Despite India maintaining a constant commitment to secular and religious tolerance, our country’s rich history is tainted by devastating occurrences of religious violence and riots. Major incidents include the 1969 Gujarat riots, 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the 1989 Bhagalpur riots, 1989 Kashmir violence, Godhra train burning, 2002 Gujarat riots, 2008 Kandhamal violence, 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots and, in recent years, the 2020 Delhi riots. The future of India looks bleak as such conflicts continue to tear away at the very fabric of our democracy.
Religious harmony and tolerance are instrumentally important in forging a better, stronger nation. For instance, during the Covid pandemic, we saw how faith communities helped each other out by providing direct healthcare and social services to vulnerable groups belonging to all communities. We are seeing many examples of people reaching out to help each other to save lives, show kindness, offer comfort and make others feel less alone.
Not only is interfaith harmony crucial for society’s well-being and progress, but studies also show that it is good for the economy. Brian J. Grim, Ph.D., President of the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation, has stated that India's vibrant democracy and tremendous religious pluralism have played an enormous role in its economic growth. He cautions that increase in government restrictions on religious freedom, encouragement of religious hegemony and homogeneity, failure to curb violence linked to religion are all factors that can severely cripple economic growth.
A report prepared by the Institute for Economics and Peace estimated that in 2017 alone, a year in which India had witnessed 822 violent communal incidents, violence cost India over 80 lakh crore rupees, which is 9% of the national GDP!
Investing in religious harmony is a direct investment in the future of our country. It is, therefore, in the best interest of the nation to preserve diversity and promote peace. The challenges we face are daunting. But when we work together, we can achieve things none of us can achieve alone.
Recognising the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions in enhancing mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people, the United Nations in 2010 adopted the first week of February to be observed annually as ‘World Interfaith Harmony Week’.
‘Interfaith’ is neither a competition between different religions, nor is it a measure of faith superiority. Interfaith is the positive reinforcement of relationships among all faiths as a social contract between them and their communities.
In our continuous efforts to bridge communal divides in the country and foster peace and harmony, ADF India will commemorate ‘World Interfaith Harmony Week’ through a social media campaign called ‘#AgreeToHarmony’. This campaign will highlight the importance of working together for harmony, irrespective of our many differences. The campaign aims to start a conversation on how we can model a peaceful society amid diverse cultures and religions.
We invite you to follow our social media accounts and to share our posts on the campaign. We also look forward to hear about your own experiences and ideas to make India a truly harmonious nation.