Ravi P Bhatia
Dr Ravi P Bhatia
GHA Ambassador of Peace and Disarmament from Harmony/Nonviolence
Educationist, Environmentalist and Peace Researcher
Former Professor and Member of Gandhi Bhawan of Delhi University
I would like to share this article from TMS with you. Please click on the link to read it. Thanks https://www.transcend.org/tms/2019/02/vegetarianism-veganism-jainism-what-to-eat-what-not-to-eat/
Thank you, Ravi Bhatia 05-02-19
Nobility and Relevance of Lord Ram
Brief Review of GHA and SPHERONS
Dr. Ravi P Bhatia
There is conflict, suspicion, violence and lack of harmony in the world today. This is due to several well known factors-- political, economic, religious, racial, technological, unequal access to resources etc. These factors are leading to fault lines, cleavages and instability today. Another crucial consequence is terrorism that is raising its ugly head in many parts of the world.
To address these critical issues and reduce violence and terrorism Dr. Leo Semashko founded Global Harmony Association (GHA) in 2005 as its Founding President and since 2016 he is the Honorary President of GHA.
Dr. Leo Semashko is the State Councillor of St Petersburg and a renowned peace promoter and a well known author of dozens of books and hundreds of scientific publications.
Under his inspiring leadership and drive, GHA is doing excellent work to promote peace, harmony, goodwill and brotherhood among people and nations.
Dr. Leo came up with the idea of SPHERONS to promote his ideas. This has several important structures including informational, organisational, technological, peace building among others. It has adopted the ideas of Copernican Revolution in societal structures to promote Global Harmony.
For this purpose GHA has involved many eminent personalities such as President Putin, President Trump, India's former President Dr. Kalam and others in this gigantic task. It has also taken the help of several Nobel Laureates such as Dr. Avery, academics, scholars, political and social workers to promote peace and goodwill. Even former philosophers and scientists' works are being adapted for this objective.
GHA has chapters in several countries in Asia, Europe, Americas including a vibrant one in India under the stewardship of a few eminent personalities to promote and popularise the concepts of peace and harmony in local conditions. These local organisations are meeting each other and other grass root workers to achieve the laudable aim of Dr. Leo the Honorary President of GHA. Another feature is to publish reports of the activities undertaken by these country organisations.
Another achievement of GHA in 2016 was to publish an important book called Global Peace Science consisting of 616 pages with contributors from 174 authors who are eminent politicians, Nobel Laureates, scholars, scientists, peace workers and students. A small piece was contributed by the undersigned also. Efforts are on to publish another book on peace building in the near future also.
All this is being done due to the inspiring and sustained efforts of our beloved Dr. Leo Semashko. His energy and the new pathways that he is always suggesting are indeed creative and innovative.
All of us wish him a long, prosperous and healthy life on his anniversary. We hope that he will continue to guide and inspire us in this noble endeavour.
Dr. Ravi P Bhatia
Educationist, Environmentalist and Peace Researcher
Former Professor and Member of Gandhi Bhawan of Delhi University
June 20, 2017
1. NAME: DR. RAVI P. BHATIA,
2. ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE: 4, Mall Apartments, Mall Road, DELHI-110054. -- INDIA
3. TELEPHONE #: 91-11-23818992 (Home) , 91-98911-18521 (Mobile)
4. EDUCATIONAL RECORD: M.Sc. in Physics from Univ. of Delhi
M.S., Ph.D. (Nuclear Physics) Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA.
