road in Bengaluru. The workshop provided a very useful occasion for people from different religious and community backgrounds to spend quality time together, sharing with, and learning from, each other.
The IRHM is an interfaith group that was formed in 1973 by a Jesuit (Catholic) priest, the late Father Ronnie Prabhu. The group is still very active. They hold interfaith events around twice a month. I was surprised that despite living in Bengaluru, I had not been aware of such a group before.
The theme of the workshop was ‘Reasons To Live’. Different speakers, from different religious backgrounds, spoke on the issue, providing participants rich food for thought. I particularly enjoyed the group activities where people of different faith backgrounds individually discussed their values, and one person from the group presented the points to the rest of the participants.
Participants from a particular religious background shared their religious beliefs and the others appreciated them. One participant opined that if you remove the religious label, what you have is ancient knowledge that has passed down through generations. This resonated well with my understanding about the value of much knowledge that is sometimes dismissed as ‘old-fashioned’ simply because it is rooted in religion.
The atmosphere in the workshop was very relaxed and participants were eager to share their beliefs and learn from fellow-participants from different faith backgrounds. I did not find anybody to be preachy. Nor was anybody shying away from sharing what they believed in or practised.
I hope that more people join interfaith groups, make friends with people from different faith backgrounds, become more tolerant of different beliefs, accept religious differences and resolve belief-related conflicts by way of peaceful dialogue.

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