Inter-Religious Conflicts and Challenges of Peace

UCIP World Congress, Burkina Faso, September 2010
Inter-Religious Conflicts and Challenges of Peace
Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ
The topic of my speech today is “Inter-Religious
Conflicts and Challenges
of Peace”. This is a
very relevant topic for us because we experience
inter-religious conflicts
in various parts of the
world today especially in some
countries in Asia and Africa.
In fact, in some way, the whole world experiences
inter-religious conflicts in one way or other.
For instance, we experience inter-
religious conflicts every now and
then in my country, India and
in other South Asian countries.
On the other hand, we want peace. We yearn for p
eace. We seek peace. In this context our topic
Inter-Religious Conflicts and Challenges of Peace
is very appropriate. As print media persons,
we need to discuss and deliberate on the topic.
I am happy to note that our topic
of Inter-Religious Conflicts a
nd Challenges to Peace is very
much related to our Congress theme “Media
at the Service of Justice, Peace and Good
Governance in a World of Ine
qualities and Poverty”. We live in
a world of inequalities and
poverty amidst plenty which often causes inte
r-religious conflicts an
d challenges peace. The
media is called and challenged to be at the
service of Justice, Peace and Good Governance.
In some European countries and African countr
ies we have witnessed
religious fundamentalism
endorsing and justifying the “Ethnic Cleansi
ng” of minorities of
different religious.
Before speaking about our topic
– Inter-Religious Conflicts and
Challenges of Peace – I would
like to say a few words about what leads to
or what causes inte
r-religious conflicts.
I believe that Inter-religious c
onflicts often begin from or cause
d by religious fundamentalism of
a few people. Some people feel th
reatened by the religious fundament
alism. So they take steps to
counter it. Hence we can see religious fundame
ntalism as a cyclical movement causing or
leading to inter-religious conflicts.
Similarly ethnic autonomy may also cause inter-religious conflicts. For instance, in a multi-
ethnic country like India one
ethnic group or some vociferous
people in the one ethnic group
may want the nation under its contro
l. They want to rule the count
ry according to their ethnicity
subjugating other ethnic groups. Wa
nting to have such ethnic au
tonomy will certa
inly lead to
inter-ethnic clashes and inter-religious conflicts.
Now to speak concretely on my topic of Inter-
Religious Conflicts and Challenges of Peace, let
me begin with my own country India. India, as
you may know, is the cr
adle of many religions.
Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism were born
and flourished in Indi
a over the centuries
in the past. India also welcomed the world relig
ions like Christianity, Islam and also embraced
the religions of the Zoroastrians and the Jews. There is a confluence of all world religions in
India is a great country. We I
ndians can be proud of many thi
ngs. India is numero uno in milk
production in the world! India is
also numero uno in Remote Sens
ing Satellites! India is the
second largest producer of wheat! Similarly, India
is also the second larg
est producer of rice!
We are proud of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of
the Nation, whose message of Ahimsa – non-
violence and peace – appeals
to the whole world. Similarly we are proud and we venerate
Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkat
a, the saint of the poorest of th
e poor. This year on August 26
we have started celebrat
ing her birth centenary.
As the former President of India Dr. Abdul Ka
lam says in his book “Ignited Minds” India of
more than 1 billion people can boast about millio
ns of big and small achievements. But there are
also many things of which we are ashamed. The
inter-religious conflicts is one such reality.
Poverty, inequality, illiteracy, l
ack of adequate health services
, communalism, fundamentalism,
etc. are other such problems.
The 63 year old largest democracy in the world,
India has experienced in
ter-religious conflicts
often in its recent and no so recent past hist
ory. After Emperor Ashoka accepted Buddhism the
religion spread far and wide in India and
beyond. But later with
Hindu-Buddhist conflicts
Buddhism almost died and disappeared from Indi
a; but it had already
spread to Sri Lanka,
Myanmar, Thailand, Japan, etc.
India’s partition and independence in 1947 saw te
rrible inter-religious
conflicts between the
Hindus and Muslims. Thousands of people from
both religions were
butchered mercilessly
especially those who were livi
ng in the border areas and those
who were crossing the border –
Hindus coming to India and Muslims going to Pakistan!
I have heard that the independence day ‘gifts’ from
India to Pakistan and from Pakistan to India
were train carrying not passengers but their dead bodies!
In the recent past in my own state, Gujarat, in
North-West India border
ing Pakistan politicized
Hindu fanatics attacked the Christians and Christ
ian institutions in 19
98. Christian churches,
prayer halls, schools and hostels
for tribal students in Dangs di
strict in South Gujarat were
burned down or damaged.
Christians and Christian institutions were attack
ed with the false and baseless accusation that
they were converting Hindus Adivasis (tribal
people) forcefully and with allurements!