Studied French from University of Delhi and Univ. of Montpellier in France in 1970
5.Member of Learned/Research Associations/Societies/Gandhi Bhawan
1.Member, Managing Committee, Gandhi Bhawan, University of Delhi, Delhi, continuing since 2012
2.International Peace Research Association (IPRA), Japan, Member and Convener, Commission on Religion and Peace
3.Indian Association of Canadian Studies, New Delhi
4.Asia Pacific Peace Research Association (APPRA),
5.Nominated as Peace Ambassador in October 2005 by Universal Ambassador Peace Circle, Geneva
6. Languages known:English, Hindi, French
7. AREAS OF RESEARCH : Gandhiaan Studies, Environmentalism, Human Rights etc
Many articles published on the above themes
Attended and presented papers and chaired sessions in several Conferences and Meetings on Peace and Conflict resolution in India, Korea, Canada, France, Belgium, Australia, Cambodia, and USA etc. Also attended and presented papers in several universities and institutions in India and abroad.
I am a retired professor of Delhi University but still teach subjects like Human Rights, Research Methodology and Gandhian Studies I was born in LAHORE what is now in Pakistan. My family came to India as refugees in a dilapidated manner in 1947 to Moga and then to Delhi where I now live. with my wife.
Gandhi and his Religious temperament
Ravi P Bhatia
Mahatma Gandhi is known for his belief in the values of Truth, Nonviolence, Satyagraha, Religious Amity, Simplicity and Cleanliness and Love for Nature. He not only believed in these values but consistently acted in consonance with them.
But it is difficult to say as to which of these was paramount to him. He often said that he was a Sanatani Hindu and believed in Lord Ram, one of the pillars of Hinduism.He talked of Ram Rajya meaning thereby a society that is just, humane and which provides equality for everyone — women, farmers, rural populations, people belonging to so called lower castes, believers of different faiths, etc.
Yet he was often felt dismayed by the dirt and noise found both inside and outside several Indian temples. For him cleanliness, peaceful environment was as important as belief in Lord Ram. He would have argued, how could Ram agree to live in filthy and noisy surroundings that prevailed in many famous temples such as Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi or the Jagannath temple in Odisha.
Gandhi’s ashrams were always kept clean by Gandhi himself and the inmates that created a feeling of peace and harmony. In fact, his simple life style and love for Nature was a manifestation of this spirit of spotlessness and orderliness. He believed that Nature with its varied diversity and ecology could exist harmoniously because of maintenance of a spirit of sharing and coexistence. Human beings interfered in this harmony because of their greed and a feeling of power. His life style was in consonance with his belief that helped our planet to remain free from degradation.
Today of course, we have broken the harmonious coexistence of our ecosystem that is resulting in pollution, global warming and climate change.
This has also resulted in the rise of sea levels and putting at risk many islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The ex-President, H.E. Mohamed Nasheed of the small nation of Maldives visited New Delhi recently. Maldives consists of 26 atolls, is located about 1000 km from South India, and has a population of less than five hundred thousand. Referring to the rising sea levels he dramatically asked the question ‘Don’t we have the right to exist on the Earth?’
In the year that we are celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, it becomes imperative for us to remember Gandhi’s beliefs and emphasis on the core concepts of his values and lifestyle. Let us have Ram Rajya for the inhabitants of this planet.
Dr Ravi P Bhatia
Relevance of Lord Ram for Truth, Peace and Harmony
Ravi P Bhatia
Among the Hindu gods and deities Lord Krishna and Lord Ram are perhaps the most popular ones all over the world. The gospel and teachings of Krishna have been spread by several international organisations including ISKCON. Next to Krishna, Ram is admired and revered the most. His life has been beautifully brought out in the epic Ramayan (in Sanskrit language by Valmiki) and as Ram Charit Manas by Tulsidas. There are many temples of Ram depicting his legend in many parts of the world including in Nepal, Sri Lanka and even in Bali in Indonesia.
We know the broad story of Ram, his marriage to Sita (who is admired in her own right), his banvas (banishment from his father's kingdom) for 14 years, the ordeals that he faced and how he overcame them. The biggest tragedy he endured -- Sita's abduction by Ravana (King of Lanka) and how with the help of another beloved character Hanuman, he was able to kill Ravana and rescue Sita have been beautifully conveyed in the epic. His victorious return to Ayodhya after 14 years is celebrated with great devotion by millions of people especially his Bhakts (disciples). There are many temples of Ram in India but one principal one was in Ayodhya that was demolished and was renamed as the Babri Masjid by the Moghul king Babar.
