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Ezekiel Isaac Malekar
Rabbi, Judah Hyam Synagogue
Former Deputy Registrar, Human Rights Commission, GoI

Sabbath Shalom means peace unto you. I am proud to say that India is one of those few countries in the world, where Jews have never faced persecution and anti-semitism. Jews have been peacefully living in India for the last 2000 years and therefore I have always considered India to be my motherland and Karma Bhoomi (Land of duties) and Israel as my Dharm Bhoomi (Land of religion). I have always requested other religious leaders to say with one voice that we are Indians first and Muslims, Christians, Jews, etc., afterwards so as to be able to achieve National Integration.

During the visit of Israel's Prime Minister Mr Shimon Peres to Judah Hyam Synagogue, New Delhi, I was asked to explain what India and Israel meant to me. I clarified: Israel is in my heart but India is in my blood. Religion is a way of life and how one behaves in day-to-day's affairs. Religion is thinking and awakening. It purifies our mind and promotes righteousness. But unfortunately in India, religion is used and abused only in emergencies like Babri Masjid or Godhra incident.

In fact, there would be no peace among nations without peace among religions. There will be no peace among religions without dialogue among religious leaders. Interfaith dialogue is essential in the face of clash of civilizations, ethnic and religious conflicts. I have always emphasized on the need to go beyond tolerance. This could be achieved only through a sustained, candid and uninterrupted dialogue, without a syndrome of superiority or inferiority and with the objective of identifying common values, conducive to the maintenance of ethical standards essential for social harmony and furtherance of common goals. This process of locating these values would bring forth other commonalities. Interfaith dialogue is a cooperative and positive interaction between people of different religious traditions and humanistic beliefs both at the individual as well as the institutional level, with the aim of finding common grounds for living together in peace, harmony and brotherhood. It is distinct from syncretism or an alternative religion. Interfaith is aimed at promoting understanding among different faiths to increase acceptance of others’ point of view rather than synthesize new beliefs.

Any true interfaith model should unite us at the time of national disasters. Swami Vivekananda exhorted the mankind: "You may be born in any religion but you cannot die in it.” Therefore, follow one religion and respect all other religions. We must come together and make united efforts to eradicate the social stigmas of female foeticide, women discrimination, bonded and child labour and child marriage etc., We should guide the youth, particularly those who are unfortunately involved in drugs, alcohol and cigarette addictions. Any interfaith paradigm, worth the name, must be built on the universal human values of love, compassion, nonviolence, peace and brotherhood. Without adoption of these values in our lives, all faiths would remain empty superstructures. To conclude with a Sufi couplet:

HUM KYA BANANE AYE THE
AUR KYA BANA BAITHE.
KAHIN MANDIR BANA LIYA, TO KAHIN MASJID BANA LIYA.
HUMSE TOH ACHHE YE PARINDE HAIN,
KABHI MANDIR PE BAITH JAATE HAIN,
TOH KABHI MASJID PE BAITH JAATE HAIN

 
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