Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Believers can become a force for the common good

Nasir Khan, August 5, 2015

Among my friends are both believers and non-religious people. My believing friends include Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Bahais, etc., who follow different traditional theologies of their respective religions. Through my interaction with vast number of people, I have come to realise that they can be a great force for the common good if they acknowledge the rights of others to follow their religions and religious traditions as long as these do not constitute a threat to society or violate acceptable social norms.

As a small step to peaceful relations between people and advance the cause of social understanding , I ask all my Facebook friends, who are believers, to be generous to each other and to all others, and say that all of them are right to believe in their versions of god! If there is only one god, called by different names in different religions and cultures, as many believers believe, then all old and new controversies and disagreements about Him become baseless. An apple remains an apple even though different languages have a different word for it.

Consequently, we can safely assume that the believers of one religion have no real problem with the believers of other religions. Their historical feuds and conflicts have been caused more by misunderstandings and misperceptions than anything else. In other words, there is no real problem among the believers. They are all members of one big human family, worshipping and praising the same god.

The message of tolerance and concern for the interests of all, irrespective of their religions and creeds, is old; many sages and thinking people have proclaimed it in all ages and epochs. One great example of such a noble thought is found in the edicts of the Indian Emperor Asoka the Great (r. 273-232 B.C.). His Twelfth Edict says:

“His Sacred Majesty honors both ascetics and the householders of all religions, and he honors them with gifts and honors of various kinds. But [he] does not value gifts as much as he values this – that there should be growth in the essentials of all religions. Growth in essentials can be done in different ways, but all of them have as their root restraint in speech, that is, not praising one’s own religion, or condemning the religion of others without good cause. And if there is cause for criticism, it should be done in a mild way. But it is better to honor other religions for this reason. By so doing, one’s own religion benefits, and so do other religions, while doing otherwise harms one’s own religion and the religions of others. Whoever praises his own religion, due to excessive devotion, and condemns others with the thought ‘Let me glorify my own religion,’ only harms his own religion. Therefore contact (between religions) is good. One should listen to and respect the doctrines professed by others. The Sacred Majesty desires that all should be well-learned in the good doctrines of other religions.”

In this edict there is much food for thought for believers of all religions.

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