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Interreligious
Understanding

Interreligious Understanding / Presentation

Interreligious

Photo by Mamunur Rashid / Alamy Stock Photo

Interreligious

Standing together

People standing with their religious symbols for inter-religious harmony.

Therefore, in our daily life a certain way of thinking makes us happy, and a certain way of thinking makes us unhappy. In other words, there are certain states of mind which bring us problems, and they can be removed; we need to make an effort in that direction. Likewise, there are certain states of mind that bring us peace and happiness, and we need to cultivate and enhance them.

By The Dalai Lama

Communal harmony at the grass roots

By Siddhartha

The challenge of creating peace between religious communities in India is enormous and multi-faceted. At the local level grass-roots peace initiatives must be strengthened so that the poor are not the worst suffers. Here is one example of a grass-roots conflict transformation endeavour:

Pipal Tree, an NGO based in Bangalore, has been active for the past fifteen years to resolve conflicts and construct peace in situations of inter-religious conflict. In 1992, when violent religious conflicts rocked Bangalore city, Pipal Tree hurried to work in the affected areas with other like-minded organisations. The most badly hit people were, as usual, the poorest. In many slums people were killed, stabbed and raped, and hundreds of houses were destroyed or burnt. Pipal Tree initially distributed food and clothing to the people. Later it worked with the different religious communities to restore confidence and build peace. It took several years to overcome the insecurity and mistrust within the two communities.

“Peace committees” were created in the slums. Each peace committee had a number of young men and women, aged between 25 and 40 years. It included vegetable vendors, auto-rickshaw (three wheeled taxi) drivers, masons, house maids, local traders and teachers. The cooperation of the local police was also sought. The peace committee met every day when a crisis erupted and tried to solve the problems, which included medical assistance to the wounded and financial assistance to families who had the breadwinner killed. In addition assistance was provided to rebuild the huts that were burnt or destroyed.

It was often found that the Muslims had many grievances against the police. Muslims felt that the police were prejudiced against them, used arbitrary violence and arrested them without reason. They wanted the police to drop the cases against those Muslims against whom they had little or no evidence. Pipal Tree organised many public meetings with the police and the slum communities to remove these misunderstandings. At one meeting more than thousand people came. The Chief of police of Bangalore city attended with all his key officers. The local Member of Parliament was also present. The Chief of police admitted to the people that the police had made some big mistakes. This calmed the Muslims down. He also promised to look through the list of Muslims who were arrested and charged with inciting violence and release those against whom there was no evidence.

Here is an example of an action of a local peace committee. There was a rumour going around in one of the Bangalore slums that the local mosque was stocking weapons that were meant to be used against the non-Muslims. The Hindus in the area got agitated. Finally the local peace committee spoke to the priest of the mosque and got his permission to get a delegation of respected citizens to inspect the mosque. The delegation checked the mosque and found no weapons. This helped to immediately calm the situation.

The peace committees also promoted development work like providing bore-wells for drinking water, constructing toilets, clearing garbage and organising health camps. Such activities brought the different religious communities together to solve common problems.

Therefore, in our daily life a certain way of thinking makes us happy, and a certain way of thinking makes us unhappy. In other words, there are certain states of mind which bring us problems, and they can be removed; we need to make an effort in that direction. Likewise, there are certain states of mind that bring us peace and happiness, and we need to cultivate and enhance them.

By The Dalai Lama