"If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children." - Mahatma Gandhi
The Bajrang Dal seems to have taken Gandhi's words in a quite literal, but skewed manner. It holds an annual week-long training camp in Delhi to teach young boys and men to "protect Bharat Mata" from the Christian and Muslim "infidels".
If you read the Tehelka article cited above, you would see how well the Bajrang Dal and VHP fundamentalists are succeeding in brainwashing these young boys and men. They are told to beware of the "six Ms... Muslims, Missionaries, Marxists, Lord Macaulay, foreign Media and Maino [UPA President Sonia Gandhi’s middle name].”
Ladies and gentlemen, this is how religious bigotry is spread through the veins of a people. The policy of catch 'em young seems to work wonders for religious zealots. Islamic fundamentalists are doing the same thing, preparing their young men for jihad. I have not really heard of any Christian groups indoctrinating their young to be prepared for a "holy war". But I guess one could say that the Bush administration had filled up that position pretty neatly.
All religious fanatics think that their religion is under attack from other religions. The Hindus think that Muslims and Christians are up to no good and are ready to destroy their culture at the drop of a hat. Muslims feel that all Christians and Hindus want wipe them out; and many Christians seem to have a morbid fear of all things Muslim and Hindu.
(I'm talking about just these three religions because they are in the news more than any other!)
I'm not going to profess that I know everything about these religions, but I do know that none of these religions preach hatred. They do not ask their followers to go out and bomb innocent people, just because they do not pray to the same god.
Religious text is open to interpretation. This, I feel, is one of the main causes of religious bigotry. Certain 'holy men' claim to understand religious text, but they are interpreting them in a manner that they deem fit. They preach their hate messages to a populous that does not know any better. Of course, political agenda also plays a big part here. Politicians target vulnerable populations and promise voters that they will keep them safe from the fearsome Hindus/ Muslims/ Christians.
Christianity and Islam have a common ancestry - Abraham/ Ibrahim, Moses/ Musa, Jesus/ Isa Masi. How many Muslims and Christians acknowledge this fact? And even if they do, does it really make a difference to them? Does it give them more food for thought? How can two races who share a common ancestry not see how similar they really are?
Strip away the religious identity of any group, and what you will get is a bunch of people with similar dreams and aspirations. Everyone wants to have a family and enough money to provide for that family.
Why do people have a need to wear their religious identity on their sleeve and condemn those that belong to an allegedly opposed religion? When scripture asks you to "believe in the one true God" it is not asking you to denounce all other gods. Why should your belief in a certain god, a certain way of life be better or greater than another's? You practice what you want and I'll practice what I want.
It is sad that more people would rather abide by intolerance than try and have an open mind. It is difficult to have someone come up to you and tell you that what you have believed in all of your life is not true - not all Muslims want to kill Hindus and vice versa. But to try and change your point of view is an even more arduous task. And I think despite hate camps, like the Bajrang Dal one, there are people all around the world who are waking up and smelling the coffee for the first time in their lives. May their tribe increase!