These aspects of Lord Ram are well known. I wish to touch upon his personal qualities of love, truth, devotion that are characteristic of this great being and how these values can inspire us in the complex contemporary world that we live in to be better human beings, to have love and compassion for all human beings and our biodiversity. There is so much distrust, injustice and violence in today's world -- the legend of Ram can help us to overcome some of these frailties and allow us to live with compassion, truth and harmony.
Why Ram had to be banished for fourteen years is a long story but once his father, King Dashrath reluctantly gave him the order, Ram faithfully followed his father’s desire even though it was ethically wrong. Ram was a faithful and truthful person as a son, as a brother and husband. Having lived as a prince with princely comforts, he did not hesitate when he found his father’s desire to send him in exile and nominated his younger brother Bharat to become the king of Ayodhya after Dashrath. But Bharat also was a morally upright person and he placed Ram’s slippers on the throne saying that Ram was still the king and he (Bharat) was just acting as his regent temporarily.
When Ram decided to leave, his wife Sita and his other younger brother Lakshman also decided to accompany him in exile. During his travels and travails in the jungles, all the three faced many hardships and difficulties. But they carried on. In one place they had to cross a river by boat. The boatman named Kewat helped the three to cross the river but would not accept any reward since he knew the reason of Ram’s exile and felt that this was done to spread the message of peace and harmony.
Another moral story in their journey was their meeting witha poor tribal woman called Shabri. Ram and his two companions had no hesitation in accepting a fruit --local berries that she served them with when they were hungry. In today’s situation many people woild not accept any thing – food or fruit from such a person because of caste considerations since it would be consideredbelow one’s dignity to do so. But Ram was above these prejudices – he loved and respected all human beings.
Ravana is considered a demon king of Lanka and is reviled for having kidnapped Sita through trickery. But Ravana is also considered a great scholar and is respected and celebrated in some parts of the world today especially in Bali in Indonesia.
Carrying on in their journey, they met the legendary Hanuman who helped them and accompanied them throughtout.Hanuman also has a prominent place in the epic Ramayana. He helped Ram in restoring the kingdom Kishkinda to the rightful king Sugriva who had been wrongly overthrown by his brother. So Ram was able to overcome intrigues and treachery which are also quite common in the contempory world today.
After Sita had been abducted by Ravana, all the three – Ram, Lakshman and Hanuman’s main concern was to release her from her abduction. The story of how this objective was achieved is a long one and full of adventure and surprises. But ultimately Ravana was killed in battle and Sita was freed. Fortunately Sita had been physically treated well by Ravana in her captivity.
This part of the story ends with Ram and his companions returning to hero’s welcome in Ayodhya after completing 14 years in exile.
As we have seen the story of Ramayan enlightens us with several instances of high moral values and behaviour. It is no wonder that Hindus all over the world and some people belonging to other faiths admire culturally various aspects and celebrate Ram’s adventures and travails with devotion and enthusiasm.
Mahatma Gandhi was a deeply religious person and lived by the ideals of Gita and Ramayan. When he was shot on 30 January 1948, the last words he uttered before he passed away were “He Ram”. 21-05-17
Relevance of Gandhi’s Holistic Approach for a Just and
Disparities, deprivation and discrimination around the world are too visible to be ignored in today’s globalised world. These are of different types—economic, social, and educational and health related.While the rich have all the comforts of life in terms of housing, educational facilities, nutritious food and other necessary requirements of a good life, the poor and marginalized peoples of the world are deprived of basic human rights and needs.
These marginalized populations exist in many parts of the world -- in Africa, Latin America and Asia, but disparities especially economic and social are not confined to these regions alone. Even USA perhaps the wealthiest country in the world, has large economic disparities as highlighted by their Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz. He writes ‘American inequality didn't just happen. It was created’.
