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    September 09, 2019

    The large majority of people who adhere to most religion are lay people. Some religious denominations do not have clergy. Their leaders are also lay people. Yet they gather together in places of worship and are directed by lay leaders.In any case the lay people of all religions today are reasoning and more educated than in former times. They are influenced by various media of world-wide communication. Today people come to know what is happening and what people are thinking in other parts of the world on various issues. Human solidarity has also grown. When people in any part of the world are adversely affected by an unforeseen natural disaster, people in other parts of the world who have never met them come readily to their aid. The sensitivity of humanity and neighbourliness have grown. People of the whole earth has become one human family.
    Religions and religious issues including inter-religious dialogue are among the topics they freely discuss and they discuss critically not only some of the teachings of religions, they also assess the consistency of the behaviour and public statements of religious leaders very critically. Human beings are becoming more conscious of their equality and freedom as human beings. They are matured and have reached an adulthood. No leaders and authorities of religions could persuade the people with fanciful stories and fairy tales and shallow legends when at the summit of power secular authorities have turned the whole political and economic environment into a mountain of stinking garbage polluting the whole social environment.
    No one can foist their authority on others by merely saying that they are the legitimate authorities exercising their functions. Legitimate community, social and legal authority need to be apparent by the truth of personal uprightness and moral integrity. Evident flaws in these elements even in a person legitimately occupying the highest position in the socio-political, legal or religious sphere undermine their moral authority. Religious authorities should act as the purifying agents of the rest of society lest religions lose all meaning and raison d’etre. Sri Lankans and many people are caught up in such desperate situations that unless religious authorities together with the moral backing of their honest followers recall the secular authorities to a righteous and honest exercise of power by which all are served, the field of politics get stagnant and corrupted. Many political party leaders are like banyan trees; under their dark shade nothing grows, new young and energetic leaders do not emerge.
    Inter-religious dialogue at world level should help to a great extent the earthly well-being of the millions of poor, voiceless, marginalized and undernourished brothers and sisters whose corrupt rulers perpetuate themselves in office, shamelessly abuse power, enjoy all the possible comforts of life at the cost of the people they inhumanly manipulate, deceive and disregard.It can be observed that many people change their points of view even on matters of religion; some get disinterested in their religions and even abandon their traditional religious beliefs due to many reasons. This cannot be prevented as all men are free to make their own choices in various matters of life. No person can be compelled to believe in any set of beliefs, even inherited ones, against their will.
    It is therefore necessary that adherents of all religions are persuaded by the strength of reason to accept the precepts they are taught so that they guide their lives according to those precepts recorded and handed down from authoritative scriptures. It is also necessary to admit that in the past and in the present day there have been conflicts, even violent ones resulting in the massacre of hundreds and thousands of innocent people due to matters connected with religion. Today all reasonable people rule out violence as a means of settling problems that may arise due to matters linked to religions.
    Many are also reluctant to admit that what they do not know is far more vast than what they know on many matters. Many are also deficient in self-knowledge, are biased and prejudiced and consciousness of the equal human dignity and rights of others are not always at a satisfactory level. It is therefore necessary for the adherents of all religions to have as comprehensive an understanding and knowledge of their religion and an average ability to explain to others the nature of aspirations and hopes that they nurture in their hearts because of their religion, without pressurizing anyone unethically. Spreading unexamined biases and prejudices in society is not a correct diffusion of the knowledge of a religion among people who are not familiar with a particular belief.
    Inter-religious dialogue among world religions today needs to widen its scope and pay close attention to the very basic issues of life arising out of human neighbourliness. All human beings should have a raised consciousness of all the basics of humanness and all religions have the duty of raising such human consciousness refined with truth and those religious elements particularly worthy of cultivation and preservation in human beings. This means that religions need to be so organised as to be able to keep their followers informed in a manner that they could be active and just collaborators in the well-being of all mankind.
    Religious leaders should revive and animate the lives of religion-adhering laity. They should be united in raising the lives of all people to new and higher levels of religious maturity and of interior life. Some are consciously and dedicatedly living this higher state of interior life. Adherents of all religions should be led to think globally and act locally. If through Inter-religious Dialogue, the thinking, inventiveness, creativity on matters concerning all humanity is done in an altogether new way, life could be transformed for the better for all people. Now, how many politicians seek power to gather wealth and seek their own security, robbing the people, whereas all those resources could go to develop the well-being of all people.
    Much goes into the planning and setting apart vast resources for war and training for war, weapons of war, instruments of defence and security, agents of infiltration and spying in many nations. Spurred by inter-religious dialogue a new spirit of ingenuity should bring about human solidarity on a global level and make the world free of war and all threats of war. The world freed from a culture of war should not need any arms and weapons of war. Suspicion, distrust and doubt could be eliminated and a climate of trust and friendship brought about.
    A civilization of peace, knowledge and understanding, compassion, forgiveness, benevolence, generosity, love and kindness should spread and take root in all humanity. Inter-religious Dialogue should and could promote the progressive well-being of all nations on earth; this is very much in keeping with the human.Inter-religious Dialogue could energize all religious leaders to lead social, political leadership and the intelligentsia to rethink and reinvigorate themselves to become far-seeing, visionary and insightful about the present condition of mankind and bring mankind to a fuller and abundant life. What stimulating challenges and limitless opportunities would open for all mankind and for countries like Sri Lanka!
    This small, compact and pluralist country could take many an ingenuous step and initiative to open the minds of others to broad new horizons and vistas of life that are worth exploring. For that we should all strive to avoid all evil, attain clear minds and leave behind petty matters and issues that are frustrating distractions. Human beings are meant to live together in trust, cooperation, collaboration and harmony, not in constant suspicion, misgiving and conflict. Nothing should be allowed to obstruct the path to wholesome, very meaningful and more agreeably pleasanthuman prospects.

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