Vice President Shri. M Hamid Ansari today called upon people of different faiths and religious traditions to have a mutual understanding and respect that allow them to live and cooperate with each other in spite of their differences.
Inaugurating an Interfaith Conference at Malappuram, Mr Ansari noted that interreligious and interfaith dialogue had to be more than mere words or talk. ''It must include human interaction and relationships, '' he said.
Quoting Swami Vivekananda on his birth anniversary, the Vice President said that tolerance alone is not strong enough a foundation for building an inclusive and pluralistic society. It must be coupled with acceptance and understanding.
''We need to challenge ourselves to see beyond the stereotypes and preconceptions that prevent us from accepting others. Dialogue removes misunderstanding and promotes empathy and understanding. And in this crucial task interfaith dialogue plays an important role,'' Shri. Ansari added.
''The purpose of interfaith dialogue is to increase our understanding of and respect for other religious systems and institutions, thereby increasing our appreciation of their values'' he said, adding that there should be a cooperative and positive interaction between people of different religious traditions, at both the individual and institutional level.
''Each party remains true to their own beliefs while respecting the right of the other to practice their faith freely,'' he added.
The Vice President noted that India has been home to all the great religions of the world. ''Our society has, for centuries, provided a unique social and intellectual environment in which many distinct religions have not only co-existed peacefully but have also enriched each other.''
He said Kerala has had a long tradition of religious pluralism. It is a state that has the oldest traditions of Islam and Christianity in India and is known for the relative harmony that exists between the various religious groups.
Recalling the remarks made by Prime Minister at a public function in Kerala last year, Vice President said that the spirit of pluralism and accommodation of cultural diversity pervades the Constitution of India as well as the dominant political discourse in the country.
Vice President also said that acceptance goes a step beyond tolerance. It is a person's assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition without attempting to change it, protest, or exit. You can tolerate something without accepting it, but you cannot accept something without tolerating it.
Wishing the conference success, the Vice President said that Kerala has had a long tradition of religious pluralism and the organizers of the event were inheritors of this tradition.