The reasons for the economic and social disparities are too complex to be adequately described in this small essay, but the political system and the capitalist, neo-liberal economies of these countries are dominant factors for the conditions prevailing in many parts of the world.
Poverty, discrimination and oppression in one form or another have existed in the world since prehistoric times. A hundred years back when Gandhi was on the scene in the Indian continent (present India, Pakistan and Bangladesh), conditions of the farmers and the countryside were deplorable. In his small 90 page booklet called Hind Swaraj that Gandhi wrote in 1908 while he was returning to South Africa from England, he has dwelt in a concise manner why India was poor and deprived.
He laid the blame squarely upon the British colonialism that had impoverished the country. He was against modern civilization that then prevailed in the world’s richest country. England at that time not only exploited its various colonies spread all over the world but was exploitative within the country itself. Gandhi wrote that modern machinery had made life comfortable for the well to do populations of England at the expense of factory workers and miners who toiled in risky and unhygienic conditions. Even women are sometimes forced to work in these poor, unhealthy conditions.
For Gandhi, machinery was an instrument of exploitation and destitution of people especially in the Indian countryside since it displaced labour. He wrote in Hind Swaraj “Machinery is the chief symbol of modern civilization; it represents a great sin”.
As an example he wrote about the displacement of village weavers who could not compete with the cloth mills that manufactured cloth rather cheaply. While Manchester in England prospered due to its cloth mills, the Indian towns and villages that fabricated cloth by simple handlooms were adversely affected and became impoverished.
Machinery was also affecting the Indian farmers who used to work with simple tools and their bullocks for ploughing their farmlands. Gandhi wanted to promote village activities not only those of making cloth by handlooms, but also soap making, paper making, tanning etc. This would not only be a source of adequate income for the villagers but would also maintain their dignity and promote friendship and harmony.
Perhaps Gandhi’s attitude towards machinery would appear not only outdated but extreme in today’s context. However the conditions of farmers in India are really bad due to several factors apart from the issues of machinery and many of them resort to suicide to escape their ordeal even today.
According to Professor Pulin Nayak, a well known economist of Delhi School of Economics, Hind Swaraj ‘aimed for self rule in a context where the twin principles of satyagraha and non-violence were the core postulates’.
Poverty, discrimination and oppression visible at present are, as indicated above, due to complex factors. But even today the conditions of not only farmers but the tribal peoples living in remote regions are bad and grim. Tribal people, who have survived for centuries in their so called primitive conditions, are victims of modern developmental paradigm as their forest lands have been encroached upon and they are forced to evacuate their habitats. Gandhi, who lived in a simple manner, was careful in not exploiting nature that has now resulted in environmental pollution and climate change.
Gandhi advocated a system that he called Swaraj or Home Rule that was conducive for all peoples and was inclusive in nature, where people had opportunities to live in a harmonious manner keeping in view their specific conditions, needs and skills. Such a system is necessary even today if we want all sections of the population to live harmoniously and with their basic requirements fulfilled.
Does the present globalised neo liberal economic model produce these conditions? The answer can only be in the negative. Gandhi who was killed in 1948 is relevant even today for his holistic approach in promoting a just economic and political system, skill based education and an environmentally friendly system for preserving nature and not over exploiting our earth. Talking of Gandhi, the well known scientist Albert Einstein had once said that future generations will hardly believe that such a man ever walked on this earth. We need Gandhi more than ever today.
Walking Up a Tower — A Simple Conversation on God, Truth and Knowledge
By Dr Ravi P Bhatia*
12 December 2016 – TRANSCEND Media Service – our men had to go to their office on the 20th floor of a tall tower in a big city. When they reached the staircase they were disappointed to see that both the elevators were out of order. What to do?
They had to go to their office for some urgent work. one of the men said, ‘let us relate some stories or events in our lives and that way we will slowly climb up to our office’.
The other three agreed and it was decided that youngest of the four would start relating his story for the first 5 floors and the next older person the next five and so on.
