In India and Brazil, events promote freedom to believe

3 April 2014

NEW DELHI — Freedom of belief must be a fundamental element of societies that are sustainable and equitable.

That was the message being promoted at a recent seminar held in New Delhi, as well as at events in Brazil's major cities.

At the conference held at India's National Baha'i Centre, Professor Shiv Visvanathan of O.P. Jindal Global University called on those present to re-conceptualize the fundamental assumptions at the basis of the discourse on freedom and belief.

"Diversity is embedded in human rights," said Prof. Visvanathan, challenging participants to think beyond legal mechanisms and embrace a different ethical framework to facilitate the peaceful coexistence of diverse perspectives.

The seminar, which was held on 5 March, was jointly organized by the Global Foundation for Civilizational Harmony and the Baha'i community of India.

Eleven panelists – including Akhtarul Wasey, senior professor of Islamic studies at India's National Islamic University, and Rabbi Ezekiel Malekar, head of the Jewish community in New Delhi – participated in discussions which called for the discourse on diversity to move beyond tolerance towards genuine respect, the recognition of human interdependence, and the promotion of freedom of expression.

Celebrating diversity in Brazil

In Brazil, the National Day Against Religious Intolerance – an initiative of the Brazilian government – brought people of diverse faiths together in a variety of events to promote greater respect and understanding.

In Brasilia, an interfaith event was held at the city's Temple of Good Will on 21 January.

"There was a quiet time during which leaders and representatives of the various religious denominations shared their gifts of prayers, song, or messages," said Luiz Mourao, a representative of the city's Baha'i community.

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Two Baha'is perform at an event initiated by the Commission on Combating Religious Intolerance in Brazil. The gathering on 21 January provided an opportunity for representatives of each religion in the commission to share a greeting and musical performance.

A ceremony was also held at the City Hall in Campinas, Sao Paulo State, which brought together some 200 representatives of religious denominations, as well as artists and politicians. The aim was to promote a culture of peace, justice, and respect for different religious and philosophical beliefs.

"It was an event of great importance to disseminate the message of the need for understanding between religions and to establish relationships with representatives of religious and governmental organizations," said Alexandre Beust, a representative of the local Baha'i community.

In Rio de Janeiro, the Commission on Combating Religious Intolerance also hosted an event where representatives of participating religions had the opportunity to meet each other and offer performances. The Baha'i community was represented by the music duo Marta and Bia, who have previously appeared at Rio's Walk in Defense of Religious Liberty, traditionally held in September at Copacabana beach.