"World at Turning Point for Freedom and Toleration," say Religion Experts
New Delhi… [IRLA News] "The world is at a turning point for freedom and toleration," agreed religion experts on the concluding day of the World Conference on Religious Freedom in Delhi today.
"The world, and India in particular, is witnessing again intolerance and violence in which religion is blamed," said Lt. Gen. (Retd.) A.M. Sethna, former Vice Chief of the Indian Army. "A Conference of this nature at this particular time is of great value. The International Religious Liberty Association and this Conference are doing yeoman service in bringing into focus the basic principles of religions in this massive interfaith activity."
Pointing out that every individual has freedom of choice, Lt. Gen. Sethna expressed his hope that the right choices would be made as the world faces the third millennium.
Looking at "Religious Liberty and the Third Millennium," Dr. A.K. Merchant, director of the Baha’i Office of External Affairs, said that many commentators are apprehensive about the future.
"Some talk apprehensively of the fall of culture and the consequent disappearance of values, the loss of fullness of the inner life, a technological civilization facing an increasingly serious crisis," said Dr. Merchant. "How does religion fit into the current scheme of things? To many, if not most people, however, religion is irrelevant. It has become preoccupied with vacant rituals, impoverished by superstitious traditions and thoroughly corrupted by self-serving individuals and groups… Inter-religious conflict lies at the heart of almost every war; fundamentalism impels bloodthirsty terrorist groups and spawns dangerous cults." Dr. Merchant pleaded for the differences between the faiths to be overcome.
Professor D.N. Pathak of the Peace Research Centre pointed out that the twentieth century has been the blood-stained century in the history of the world."Over 220 million have died this century," said Prof. Pathak. "Seventy-five per cent of all the violence since the beginning of the Roman Empire has occurred in these past hundred years. The casualties have been more and more concentrated on civilians. And much of this violence has been related to religious differences. We need much more of Gandhi’s ethic of non-violence."
Prof. Pathak hoped for a greater tolerance between religions, and a stronger emphasis on religious freedom. For "If I dream alone, it is just a dream; but if we dream together, it is a movement."
The organizers concluded the Conference with the belief that religious freedom would be continued to be dreamed together, so that the world movement for tolerance and understanding between religions would become a practical reality. [Dittu Abraham/Jonathan Gallagher]