The first man (let us call him A) said that we all need peace and happiness in our lives. The question is how should be obtain it?
He said “One essential requirement of our lives is good food, comfortable shelter and a decent job. If we work honestly and with devotion we should be able to fulfill our basic needs. We should also have a belief in God for a happy and peaceful life.”
It was now the turn of the second older person (call him B) who agreed with what A had just related but went to say “Yes, a comfortable life that satisfies our basic needs is essential. Belief in God is also necessary.
But what type of God do we believe in? Should our God only provide us food and shelter or should He speak to us of basic human values such as truth, kindness and compassion? Should he not provide us suitable conditions for proper education so that we not only learn about the three Rs – reading, writing and Arithmetic but also teach us to differentiate between what is right and what is wrong? I would like to believe in such a God who can not only teach us but also educate us about important values of right and wrong.”
All the other three persons listened carefully to what B had just related about the meaning of God and education. They tried to absorb the import of what he had said. The third person (called C) was quiet for some time as they slowly trudged upstairs.
Then he began slowly to articulate his ideas about the meaning of life and faith. ”You know”, he said slowly trying to give voice to his thoughts, “my God gives me all these aspects but he also gives me and my family and friends something more. He gives me strength to believe in Him, and not to be misled by other faiths or beliefs.
His teachings are not just words but a way of life for all of us – how we grow up, how we should live our lives whatever profession we are engaged in, what sort of social relations we should have and so on. All that we need to do to lead happy, contended, just lives is to remember Him regularly and to undergo fasting and hardship occasionally to achieve strength and to give purpose to our lives. In fact if we have full faith in Him, we will not feel any hardship at all…”
The words of C were difficult to grasp by the others but they did not ask any question because first, there was no initial agreement to ask any question and second the fifteenth floor had been reached by these young men. It was now the turn of the last person (called D) – who was the oldest among them. He kept quiet for a long spell of time. His companions then urged him to speak out his thoughts.
He started slowly. “What all of you have said is indeed true. But what is the meaning of true? What do we really mean by truth? Does truth mean not speaking any lies?
Yes, but it is much more than that. You know the story of the three blind men who touched an elephant on different parts of its body and described the elephant in their own ways. Each was being truthful and yet each was different from the other. You all have heard of Gandhiji. He had earlier said that ‘Truth is God’.
But God is different for different religions. Some believe in one God and others in another God. There are some who do not believe in any God at all – people whom we may call atheists. Then there are agnostics who say that it is not possible to establish if there is a God or not.
Does this mean that truth is different for different people or that there is no truth in life? Gandhi subsequently changed his opinion to ‘God is truth’ which means that all faiths or beliefs lead to one real or ultimate aim of life to which we must all direct our energies…”
D’s thoughts were not over. He continued, “Thus whether we believe in one God or another or whether we feel that God is an entity that is hard to scientifically establish, we should all direct our energies to values such as goodness, truthfulness, kindness and compassion to all – not only to human beings but also to all forms of life – flora and fauna and the beautiful diversity that we find in life all around us. We should not hurt or damage any living being or our environment…
“How do we educate ourselves? We should try to remove ignorance and focus on gyan or true knowledge, which we can attain by meditation, self-discipline, self-knowledge and spirituality, rather than on mere rituals.”
After this rather longish discourse the four men reached the 20th floor and stood outside their office.
But where were the keys?
It was D who again spoke, “We are all ignorant and forgetful persons. We have left the office keys in our car in the parking lot.”
*Author: Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, an educationist and peace researcher.
Retired professor, Delhi University. firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 12 December 2016: TMS: Walking up a Tower — A Simple Conversation on God, Truth and Knowledge
It was published on your personal page: http://peacefromharmony.org/?cat=en_c&key=737
What you think about our unprecedented Global Peace Science for Presidents of the world policy especially for Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump (http://peacefromharmony.org/?cat=en_c&key=735 ) on the 20th floor of your Tower with your clouds?
