– Asif Anwar Alig
New Delhi, 15 Sep. 2023: In collaboration with Jamia Hamdard’s Department of Islamic Studies, New Delhi, the Institute of Objective Studies (IOS) organized a Two-Day National Conference on the “Role of Religious Diversity in Harnessing Human Values” to reignite the country’s plural spirits.
Religious leaders and scholars representing different faiths, academic scholars, prominent thinkers and intelligentsia advocated for a resolution to take concrete actions to harness human values through religious diversity. They also brought to the fore the realities of current Indian societies, having been plagued with communal disharmony, which can be overcome by initiating inter-faith dialogues, respecting each other’s religious sentiments and propagating human values as the core message of every religion.
Keshav Murari Das, President of ISKCON Temple, Delhi, emphasized on this occasion that “we all humans are one spirit souls – no matter which religious faith we follow, but we firmly believe in one God; therefore, there is nothing to contradict.”
He said further, “Only religious teachings and affiliations won’t do. We need to prove our respective faiths and principles of life through our behavioural richness, moral robustness and appearance in the light of keeping human values paramount.”
Former Vice Chancellor of Maulana Azad University, Jodhpur, and professor of Islamic Studies, Padma Shri Professor Akhtarul Wasey, spoke on this occasion that “true humanity will be sustained only when the believers of respective religions adhere to their core values and at the same juncture they equally respect the faiths of their counterparts without hurting any others’ sentiments. Ironically, the world lacks that spirit today.
“No religion, including Islam, enforces forced conversion. Almighty created all and divided them into different sects. India has been the birthplace of many religions; the world’s prevalent religions reached this region soon after their inception. Mahavir Jain, Buddha and other famous founders of religions are role models in India,” he further emphasized.
Director, Institute of Harmony and Peace, New Delhi, Dr. M.D. Thomas highlighted that “diversity is a vital and central factor for human values. Being distinct makes one unique. Difference is not a negative factor but rather an idea of enrichment. Religious diversity is a significant area of human creation. It remains pivotal for social and cultural diversity.”
Renowned Sikh preacher Dr. Manpreet Singh emphasized that Guru Nanak always propagated human values as religious etiquette. Likewise, Mr. Ven. Geshe Tenzin Damchoe from the College of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarah, Dharamshala, insisted that human values are limitless. We must know how to use such matters besides respecting others’ religions.
Always remember to have faith in your religion, but equally or more important is respecting others’ beliefs too. That is what humanity and moral values best describe because our emotions are the same, although we have faith in different religions.
The two-day national conference on the role of religious diversity in harnessing human values welcomed research paper presentations from across the country and abroad. A few scholars joined the conference online, including two from Malaysia and Mauritius respectively, which ultimately turned this national seminar into an international one.
The eminent speakers emphasized the need to stress human values, respecting human rights and ensuring the safety and security of the practitioners of other religionists while also respecting one’s faith but ensuring not to demean or demoralize others at any stage.
Vice Chancellor of Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi, Professor (Dr.) M. Afshar Alam said that India has diverse cultures and religions that beautifully describe its rich cultural ethos.
The dignitaries from various academic and educational disciplines spoke at the conference, and prominent figures presided over the conference sessions.
Professor Z. M. Khan said in his presidential address, “India is a land of diverse cultures and religions. Jamia Hamdard and Institute of Objective Studies have been pivotal in promoting Madarsa education and Sufi studies.”
Professor (Dr.) Sudeep Jain, former Head, Dept. of Prakrit Language, Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapith, New Delhi, spoke that “humanity is not limited to humans only. All prophets and founders of various religions were taught to respect all, regardless of humans and animals. Medication and education are equally important, and the role of Jamia Hamdard is indeed praiseworthy in promoting both.”
Professor Rajeev Ranjan Sinha, former Head, Dept. of Sanskrit, Sampurnanand Sanskrit University, Varanasi, emphasized that “all religions are equal. We should compare beliefs but mustn’t demean one another’s faiths. It’s time to understand religions in their contextual meaning.”
Former Judge of Allahabad High Court, Justice Zaki Ullah Khan said in the valedictory address that harmony has existed in Indian cultures since the ancient era. Religious diversity is the need of the hour today. It’s time each of us respect all irrespective of different religious faiths to keep humanity at par.
The Registrar of Jamia Hamdard University, Dr. M.A. Sikandar, read the two-day National Conference on “Role of Religious Diversity in Harnessing Human Values.” Professor M. Afzal Wani, Vice-Chairman, Institute of Objective Studies, emphasized in the concluding presidential address that “how worthwhile is dialogue for humanity today. Differences in religions had brought the holocaust in the World War. We should go to peace now. We have to be focused on reality and find concrete solutions for humanity.”
Professor Haseena Hashia, Assistant Secretary General, IOS, presented vote of thanks to the conference attendees, guests and dignitaries representing different nooks and corners of the country.