You might have heard of the saying Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isai: Aapas Mai Sab Bhai-Bhai (‘Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian: We Are All Brethren To Each Other’). For some people, the phrase represents a deep longing for inter-community harmony in a world that is deeply fractured in the name of religion and community. For some others, on the other hand, the phrase can be just a pious-sounding slogan. But for the four of us friends who met over dinner the other day, the phrase turned out to be literally true! We hadn’t planned our get-together that way, as an interfaith event, though: it only later struck me that the four of us happened to be from the four different religious traditions named in the phrase—Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian!
And what a wonderful time we had! We gossiped and joked. We shared some of our anguish and fears. We offered advice. We reflected on the way the world was going. We talked about happenings in our own lives and in our families. And we ate a lovely meal together! The fact that we happened to belong to what in the eyes of the world were different religious communities just didn’t stand in the way of our close bonding and having great fun!
Today, there’s much talk about promoting interfaith dialogue and inter-community harmony. Conferences and seminars on the subject have become commonplace. Often, these consist simply of theological discussions, with participants narrating what they see as some of the virtuous teachings about peace and compassion in their respective faiths. Some of these initiatives may have some value. But as far as helping people from different faith backgrounds to build bridges and bond together is concerned, probably nothing can take the place of close friendships and fun-time spent with each other—something that our little dinner party the other day so beautifully brought home!