Peace Conclave brought together various religious leaders on one forum

The knowledge that all humans have same spirit and are made up of same clay is common. However, this knowledge has not been successful in eliminating wars and violence from this planet and we have witnessed a seemingly unending history of wars. The damage to the human race during these wars led only to newer techniques of warfare under the pretext of creating defence forces for already powerful nations. The world has also helplessly seen the use of these weapons in unethical terrorist violence across the globe in the last few decades. These new kinds of attacks enveloping the world into a constant threat of violence and counter violence have often been ascribed to religious sectarianism but it is becoming increasingly clear that this violence is generally independent of national, religious or cultural identities. However, it cannot be denied that religion has been the biggest cause behind the terrorism that has emerged as the new face of evil.

In view of this understanding there have been constant attempts by religious authorities to pave the way for a new understanding amongst different religious traditions. Efforts are being made at religious, political, environmental and social levels to find ways to fruitfully manifest solidarity and peace. The World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1896 was probably the first such effort.

This past week, a significant step towards world peace was taken at the Baha'i House of Worship where Tej Gyan Foundation organised a one day ‘Peace Conclave on Inclusive Faith' which will culminate on October 10 in Pune. The event was a serious attempt to locate a foreground common to all religions. Speakers included leaders from Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Baha'i House and Tej Gyan Foundation were not only the initiators of this dialogue but were major participants also.

Farida Vahedi from Baha'i talked about the effective use of inter-religious solidarity in creating an enabling environment for children, youth and adults. She concluded by giving a blueprint for future action towards attaining peace across different faiths and cultures.

Archbishop Vincent Michael Concessao invoking Mother Teresa said we are all brothers and sisters and should share our resources with others — share till it hurts, because authentic love is sacrificial. He also said social justice is the basic need for peace in the world — a point subtly emphasised by Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, who, while talking about instructions from the Holy Quran, mentioned how Islam prescribes only a certain percentage of profit in business..

Swami Jitatmanand Maharaj, a renowned sanyasi of the Ramakrishna order, emphasised age-old Vedanta wisdom that everyone has divinity within and that if one can touch the infinite within, one can touch the infinity in the outside world. While he spoke, a message from the Bhagavad Gita's second chapter flashed on the screen and in its terseness made all words redundant: “There is no wisdom for a man without harmony, and without harmony there is no contemplation, without contemplation there cannot be peace, and without peace can there be joy?”

Vision and target

The concept of joy was reinterpreted from a peace perspective by Sirshree, founder of the Tej Gyan Foundation, who in his beautiful humour talked about “Dhrishtikona and Drishti Lakshya”. He said all religions talk about the same thing but from a different perspective. The “Drishtikona” is different but the ‘Drishti-Lakshya' is the same. In a simple message accessible to each and everyone, he said peace in the world can only come “piece by piece”. The first piece is with the individual. From the individual, the bounds of peace keep expanding, and it automatically travels to the family, the community, the society and finally into the world. Sirshree also said happiness is the easiest tool towards peace of mind and one has a duty to the self to maintain a good level of this happiness. If the level threatens to go down, the next tool is prayer. Prayer for others brings joy.

Prayer for each and everyone was also the message of Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, who said, “Dua karo, shanti aayegi, neki milegi.”

One way or the other all the speakers conveyed that there is need to see the human being not as a religious entity but as a spiritual entity and that spirit is the same in all human beings.