The different religious beliefs and faiths in the world have caused a lot of wars, woes and miseries. But are they really the most significant factor which tears people apart, causes mass killing, and launches countries to go to war with each other? Did religous difference cause WW1 and WW2 and will it probably cause (God forbid) WW3?
History tells us that religious differences did in the past shatter countries and people. But not any longer. People have learnt to respect and live with the differences. What makes them go to war and kill each other without mercy even in this age of civilization is not religion but politics and greed for power and wealth. Some may even say it's because of the need to survive. But that claim can be easily rejected because you can't afford to be aggressive and antagonize people if you feel weak and insecure. You normally try to make friends. You only become aggressive and haughty whn you know that you've powerful friends to protect you.
Religious people are never a threat to each other for no religion in the world encourages the spilling of human blood. It's always the irreligious and the non-God fearing people who would take power unto themselves to judge, condemn and kill other people. Human life and blood are no longer sacred to them. Killing becomes just a matter of pulling a trigger, exploding a bomb or launching a rocket. They forget that human being cannot create life even in an amoeba or an ant.
The existence of many religions and faiths in the world, has never prevented people from living together or interacting with each other to. establish a comfortable and meaningful life. Even when people of different countries and religious faiths live close to each other or live in the same country, county or village,, they can live in peace until some 'trouble-makers' begin to create and highlight the differences in culture and religion, causing people to be suspicious and angry with each other. The 'trouble-makers' invariably do this to promote their own interests which they can hide under glorious and respectable objectives such as promoting a national consciousness (nationalism), creating a cultural Identity, or just promoting national consolidation and integration.
Many multiracial nations today face the problem of "undoing" the work of these trouble makers. This includes Malaysia where racial and religious differences in the past have not been causing much trouble. The racial clash of May 1963 was clearly political in nature; otherwise the country and its multiracial population had enjoyed relative peace and harmony. But lately, the racial and religious issues seemed to have surfaced again as rapid development makes the poorer majority (mostly Malays and Indians) more aware of their deprivation. Religious problems even took center stage recently on the issue of using Allah ( the Muslims' name for God) by Christians in Sarawak in their publication. It lead to the consecration of some mosques and the abortive burning of some churches followed by angry protests on the street.
Consequently an Inter-Religious Committee was set up to diffuse the issue and promote better understanding between the Muslims, Christians. Budhists. Hindus etc. An Inter-Faith Commission established earlier to undertake a similar function had been bitterly opposed by the Muslims. It seems that even the new Committee is being opposed by the Muslim leaders for they felt that Islam cannot be compromised with other religions. An explanation by the Minister in Charge of Religious Affairs in the Prime Minister's Department that the Committee only plays a consultative role did not allay the worries of the Muslim leaders and 'ulamaks'.
I think it must be made very clear that a religion or a faith cannot be changed or adjusted to accommodate the teachings and practices of other religions. There must be total respect and recognition of each religion but there's nothing to prevent its leaders and adherants from trying to know more about the religion of the others, in order to give better respect and recognition to the rights and practices of its adherants. We can raise common awareness about different religions but not expect an exchange of or an adoption of some common values and beliefs by all. To the Muslim that would be tantamount to "erogding the Islamic Aqidah" - a process that leads to "Murtad" or total expulsion from Islam and turns one into a "kafir". Hence the protest against any such suggestionz.
But a committee to explain the religious philosophy of the major religions in Malayia to various multiracial groups so that the major tenets of each religion can be better understood by all, would surely not be offensive to anyone. The leaders of the major religous groups will participate in the program thereby giving them the opportunity to have a direct exchange of views with the multiracial audience. Such discussions or dialogues will not therefore be viewed as an attempt to proselitize people but only to make them aware of the demands of the various religions on their followers. Thus the sanctity of each religion will not in any way be compromised and people will remain free to pursue their own religious faith.