Role of Religion in Society
Throughout history, religion has been a profound force in the lives of the vast majority of the world’s people who see themselves as moral beings concerned with spiritual awareness and purpose. A dispassionate view of history will reveal the vital role that religion has played in training human nature to overcome animal tendencies and to develop those moral and spiritual qualities that conduce to social order such as compassion, generosity, trustworthiness, forbearance, humility, courage and the willingness to sacrifice for the well-being of others. Its influence extends to the whole of society as a source of law and morality and as a means of order and stability.
With this conviction, over the past few years, the Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs in India has been engaging in conversations with academics, government agencies and non-governmental organizations, parliamentarians, media, interfaith and various professional groups aimed at exploring how the spiritual teachings of religion can be applied for the betterment of society. These conversations have focused on the themes of the role of religion in fostering peace and the role of religious institutions such as places of worship in promoting social transformation. A distinct and rich conversation has evolved with those in the interfaith movement on how the power of faith can be brought to bear on the various challenges facing Indian society.
Religion and Peace
Over the years, the Office has participated in a vibrant discourse on the role of religion in overcoming prejudice, strengthening social cohesion, treasuring diversity and building the attitudes, mindsets and social structures needed to foster enduring peace.
Places of Worship and Social Progress
Religious institutions such as places of worship play a significant role in ensuring social, economic and spiritual well-being in society. However, how would the nature and purpose of places of worship need to evolve in the context of the rapidly-changing realities of the twenty-first century? How would they unite people in worship without dividing on communal lines? How could they inspire service to the wellbeing of all irrespective of differences? These were some of the questions deliberated on and explored among those who participated in this discourse.
For nearly two decades the Bahá’í community of India has been an active participant in the interfaith movement in India. Its efforts have been focused on contributing to unity of thought about the essential oneness of religion, its purpose of bringing unity and establishing justice and the role of the religious leaders and representatives of interfaith organizations to address the dire needs of humanity in the contemporary world. One of the recent initiatives coordinated by the Office of Public Affairs in this area was the issuing of a joint statement on the role of religion in helping society deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.