How do we live with people
who eat, speak or pray differently from us?
What is the greatest challenge we humans face? Climate change, declining food supplies and disease are frightening enough; yet consider too our increasing difficulty in just living together. How do we live our lives alongside others who eat, speak or pray differently?
Too often, it seems we can't. Think of Kashmir, Rwanda, Gujarat, Assam, 9/11 and more.
But India's magnificent diversity gives us an edge over other societies, a head start in learning about difference. In that spirit, Citizens for Peace seeks to rejuvenate secularism as the foundation of a vibrant democracy. For secularism is not about as dry an idea as the separation of religion and state. It is about the daily challenge, the
lively stimulus, of living with differences. What is democracy, but this?
|How can we work together to cultivate a 21st century Secular Culture in India?
CfP’s "A Secular Rethink" process takes on the challenge. We seek:
Public policy that fosters a rich, sparkling secularism.
Government indifference to all differences of caste, religion and region; yet a government that acknowledges the injustices inherent in some differences and addresses them to ensure justice and dignity to all.
Swift, impartial justice delivered regardless of caste, religion and region.
Expression for diversity which goes beyond token "celebration" and makes it a welcome part of our lives.
This is a vision for India rooted in the liberal traditions of our freedom struggle, but that draws on six decades of free India. This is a vision of secularism meaningful and vital to all.
|Forget the dictionary definition: what does secularism mean to you?
* Have we Indians followed that idea of secularism?
* Is it important to follow it? Why?
* What are the principles that are important to you? Do they have
something to do with secularism?
At Citizens for Peace, we believe that the paths societies take emerge from everyday personal things we do. So let's start with those.
The barriers to peace are the ideas we have about each other. He's a Bihari, so he's lazy and dirty; He’s a Muslim so he is aggressive. Haven't you heard things like this said? Yet haven't we all also met individuals whose example contradicts such impressions?
Why not build on them? Let's find ways to spend time with others, whoever they may be, and learn about them.
Read to your elderly Sindhi neighbour who's losing his eyesight. Join the football game the kids from the nearby madrasa are playing in the park. Give the handcart-man a hand as he struggles, traffic swirling around him, to drag his load up a slope. Form a group on your street that addresses civic issues, but also pools skills: can you fix your neighbour's leaky tap? Can that lady help with your maths difficulties?
It's the ancient idea of community -- but with no boundaries, whether religious or linguistic or caste. This is community founded on the oldest link of all: simple humanity. Do all this because it teaches you the humanity of the other guy. Do it to challenge your own presumptions about others. After all, when the lady sits down to work on maths with you, when you flower with her help, it's hard to hold on to your cynical thoughts about her being a Bihari.
No doubt it takes courage to overcome the fences in our minds. Yet courage is all we have, and it may be all we need.
At CfP we have a vision: this ordinary idea of community, fueled by courage, spreads across the country. Slowly at first, but eventually like an Indian monsoon, washing away the cobwebs that have gathered in our minds for years. We have a vision: there will come a time when we will scarcely believe that we ever thought of community in any other way but this. We have a vision: secularism as the vital, passionate backbone of a country. With equal rights for all. With dignity for all. With justice for all. Secularism as it was meant to be.
In India, we deserve no less.