Best wishes for peace from harmony via science (GPS), education,
culture and SPHERONS' democracy,
Understanding Conflicts through differing Belief Systems
Dr Ravi P Bhatia
There are large scale conflicts, tensions, misunderstandings that lead to violence in contemporary times. Often we see not just violence but terrorism which is a more brutal form of violence that entails kidnappings, bombings, killings and other form of atrocities and brutalities on human beings.
The violence and terrorism are not confined to any particular region of the world but are being witnessed in several parts of Asia, Africa, Middle East countries etc. Apart from poverty, social inequalities, political ideologies etc., religion or rather religious differences are important factors leading to conflict and violence and killings.
It is not that conflict and violence were not present in earlier times; in the Hindu tradition, Mahabharat is a beautiful and abiding account of the series of conflicts faced by its principal actors and how they tried to address and resolve them. Its principal section, the Bhagwad Gita meaningfully and comprehensively deals with the battle both physical and ideological that is waged between two sets of cousins inthe battle field in Kurukshetra. The message of Gita delivered by Lord Krishna is an essential part of Hinduism. According to the well-known journalist Siddarth Vardarajan, “The Gita is one of India's - and the world’s oldest and greatest philosophical texts, and the range of ethical, moral and ontological questions it raises are as relevant to humanity today as they were to the ancients”.
But the scale and level of brutality and violence being observed now have vastly increased largely due to advance in technology and modern means of warfare including bombings in air, on land and even below the seas. Nuclear bombs have also come into the arsenal of some countries including India and Pakistan.
Conflict is not only confined between nations but is present in homes, in communities, in academic and political institutions, at workplace, etc. We see domestic tension and conflict between husbands and wives, between parents and their children. Even in schools we have problems between teachers themselves and between teachers and students with occasional use of corporate punishment by teachers on students.
In this article we confine ourselves to conflicts and violence between communities, between nations and especially between differing religious groups of people. There are many ways of analyzing conflicts and means of reducing and mitigation of conflicts. However we confine in this article to the role of belief systems to understand how conflicts arise and how they can be reduced and avoided. We discuss below the meaning and implication of belief systems and how they lead to conflict.
As the name suggests, belief systems are beliefs that are imbibed at an early age and built upon a community’s history and life styles. Examples of a community’s ways of living include rituals of birth, marriage and death. While Hindus cremate (burn) their dead bodies, Abrahamic peoples and Christians bury them. What to eat and what not to eat, how to dress are also intrinsic to different communities. Respect for the elderly or for women also differs from community to community.
These habits and views are cherished and believed firmly by the people belonging to the community and guide them throughout their lives. As the noted peace researcher Gavriel Salomon had written “Intractable or stubborn conflicts are rooted in long and painful memories that are central in a society’s life. ...”.A society or community is unable and unwilling to change these firmly held beliefs and practices.
If we analyse various types of common conflicts we realize that they arise due to different factors – social, economic, linguistic etc. but are also due to serious differences and disagreement over deeply held beliefs, values and practices. These differences lead to conflict in various spheres – domestic, workplace, institutional and of course religious. In a family conflict may arise because the father may want the child to work hard for his examinations and a career, but the latter feels that he should be allowed to enjoy himself with his friends and be able to race down the roads in his bike. In this case the son feels that his father is old fashioned and does not understand a young man’s freedom.
Similarly in matters of dress modern young women want to wear jeans and tops and not be burdened by the older styles or fashions. If the mother or any one else protests they feel that their freedom is being compromised. Of course the Khap panchayats in the state of Haryana in India oppress their children in bestial and cruel ways and even murder their own daughter if she marries according to her own wishes and not as her parents’ desire. A conflict in a factory can ultimately be seen to arise as a result of conflicting view of the management who want to maximize products and sales and the contrary views of the workers who feel cheated since they feel that their owners are not paying them proper wages and denying them other benefits due to them.
