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Interfaith Harmony

Interfaith Harmony

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Paper Presented to the Parliament of World's Religions, Dec. 2009 at Melbourne, Australia
Paper Presented to the Parliament of World's Religions, Dec. 2009 at Melbourne, Australia

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Published by: Anand Krishna Indonesia on Jun 19, 2010
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06/03/2011

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Interfaith Harmony: Myth & Reality
 Anand Krishna*
About 60 years ago, our President Soekarno scoffed at Indianshopkeepers in India who took pride in “displaying” their religion ontheir signboards, “Hindu Tea Stall”, “Muslim Restaurant” and so onand so forth.Around the same time, President Radhakrishnan of India wasamazed at how we on the archipelago had preserved our cultureand traditions deeply rooted in the ancient Indus Valley Civilization,irrespective of our religious affiliations.
That was a reality “then”, but a myth “now”.
Now, the hard reality is that a notorious cleric, totally ignorant of ourage old traditions and culture, can publicly threaten us that suicidebombing would continue if we did not adopt a
sharia
basedgovernment system. The intensified police efforts to curb terrorism is not blessed by thepurportedly man of God. Instead, he blesses the suicide bombersand calls them martyrs. In his own words, "I don't absolutely blamebombers in Indonesia because their goal is good, namely to defendIslam.”Such view is in clear contrast with what Mahatma Gandhi believedin: “Terrorism and deception are weapons not of the strong but of the weak. A religious act cannot be performed with aid of thebayonet or the bomb.”Another hard fact is that, our government feels helpless in dealingwith this one single man’s notoriety, which has already tarnishedour country’s image. Or, perhaps he is not a single man after all.Perhaps there are others behind him. A, or a number of politicalparties, some influential people “up” there, forces outside thecountry – who are they?An ex high officio tells me that that was not the case. So, what is thecase? “It’s the political will. There is no political will to put an end toall this.” Perhaps.Our learned analysts and scholars argue that fanaticism, radicalismand terrorism are not the same. “Not all radicals,” they argue, “areterrorists.”
 
As mentioned by Prof. Greg Barton, in his well researched book,“Jemaah Islamiyah: Radical Islamism in Indonesia”, our notoriouscleric is also reported to have said, “I make many knives, I sell manyknives, but I am not responsible for how they are used.” The moderate clerics maintain that terrorism and violence havenothing to do with religion. They carefully avoid discussing the issueof growing fanaticism. They would not echo with Gandhi, “Afanaticism that refuses to discriminate is the negation of all ideals.”Speaking in international forums, the leaders of our religiousinstitutions are reluctant to admit that the growing fanaticism andradicalism have divided our society where interfaith harmony hadnever been an issue to discuss, but a way of life to practice.
Earlier we did not have interfaith groups, but we hadinterfaith harmony. This was a reality then, and a myth now.Now, the reality is that we have several interfaith groups,but no interfaith harmony.
Whether you like it or not, religion has been used to justify acts of terror. Religion has been presented in such a way, and by its ownfollowers, that it has lost both its meaning and its utility as “auniting force”.It is against this backdrop that, December this year the Parliamentof World’s Religions will meet in the city of Melbourne, Australia.We may recall, back in 1893, the parliament had met for the firsttime in Chicago. Vivekananda (1863-1902), one of the speakers whowas to become the star then, firmly believed that, “sectarianism,bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism have long possessedthis beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence,drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilizationand sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horribledemons, human society would be far more advanced than it isnow.”He hoped that the convention might toll the “death-knell of allfanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to thesame goal.”More than a century later, his hope remains a hope and a dream torealize. The conference in Melbourne later this year therefore, is notonly timely, but also urgent and imperative. However, moreimportant is the meeting of our minds and hearts. More urgent isour willingness to be honest and truthful in what we say and what

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