Swami Agnivesh said here on Sunday that religion had no accountability and it was, like caste, an accident of birth. Speaking at the plenary session of the 33rd World Congress of International Association for Religious Freedom here on Sunday, he called on the people to break down the barriers created by religion. The session focussed on the role of religion in promoting human rights.
He said most religions treated women as second class human beings. Societies use even biology to discriminate against women. But there should be no children of a lesser God among us, he said as he called on students and young people to write their own scriptures. He told the gathering to follow the values one choses for oneself and not to close one's eyes to injustice.
In religion, it mattered whether you were a believer or a non-believer. In human rights, there was no distinction between a believer and a non-believer, he said.
He told young people, especially those aspiring to become teachers, to promote the ideal of equality and to help do away with religious distinctions. He said though he practiced Hinduism as a young boy, he soon came to realise the importance of working for justice and that God was justice, kindness and love.
He was liberated from the superstitious practices associated with religion with this realisation.
One need not go and seek out a guru. Each was a guru to himself, said Swami Agnivesh as he appealed to everyone to take responsibility for their action and to fight incessantly for justice and equality.
President of the Unitarian Universalist Association Rev. Peter Morales said that religions have been at the centre of unspeakable horrors in the world. At the same time, religions and religious leaders have promoted the core values of humanity.
On the one hand, religion has appeared to legitimise power and on the other, it is a moral critic of our actions, he said.
It is up to leaders of religious movements to find the core values of their religions and to ask the right questions to promote human rights.
Marzia Rowhani Dalal, IPR lawyer, said that it was 50 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted but injustices persisted into our times.