Early last month, the Kosi Kalan town in Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh witnessed wide spread communal violence.The riot that began over a trivial issue turned into full fledged communal conflagration which resulted in loss of lives, large scale destruction of property and damages estimated to the tune of Rs 50 crore.
The existing dialogue model for conflict resolution has failed to check such flare ups as it merely proceeds on the basis that different faiths consider one another as acceptable with the persisting perceptions about them and with their existing attitudes about one another. Thus, a conservative Muslim continues to look at a Hindu as a ‘Kafir’ , a ‘good’ Christian deems it his religious duty to convert a heathen, idol worshipping Hindu and a ‘jingoist’ Hindu looks at both of them as outsiders, in the absence of genuine understanding about each other.
Such long standing perceptions about faiths cannot be removed by conventional models of seeking harmony such as inter-faith prayers, dinners and seminars, that for the moment, swear by peace and harmony.
Unless the fundamental causes of mistrust are addressed, the ultimate goal of harmony among faiths and civilisations will remain a distant one.
Therefore, deviating from the existing models of seeking harmony, which have failed to yield desired results, Delhi-based Global Foundation for Civilisational Harmony (GFCH) is following the difficult path of persuading different faiths and civilisations to undergo an endogenous transformation and thereby bring about changes in the longstanding perceptions about them within and outside as the essential part of the process to bring about lasting harmony.
It is working towards a paradigm shift in thinking from the now prevailing notion of tolerance of other faiths as the ideal to the acceptance of all faiths as valid and sacred so as to achieve peace and harmony based on mutual understanding and accommodation.
GFCH India was launched in Delhi in January 2008 at a function attended and addressed by great religious and spiritual masters belonging to all faiths including His Holiness the Dalai Lama as also former President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam.
In a bid to remove the false perception that terror has the sanction of the Islamic faith, GFCH along with others motivated Darul Uloom Deoband to hold rallies of Muslims against terrorism in different parts of India.
Again, with the objective of dispelling the long-held perception that Hinduism is a socially insensitive faith, GFCH launched the annual Hindu Spiritual and Service Fair, which helped in demolishing the myth that Hindu organisations only pursue spiritualism and do not engage in social service.
The GFCH supported the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha in a comprehensive dialogue with the Jewish clergy, which helped remove theological misunderstandings that existed between the two faiths on the issue of idol worship and different Gods. GFCH has also worked with Swami Dayananda Saraswathi in concluding the Faith Human Rights Statement 2008 in Amsterdam signed by leaders of all religions which accepted the right to retain one’s faith and decried conversion by inducement and coercion, thereby addressing a principal concern of non-proselytising Indic faiths about Abrahamic faiths.
The organisation has been organising talks on issues such as ‘Gita, Koran and Civilizational Harmony’, “Sufism and Indian Islam’ etc and is planning to host an ‘Islam in the Service of Mother India’ fair, later this year.
Due to its sustained and innovative efforts towards communal harmony, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations has made GFCH its partner organization in India.
With the failure of conflict resolution initiatives, the need of the hour is more such conflict avoidance models.
(KG Suresh is a Delhi-based
senior journalist and Director
of GFCH India)