Salaam alei kum!Communal violence against Dalits and Muslims has a long history in India. In the recent decades Christians too are at the receiving end. The Hindu nationalists in recent times have stepped up violence against Christians in Orissa, a poor state of eastern seaboard since August 24. The extremists who belong to Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) and Bajrag Dal (BD) have destroyed 300 Christian villages and burnt down 4400 Christian houses. More than 50,000 people are made homeless and driven into jungles and relief camps. 59 Christians have been killed and around 18,000 were injured in the violence. Churches, schools and dispensaries have been destroyed. In one particularly brutal attack a young woman was burnt alive and another young religious nun was gang raped by the RSS and BD cadres. Elsewhere in Assam, the communal violence between Bodos and Muslims has brought death and destruction. The recent spate of bomb blasts in Delhi and other Indian cities continue to threaten security and well being of all Indian citizens. In these troubled times many people of good will like from different religious traditions, who have a secular frame of mind work tirelessly to promote peace and harmony.
Every sane person in the country realises the importance of Inter-religious dialogue. In June 2008 the Rabita al- Alami al-Islami (World Muslim Council) organized an international conference on inter-faith dialogue. This was a major initiative. At the conference it was decided that an international institution would be established to promote inter-faith dialogue. With such initiatives, our Muslims brothers and sisters will play a vital role in establishing, promoting inter-faith understanding and peaceful dialogue.
According to Maulana Waris Mazhari (editor of Tarjuman Dar ul – Ulum, official organ of the Old Boy’s Association of the Dar ul-Ilum, Deoband) the biggest challenge facing Muslim throughout the world today is the dissemination of negative and distorted images of Islam. There are certain extremist elements in politics and media continue to spread lies about madrasas and the curricula in madrasas. Maulana Waris Mazhari feels that all suspicions could be healed by honesty, openness and genuine dialogue. It is important to note and affirm the very positive signal that come from the religious scholars like Maulana Waris Mazhari. Madrasas can indeed play a vital role in the promotion of inter-faith dialogue to combat communal hatred, violence and fundamentalism.
In a meeting with interfaith leaders at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Centre in Washington, D.C Pope Benedict XVI encouraged inter-faith cooperation and dialogue as a way of both building mutual understanding and the strengthening society. To bring to the youth the message of Interreligious dialogue, the recently concluded World Youth Day celebrations in Sydney the Australian the Jesuits organized an inter religious programme for the participants.
In the article “Beware of the Conversion Bogey” Dr. I. Vempany, with his vast knowledge and experience in the field of dialogue, reminds the readers that the Hindus by and large misunderstand the real meaning of conversion. They continue to attack the Christians blaming them of forceful conversion. In spite of sustained persecutions, the church continues and will continue to work for Justice, Freedom and Love, the values Christ and his Gospel.
In fact Inter religious dialogue has become a priority to many of the religious congregations. Dr.John Borelli in his article “Frontiers of Dialogue for Discovery and Renewal” brings out how Interreligious dialogue is integral to Jesuit service of Christ's mission. This was the core message of the General Congregation 34 of Jesuits. The GC 35 again reiterated the Society’s commitment to interfaith dialogue.
Ashar Ali Engineer is a well known Indian Islamic scholar. Quoting the Holy Quran and the Hadith (Traditions of the Prophet) extensively, the scholar brings out the point that Islam is a tolerant religion and from its beginning it has encountered Christianity and Judaism in an amicable and harmonious manner. There are many Indian Muslim thinkers, who have written and have expressed their positive attitude towards other religions. For example: Dara Shikoh, translated the Upanishads from Sanskrit to Persian, which exhibits his religious tolerance and understanding with Hinduism. He argued that Hinduism is a monotheistic religion as he found the concept of tawhid (monotheism) in Upanishads. He even compared the Hindu concept of mukti (liberation) to that of the Sufi concept of fana (annihilation in Allah). In general, Muslims today need to adapt to the present modern lifestyle wherever possible as the Quran does not say anything against such way of life.
‘Christian-Muslim Relations; Guidelines for Catholics in the Diocese of Parramatta’ is a useful guide prepared by Fr. Herman Roborgh SJ for the purpose of establishing and practicing Interreligious dialogue ministry in the Australian diocese of Parramatta. It shows that dialogue ministry is a pressing need of the society all over. Today Jihad is the most misunderstood word. Herman Roborgh explains Jihad in an interview he gave to Victor Edwin.