From a cultural perspective, the various religions form a wonderful tapestry of spiritual expression. India in particular is a land blessed with several religious traditions, and more than that, with followers who are deeply committed to these traditions.
However, very few people have opportunities to deepen their knowledge and appreciation of their own traditions, leave aside that of others. As a result, many believers experience and express a faith often rife with meaningless ritualism, sometimes bordering on superstition, and easily prone to adverse influence and manipulation by vested political interests.
Instead of trust, joy and love as a natural outflow of spiritual experience, fear, guilt and shame often dominate religious consciousness. Moreover, relationships with believers of other traditions are often coloured with suspicion, stemming from inherited prejudices, sometimes leading to serious conflict situations.
There is a dire need for wholesome inter-religious relationships, for several reasons: to recognize the beauty of diverse forms of religious inspiration; to become aware of and deepen one’s own religious identity, in the mirror of the eyes of others; to mutually benefit from wholesome aspects of spiritual inspiration; and to explore ways to collaboratively engage with the world with people of other faiths, furthering justice and peace, and care for the environment.
Interreligious relationships enable us to connect meaningfully and empathetically with other pilgrims on life’s way, inspired by different voices and belonging to different religious communities.