//Reconciliation and Justice amidst Rising Threat of Religious Fundamentalism

Reconciliation and Justice amidst Rising Threat of Religious Fundamentalism

GC 36 invited Jesuits to dwell deeper into our mission of reconciliation and justice by sharing in God’s work of reconciliation in our world broken by poverty, inequality, conflict, violence and ecological crisis. Jesuits are invited to promote reconciliation with God, fellow human beings and with creation. This reconciliation as a work of justice is discerned and acted upon in different contexts. In the South Asian Assistancy, the greatest challenge to the mission of reconciliation and justice is the rising religious fundamentalism. South Asia has been the cradle of several religions and belief systems, which have enriched the culture and the life of the people. However, identity politics based on caste, gender, religion and ethnicity has seriously undermined peace and harmony in the region. In particular, the increasing spread of radical and intolerant views on religion has disturbed communities previously living in harmony.

In India, the long-cherished dream of a secular democracy celebrating diversity and pluralism is under serious threat from a plethora of organizations that swear to convert India into a Hindu Nation by ensuring a majoritarian hegemony. They have a totalitarian outlook that espouses the tyranny of the majority. In India, the process has begun in different parts of the country. The public discourse has been vitiated with divisive issues such as love-jihad, ghar-wapsi, cow protection, ban on cow slaughter, beef ban, anti-conversion, imposition of Hindi, and so on. These issues convert peaceful communities into a tinderbox waiting to explode and even a facebook post can flare up into widespread communal riots, which are further used for communal polarisation of societies that reap political dividends.

In the last few years, a large number of leaders holding high offices in Government are those who advocate radical religious ideologies. The radicalisation of the bureaucracy, law enforcing agencies, judiciary, public institutions and universities have shaken the secular fabric of a multi-cultural society and a pluralistic country like India. The radicalisation of Indian society has been aided by a neo-liberal corporate agenda that supports religious fundamentalist forces even as it enriches itself with profits generated from the exploitation of minorities and marginalised sections of society. Their economic might controls every institution in the country, including the media, which has become part of government propaganda rather than trying to seek the truth. While inequalities grow, civil society space is reduced by greater Government regulation and all citizens are made vulnerable by bringing them into the Government database, which is prone to abuse.

The task of reconciliation and justice under these circumstances is monumental. The primary challenge is to educate the people of the country on the long-cherished values of the Constitution of India, namely a secular democratic republic founded on socio-economic and political justice; freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; equality of status and opportunity; and fraternity ensuring dignity of the individual. As a religious minority consituting 2.5 per cent of the population, we need to play a prophetic role in a country torn by divisive forces. We need to be the “salt of the earth”, “leaven in the dough” and the “light of the world” by celebrating diversity, promoting inclusive societies, encouraging a participative democracy and working for peace and harmony.

The mission of reconciliation implies opposition to unjust structures as well as standing in solidarity with the poor, marginalised, oppressed and the victims of injustice through works of charity and empowerment. Besides, a serious dialogue with cultures and religions is an inalienable part of the process of reconciliation. Finally, this mission of reconciliation and justice includes collaboration and networking with organizations as well as men and women of goodwill who share secular values and are committed to the cause of justice, peace and harmony in our country.

The author is the Executive Director of Indian Social Institute, New Delhi and the Editor of the quarterly journal, Social Action.