On a serious level, religious, political and ideological conflicts arise due to differing belief systems. The conflict between Israel and Palestine, the conflict between Pakistan and India over the Kashmir issue and the relatively recent conflict between China and India over their crossing the international border and the dispute over the status of Arunachal Pradesh which they claim to be Chinese territory, are a result of strongly held beliefs that each country are right and the opposing nation is wrong whose conduct and policies are provocative and unjustified. The belief systems lead parties and nations to remain inflexible and unyielding to the opposing side and entail conflict and tension.
The origins of any religious group – be it Christianity, Islam, Sikhism of which historical records are easily available, led the adherents of these faiths to live and struggle in different ways that were antagonistic to each other. Christianity was born out of the struggles with the Jewish faith; similarly Islam came out of struggles in the Arab lands. Muslims the world over generally maintain their practices of living and belief in Allah even today without much change in their life styles and approaches to life. Even the way that both the men and women dress today show the impact of the earlier dress code in the time of birth of Islam more than fourteen hundred years ago. Sikhism also originated out of struggles against the Brahmanical orthodoxy.
When two communities or peoples of two (or more) differing faith interact with one another, there is a difference of and disputes arise between two opposing belief systems or collective narratives that are opposed to each other and are rooted in different, often traumatic memories. Not only are the narratives and underlying belief systems mirror images of each other as Gavriel Salomon writes, they often delegitimize each others’ goals, history, humanity and sufferings. Conflict is thus inevitable.
Thus we can understand the conflict that arises between (say) Sunnis and Shias in Islam all over the world. There is also a sect called Alevi in Turkey that is at odds with the dominant Sunni sect of Islam in that country. Similarly in Pakistan the sect of Ahmadiyas is at odds with the Sunni majority and they have been barred from practicing their faith as per the dominant group – the Sunnis. They are not allowed even to call their place of worship as Masjid or mosque. In Israel the problem of Palestine and the Gaza strip is a persistent one that is nowhere near solution due to differing social and economic issues but ultimately because of differing and antagonistic belief systems.
The long term rivalry between Germany and France was resolved of course by the statesmanship and leadership of de Gaulle of France and Konrad Adenauer – the latter being the first post-war Chancellor of Germany from 1949 to 1963, But basically both the countries had similar belief systems and faith in Christianity and their religions and cultures were not radically different. The relatively minor differences that persisted were subsumed under the direct role of USA for bringing these two nations together for economic and political union. Other nations which were opposed to each other earlier have also joined the European Union.
To reduce or mitigate the ensuing conflict we have to understand each other’s histories and belief systems and work around the differences by dialogue and mutual understanding. In India credit for this goes principally to Gandhi who practiced not just truth and non violence but tried to bring different communities to understand each other and to live together harmoniously.
Gandhiji believed in religious harmony and amity between different faiths and worked all his life towards bringing about understanding and goodwill between different religions, and in particular between Hinduism and Islam. He admired the good features of all religions and said that we must keep our minds open for learning from each others’ faiths. He had this open attitude not only towards Islam but also Christianity which he felt was doing good work in the fields of education and healthcare. His admiration for different religions was exemplified by the prathna sabhas (religious discourses) where he clearly talked about the good features of all religions. The ashrams that were built by him and in which he spent a considerable part of his life along with other devotees had large windows symbolizing the openness of his mind towards other religions although he himself claimed several times that he was a Sanatani Hindu. Gandhi’s religious eclecticism was largely inspired by his mother who was a devout person with equal respect for different faiths and regularly fasted for spiritual benefit.
In conclusion we can say that differing beliefs and attitudes have their own legitimacy – they arise as a result of a community’s historical past, its struggles, its cherished memories and ways of living. Conflicts arise when differing approaches and belief systems come in contact. We must respect these differing perspectives of life and act judiciously and sympathetically towards them. Gandhi worked endlessly to build bridges between different communities and promote peace harmony and goodwill. The path followed by Gandhi is as relevant today as it was when he was alive.