One may consider religions as institutions whose goal is to ensure the moral and spiritual well-being of the communities they serve in a framework of kindness, compassion, and mutual respect, as well as of certain doctrinal beliefs. This is appropriate and useful within particular groups, but what is one to do when one group encounters another?
Whether there is religion or not, confrontation between groups of human beings is nothing new in history. The group affiliation may be determined by geography, religion, race, language, nationality, whatever. Such confrontations sometimes degenerate into clashes when self-interests are involved, whether economic, ideological, territorial, or whatever. Thus arise the wars that litter the pages of human history.
On 1 January 1942, smack in the middle of the Second World War, twenty-six governments of the world joined hands in their opposition to what used to be called the axis-powers: Germany, Japan, and Italy. They called themselves the United Nations. Then, after the war was over, a Charter of the United Nations Organization was formally signed by forty-six countries. It came into force on 24 October 1945: This date is therefore remembered as United Nations Day.
The primary goal of the U.N. is to maintain peace all over the world, and to ensure the security of all member states. The U.N. affirms the principles of human rights and the right to self-determination for all the peoples of the world. The hope is that nations would cooperate, help one another, work towards common interests and with mutual respect. The organization works on the principle that all nations are created equal, and are entitled to freedom and self-respect. It is clearly stated that the United Nations Organization will not interfere in the internal affairs of any country: in other words, the sovereignty of every nation is to be respected, as long as one adheres to international laws.
From the U.N. have also sprung several other bodies, like the UNESCO, the FAO, and the ILO, all striving to make this a better world for all peoples.
The ideals of the U.N., like the ideals of any religion in its pristine purity, are far from being realized. Human beings and societies being what they are, constrained and conditioned by self-interests and mutual suspicions, and subject to countless disruptive and corrupting influences, wars haven’t ceased, nor peace on earth established by the mere signing of the U.N. Charter, any more than that the promises of the prophets, whether Krishna or Christ to bring peace on earth, have materialized. But this much can be said: The existence of this supra-national entity, with its own commandments for law, order, and mutual respect, has certainly prevented and arrested many wars that could have blown up into major conflagrations. The U.N. is a forum for heads of states and representatives from various governments to argue and debate and lash out at their opponents when occasions arise. But the sting of words, even when uttered with belligerent gesticulations like pounding one’s shoes on the table, is far less perilous than the unleashing of weapons on enemy targets. So it is in the interest of one and all, of the weak and the strong, of the rich and the poor among nations to be part of this noble enterprise which, for the first time in human history, has brought together every nation of the civilized world under a single roof.
It would seem that there is need for a similar organization, a United Religions Organization, wherein every religion of the world would send representatives to work towards developing harmony and mutual respect among the faith traditions of the human family, banning inter-religious and sectarian hegemony and persecutions.
October 24, 2013