Man is a gregarious animal and communicates with other men. However, it is strange that when it comes to trade and industry, science and education, health and food, freedom and human rights, democracy and politics and, to some extent, concern for the environment, there is a freer acceptance of the unfamiliar but when ideologies and beliefs are involved there is resistance.
Is this because those in charge of such competing ideologies and beliefs do not understand their own ways and, as a result, their own rigidness dictates zero tolerance? Or is it ignorance of the other that breeds suspicion, resentment and even hatred?
Now that man lives in what is known as the global village, is there room for ignorance and the fear of the stranger?
Has the climate changed sufficiently for moderation to prevail and tolerance to flourish?
All the religions believe in peace and common human values. I feel that, to educate people, giving them the necessary awareness and building bridges among people of different faiths is highly essential for the well-being of man. And for the promotion of such common values and grounds, reconciliation and more dialogue is vital.
When analysing the current state of affairs – politically, religiously or geographically – it is clear that strife is increasing rapidly.
I firmly believe that religion is a very positive force for the reformation and well-being of society.
Let me briefly mention how religion can have a say in building bridges among people of different faiths, the promotion of well-being of man and the establishment of a harmonious and tolerant society.
Islam presents a very fundamental principle that cooperation should always be in matters that are good not evil.
All religions of the world must conform to the underlying principle of not permitting the use of force and coercion in any manner as an instrument in resolving inter-sectarian and inter-religious strife. The choice of religion, the freedom to profess, propagate, practise and exercise or to denounce or to cease to believe or change one’s belief must be protected absolutely.
Dialogue between different religions should never be seen as a threat
All religions must conform to the principle of showing respect and reverence to the founders and holy personages of other faiths. Moreover, people who belonging to different faiths should pay tribute to the nobility and character of the leaders of other faiths.
The dialogue between different religions should never be seen as a threat but as an opportunity of understanding and awareness.
It is the manner of dialogue, which, if wrong, should be condemned and not the dialogue itself. Healthy discussions, sharing of opinions and ideas is essential for the prosperity and progress of society.
Inter-faith conferences should be regularly held and widely encouraged and promoted.
The soul and spirit of such conferences should be to narrow the areas of differences and to enlarge the possibility of agreements.
The speakers should be encouraged to highlight the good points and attractive and distinctive features of their respective faiths without maligning other faiths. Indeed, speakers belonging to one faith should preferably genuinely try to discover the good features of other faiths, speak about them and explain why they are impressed by them.
For example, whenever I say speak of peace, I always quote what Christ said that “Blessed are the peacemakers”.
The publication of books for children and adults to understand the basics of different religions and to promote harmony and tolerance would also be a positive step.
Inviting people of other faiths to religious festivals, exchanging thoughts and sharing greetings on such important occasions would contribute towards bridging the gaps.
Cooperation in all good plans and schemes for the mutual benefit of mankind can also play a vital role in building bridges between people of different faiths.
For instance, philanthropic projects could be undertaken jointly between Christians and Muslims, Hindus and Jews, etc.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim community is working hard to translate the above-mentioned points into action and we therefore invite everybody to join hands in this noble cause of uniting humanity to ensure a better and harmonious society.
Let us extend respect towards all, revere the founders of allreligions and sow the seeds of love and promote understanding between people of different faiths.
May Allah bless this beautiful universe with everlasting peace, harmony and respect for the whole of mankind.
Laiq Ahmed Atif is president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta.
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