World Religions Day: Unending strain over faith-based harmony,disaster

18Jan 2022
The Guardian
World Religions Day: Unending strain over faith-based harmony,disaster

​​​​​​​ACTIVISTS around the world were on Sunday marking the World Religions Day, the third Sunday of January, each year. It is intended to foster understanding, sympathy and harmony between the major religions, a continuation of involving religious leaders in many countries-

-to seek peace where there is strife, creating an opportunity for dialogue where politics is blocked if various parties follow hard lines. Yet it isn’t true that religion comes in merely as an answer to social or political tensions; it is part of the background scenario.

There is an expression in philosophy that is taken from the Middle East, that to understand a society or any country for that matter, a trilogy is vital to observe, which in Arabic (resonating with Swahili) it is formulated as ‘din, dunya, dawla.’ When one understands a country’s religion, it opens up avenues of understanding that society, and on that basis, the politics or state outlook in such a society. Put differently, religion is at once a source of inspirations that lead to conflict, and an unavoidable avenue for resolution.

The way in which religion features around the world is a complicated set of issues, as to how far it contributes to world peace or to conflict, and on the other hand, what potential there is for harmony and understanding between religions. It often leads to an egg and hen question, as to whether it is because of harmony in politics that there is harmony among religions, or the opposite, that harmony among religions facilitates harmony in politics. It isn’t easy to unravel the issues and put out clear answers to the matter.

World Religions Day helps to figure out how countries are helped – or hindered – to become peaceful by the agency of religion. One facet about religion and conflict is that natural groups formed by language and clans are also encompassed by a denomination within one or other religion, and at times form national communities that make all dialogue difficult to undertake  Such alliances only show their outward marks, for instance one tries to hold a dialogue with a political party which fails, because the politics is merely an instrument for community choices which are expressed in a religious manner, and they aren’t tabled there.

For Tanzania, marking World Religions Day in the current situation is an assuring occasion, as tensions that cropped up in the past were nipped in the bud, but law enforcers don’t sleep on their laurels. There are insidious pressures underlying faith communities that at times ignore obvious dangers ahead in case the programmes or courses of action they espouse are taken up or become the norm. Tanzania isn’t alone in such fears as each country has to keep at bay its demons of disorder and potential disaster, behind which there is an ’indivisible’ demand that ‘we are this or that type of community, and certain things are not acceptable.’ History is a sequence of disasters where nations painfully overcome indivisible prejudice.