Interfaith dialogue vital for a healthy society: Vice President

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New Delhi, Oct 31 (UNI) Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari today said interfaith dialogue was critical to the health of society, and its success would lie in widening the ambit of its adherents and their acceptance of it as an imperative necessity.

Mr Ansari was speaking after inaugurating a National Conference on the theme 'The Interfaith Movement:Where Do We Go From Here' organised by Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), here.

He said Indian history was full of instances of dialogues initiated by rulers. Good examples of these were emperors Ashoka and Akbar, and in the 17th century Prince Dara Shikoh undertook a remarkable exercise of putting together commonalities and convergences of two major faiths but added that his work had 'no concern for the common folk of either community'.

While the intellectuals have a role in initiating such a dialogue, its practical relevance in a democratic polity would lie in its dissemination among the common folk, said the Vice-President.

He said faith has been defined as belief in the trustworthiness of an idea. The basis of this belief may be physical or metaphysical.

''Either way, it leads firstly to a conviction that something is, secondly to a determination to accomplish objectives associated with this conviction and thirdly to a sense of satisfaction linked to the achievement of the preceding two,'' he said.

Given the richness of human experience in space and time, the manifestations of faith have been equally diverse, and in most of these, the endeavour is to relate human existence to an ultimate point of reference that is an infinite or absolute essentiality existing by the necessity of its own nature, said Mr Anasri, adding that one consequence of this was the emergence of similarities as well as divergences of perceptions.

''The world we live in is characterised by the shrinking of spaces. Isolation and exclusivity are matters of the past. Ignorance of the other is no longer bliss. In fact, the 'Other' has increasingly and unavoidably become a part of the Self. This larger Self, therefore, needs to be understood and accommodated in our perception and practice,'' he said.

''It is here that the Interfaith Movement has a role to play.

This is being understood globally. The 2002 Millennium World Peace Summit of religious and spiritual leaders spelt out its basic principles. These need to be furthered. A critical role in this will be played by inculcating its values in the educational system. Only this can provide the right type of nourishment to the mind,'' said the Vice- President.

UNI NAZ SKB RAI2001

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