Under the auspices of Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Narendrapur an Interfaith Day is observed every year in the month of February with the objective of creating a sense of amity among the people of different religious, cultural and ethnic communities. This year the Interfaith Day was observed on 2nd February 2003.
The Interfaith Day was the culmination of a yearlong endeavour of the Ashram. with the following programmes:
INTERFAITH STUDY CIRCLES – Young people in particular organise study circles twice a month. Reading from the Holy Scriptures and biographies of great people of the World, organising liberal discussions on the new ideas and finding out ways and means of actuating those ideas by implementing those programmes. The whole idea is to help the young people appreciate the religions of the neighbour and to learn to work to promote understanding among the people. In all the 1700 study circles these programmes were conducted.
EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMME AMONG THE CHILDREN
The Ashram has taken in hand an educational programme for the children in the rural and in the urban slum areas. This is not a mere academic programme. This is a programme of education in religious understanding. The objective is to create a sense of the accountability in each child about its role in maintaining peace and harmony in its neighbourhood. The children hail from different religious or faith groups, sit together and study the essentials of religion. A text book called Masters of the World Religions (Jagater Dharmaguru – in Bengali) has been carefully prepared to highlight the importance and significance of all religions in shaping the life and living of the people. The result of this has been highly encouraging. More than 16,000 children in 13 districts of West Bengal are continuously being educated in this way. These children, as they grow, will imbibe the understanding which enables a mind to accept all that is good and just and to practise and advocate interfaith.
The young people are nurtured to grow as effective change agents. One without perfect interfaith understanding can never serve all equally. The youth are given training in interfaith understanding, in leadership, in youth work and community work on a regular basis.
These young people are organised and undertook activities within their mite. There are youth organisations (1700 in all) which are led by Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and other community people. What they do leads to peace, amity and harmony.
After having implemented all the programmes regularly the Mission, as always in the past, organised the Interfaith Day on 2 February 2003.
In the morning the groups from the districts of North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Calcutta, Hooghly, Burdwan, Nadia and Murshidabad arrive at Narendrapur. Besides the children and the youth, people from different religious groups, primarily the Hindus, the Muslims the Christians and a few tribal communities also arrived with their tableaux, banners, posters and messages highlighting the essence of harmony and peace. More than 16 thousand people including women gathered. The Interfaith Rally began at 9.30 am in the morning. Reading from the Geeta, the Holy Bible, the Holy Quran, the Granth Sahib and other Scriptures, songs, drama on wheels were features of the Rally. Having crossed through different localities the rally finally merged in the compound in front of the residential college of the Ashrama where more that 13 thousand people (who did not join the rally) were already present.
The rally having reached the leaders of different religions, the young representatives spoke to the gathering on the importance of every religion, about religious freedom, about the obligation of every religious group towards the promotion and protection of the religions of the neighbours. After the discourse the rallyists had lunch together. The youth, irrespective of their religious background served food to about 29 thousand people of various religions and faith groups.
On this occasion an exhibition was also organised depicting the lessons we learn from all religions, the way of life as shaped by the great masters of the world, the results and impact of where the youth groups had worked unitedly and the quality of life of those who practise interfaith in their day to day life.
In the evening a cultural programme was put up by the groups which too was on Religious Freedom, Human Rights and the role of the society in empowering women for a stronger family and society.