I was invited to lead an interactive session on “Religious Harmony” by UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education and Peace (MGIEP) on August 21, 2019. This was part of the first World Youth Conference on Kindness being held at OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana.
The interactive session was held for 60 youth leaders from 27 countries.
I shared my experience of meeting religious leaders of six religions and insights from my discussions with them. Using short videos I also summarized the thoughts of the leaders and religious thinkers from the panel discussion. My questions on “What is religion?”, “Role of youth”, “Religious harmony” and ideas for Y4RH elicited a lot of participation from the youth leaders. These thoughts, ideas, reflections, opinions and impressions were especially interesting since they came from a global and multicultural, multi-religious and young audience.
Some of the thoughts and ideas are below.
“In my school in UK, people never knew why some people wore a dot on their forehead (referring to Bindi worn by Hindu women). Similarly why people wore bracelets made of thread (referring to Rakhi worn by Hindu boys during a festival named Rakshabandhan).” They made fun of these things. I decided to explain to them the significance of these symbols and festivals and rituals these where associated with. I realized, after that there was a change in their attitude, they started asking me if they could visit us during the festival.”
“When we were younger we were made to do a shoulder-to-shoulder exercise among the Shias and Sunnis. This made people in our community come together”
“In my country Bhutan, we are Buddhists, religion is used to teaching young people to follow rules, do good things and keep them away from vices like smoking or eating meat”
“I follow Amma (spiritual leader from India) who was born Hindu and now preaches the religion of love, that is what religion should be”
“I believe in fusion, in a similar way as fusion of food. If I prefer a certain cuisine but with different flavours I eat that, I am allowed to eat that. For example, if I like Tacos but want to reduce the cheese on it, I can eat it my way. Religion should be like that, take what you like and leave what you don’t”
“I believe in Buddhism and that teaches kindness and compassion”
“ We did an exercise on take what you like and leave what you don’t. Don’t criticize what you don’t like, just leave it. I would like to apply that to religion.”
“ Religion should be like a suit shop which has ready mades and custom tailoring. One can try the ready made ones if that fits and wear it as it is, or one can pick and choose based on what we like and custom make a suit”.
“ We need to come together and talk about religion and integrate ideas. We need to network, that’s when we will have religious harmony.”
“ Religion is a philosophy and a way of life and that is what needs to be taught”
“ I am from a country where ninety percent were Christians
“ I was born an Orthodox Christian and a took a long time to understand my religion since it was very complicated. I understood Budhism and through that understood my religion”
“ The study of architecture will be useful to understand different religions”
“The youth need to be taught how to control media and manage the content they receive about it, that is especially important for them”
This was truly a very enriching experience for me and the youth leaders. I will be connecting with many of them to collaborate with them on “Religious Harmony”