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India should celebrate religious diversity, find spiritual common ground

Religious leaders should promote interfaith dialogue. They should bring together followers of different persuasions for meaningful conversations. They should promote a dialogue of understanding and a shared sense of community with other faiths, writes Frank Islam for Maeeshat

Frank F. Islam

Frank F. Islam

By Frank Islam

In his first speech after winning the election for his second term, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proclaimed, “…we have to win “sabka vishwas (everyone’s trust).” What is required to win that trust is establishing a true state of interdependence. Interdependence can be achieved by creating a country in which there is a shared understanding of the value of each citizen and reliance on one another to eliminate discrimination, hostility, and prejudice and to provide equality and opportunity for all. Each citizen must be active participants in shaping the future of India. They must be equal partners in India’s inclusive economic mobility and in India’s shared prosperity.

Independence Day – which was celebrated throughout India on August 15 –  is the perfect time to highlight the importance of and advance the concept of interdependence. This can be accomplished by promoting the need for a unified India. The need to do this is critical.  Unfortunately, in the period since the Prime Minister called for winning “trust” in his speech, some Indians have engaged in actions destroying it.

Sadly, the heinous crimes at the beginning of Modi’s second term are nothing new. There were several lynchings and numerous attacks on Muslims during his first term. Modi did not speak out vigorously then. He must do so now to demonstrate the essential leadership required to create a state of interdependence.

There are other serious conditions that also must be addressed. To name a few: Sexual violence and subjugation of females continues; the caste system still exists; and, problematic conditions of those in the weaker sections persist. By speaking out, Modi can bring the country together to confront the matters that are hardening India’s democratic arteries. He cannot do that alone, however. He will need support from across the country and the citizenry.

A first step should be to “find our spiritual common ground.” That step can be initiated by recognizing that spirit is the invisible force that brings us together, regardless of our caste, race, religion, region or political predisposition. The goal in discovering that common ground should be to create one nation under God. That nation would be an interdependent one and its God would be ecumenical and non-denominational; welcoming to all.

As one nation, India would celebrate and embrace the richness of religious diversity;

As one nation, India would be inclusive and accepting unity over division and hope over fear;

As one nation, India would elevate citizenship above angry and mindless partisanship and bring people together to pursue the common good;

As one nation, India would be known for sharing and caring as opposed to blaming and shaming;

As one nation, India would emphasize building bridges instead of constructing boundaries and barriers;

As one nation, India would ensure that all its people are literate and equipped with skills to succeed in the 21st century;

As one nation, India would extend lifelines instead of drawing battle lines;

As one nation, India would be a land of big dreams, small treasures, brave people, kind deeds, and tender mercies;

As one nation, India would ensure the importance of freedom of the press;

As one nation, India would be a role model and exemplar for other democracies to emulate.

Everyone must play a role in establishing India as one nation. Each citizen should engage in small acts of kindness by reaching out to those less fortunate and the downtrodden by extending a helping hand,

Some people can make special contributions. Religious leaders should promote interfaith dialogue. They should bring together followers of different persuasions for meaningful conversations. They should promote a dialogue of understanding and a shared sense of community with other faiths. They should call an attack on one faith as an attack on all faiths. Political leaders should promote a framework of unity and civility. Civic and community leaders should promote collaboration in problem-solving. They should toil together to plant the seeds for doing good deeds. There is no better way to make that journey than to chart a course to interdependence. By doing so, India will establish itself as the beacon of hope for democracy worldwide. By realizing that potential, India will bring a new dawn for democracy in this 21st century.

 (The writer is an entrepreneur, civic and thought leader based in Washington DC)

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