Peace is the foundation of prosperity among the nation states of the world and harmony forms the basic foundation of that enterprise.Man is the wonderful creation of God with an inherent sense of metaphysical and worldly belongings. The savage societies of the pre-historic times without any order and hierarchy of social organisation subsequently in the long timeframe paved way for the foundations of nation states and social organisations with a proper moral and a social order.
Although, the onslaught of the forces of globalisation after post-modernism have added a new colour to the contours of social dynamics and set in motion a new wave of societal organisations in the world, the case of Kashmir portrays a different tale of ever evolving, unaltered communal harmony. The only narrative that can ensue an atmosphere of peace and prosperity is that of the peaceful coexistence in the society in order to avert the crisis that makes inroads within a society from time to time.
Jammu and Kashmir is the only northern state of India with a longest tag of amity and brotherhood that has survived the currents of time and remains so in the contemporary times. Kashmir called as the land of rishis, saints, seers and sadhus is known for its communal harmony not only at the local level, but also the world over since times immemorial.
The sort of mysticism that the Sufi and Bhakti movements have lent to the cultural ethos of Kashmir is found much nowhere in the world besides Kashmir. The vale of Kashmir is full of various religious faiths who have survived the onslaught of the forces of globalisation with the changing signs of time. Muslims form the majority of the vale along with the religious people of Hindus, sikhs, Buddhists, Christians; etc.
Over the period of time, a sort of communal harmony has permeated the socio-cultural space of the society creating a congenial atmosphere of communitarian responsibility and social bond among the people of Kashmir surpassing religious lines of thought. This has not only added to the peace horizon of the land, but also created a sense of mutual trust and unified bond among the various communities of the land. In Kashmir, the communal harmony is deep rooted in the historical narratives.
The ethos of the Kashmir culture has time and again withstood the travails and tribulations of the time despite the currents of odds and challenges through the changing times. On a miniscule scale, there has been disturbance to the communal harmony of the state following the partition of the Sub-continent into India and Pakistan.
The exodus of the Hindus in nineties ascribed to the circumstances was a gory chapter in the chronicles of Jammu and Kashmir history. However, the return of the same has added a new threshold to the scene. The separatist leadership has time and again been vocal for their return as being part and parcel of our composite Kashmiri culture.
However, the time has served as the best healer of the same wounds and paved renewed ways for the cherishment of the communal harmony. The social harmony vindicates the notions of love and affection among different religions and is a blessing in disguise for the times.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir reflects the true plural ethos of the secular India where people of different communities strive for the love and harmony, complementing the lives of each other on a day-to-day basis.
The festivals of one community are celebrated with gaiety and fervor by the other religious community, solidifying the ethos of multiculturalism and pluralism. Kashmir represents the thread of the confluence of communal harmony and brotherhood. The communal harmony of the state is neither instant nor accidental, but is a legacy of the past times till date that has permeated the psyche of the people and created a bond of unity in the socio-cultural milieu of the valley.
The recent installation of a church bell in a church at Srinagar after a span of 50 years by the Christian community with the support of the Sikh, Muslim and Hindu communities is a reminder of communal harmony that is deep rooted in the cultural milieu of the state.
The annual Hindu pilgrimage of the Amarnath yatra is the biggest and ever glaring example of the amity where old and young, men and women, etc all are hospitably treated with care and concern by the native Muslims and even carried on their shoulders towards the sacred place of cave through the difficult terrains and ways enroute to the cave.
In the town of Seer Hamdan, Anantnag, the legal heir of a deceased hindu Pandit namely Arzan Nath is a Muslim man namely Nissar Ahmad Wagay. Long ago, through the oral history of the people, have heard of him serving the former during ups and downs of life. Arzan Nath was a govt employee with no one to look after. Nissar Ahmad served him through the turbulent times and offered heart-catching services, which even a true descendent, could not offer. Nissar used to accompany Arzan Nath through thick and thin times of life. Having personally observed, both of them used to pay the dusk obeisance at the shrine of Hazrat Shahi Hamdan (R.A.). At the time of his death, it was none other than Nissar who performed the last services to the deceased.
Another Hindu Pandit Shadi Lal in the same town is a hope for the hopeless patients who turn up in large numbers at his Ayurvedic shop. The most important trait of the said person is that he cares and heals the patients of the whole South Kashmir. In other words, he has turned out to be a savior of the whole community. Come dawn, the people could be seen in large flocks outside his shop. People respect him out of reverence and reciprocate in great regard. Recently, after suffering from body disease, the final remedy to my ailment surfaced only after i took the herbal medicine of the pandit gee.
The biggest obstacle and roadblock for the cherishment of the ideal of communal harmony in India is the fanaticism and extremism of fringe elements of the society. Since, all religions preach the message of peace and harmony, there can be no way to justify the claims of the demeaning and demoralizing of whatsoever religious community a society carries on. The biggest issue of the current and contemporary times is to contain the fringe elements of the society and let the people live in whatsoever capacity they live to carry on the cog in the wheel of the life.
The Few reasons in the path of communal harmony are:- Egoism, Lack of vision in Education, Lack of discipline, Lack of Cooperation, Social disorder, Casteism, Violence, Immorality ,Lack of faith in true religious values, deficit of good leadership, etc.
Education can be exploited as a powerful tool against these threats in the path of Communal Harmony. On his return from South Africa, Gandhiji envisioned for a unity among different communities of India and did his best in capacity for the realization of the same.
In order to realise the goal of communal harmony, peace is the main pre-requisite and a necessary condition. Disharmony creates the forces of disarray and disruption, rendering harmony handicapped and ultimately towards a state of paralysis. To promote the ethic of communal harmony, it is imperative for all the stakeholders of the society to play a part in particular and work in sync for the realization of the same in general.
Youth as a main driving force and an asset of a nation can be the best ambassadors of peace and communal harmony. The only way to achieve that goal is the proper education of the youth across the spectrum of education spanning the whole level of education. This way youth can learn to make communal harmony as a way of living, rather than ethic in simpler terms. Besides, the govt of the state as well as the centre have a shared responsibility to promote communal harmony further.
Although, some ground work has been done, but, there are still miles to go before we sleep. The need of the hour is the further promotion of the communal harmony in the society. The recent publication of ‘Living in Harmony’ books for school going children by Oxford University Press (OUP) in India to foster values of peace and cooperation is a good attempt.
Also, the Social media and yellow journalism of the mainland India should try to cherish the instances of communitarian love and amity in Jammu and Kashmir. Instead of fomenting trouble to earn TRP’s and portrayal of the news which creates wedge in the bond of the society, the main urge should be to plead the cases of injustices and show a solidarity for the same. The problem of binary has to do away with.
Today, when the world is envisioning for the state of annihilation of crisis, the crisis in Kashmir takes a major sway with each passing day. The gory tales of widows, half-widows and orphans who have been rendered so after the loss of their dear ones has permeated the society deeply and created a multidimensional layer of unwithering pain and sorrow and a state of unabated alienation of the masses.
The question is not of the otherness of the other, but, of oneself in tandem with the other. Not a single day is devoid of pain, agony, and other tragedies. The question is the question of order. The major onus lies on the representatives of the people who represent the masses which have been rendered heart-broken and empty hoped. Let the seers of politics take on. The answer to all the problems can be cherished in unity within the broader perspectives of the humane approach by which peace can return to a treacherous path within the domain of the whole society. Government in J&K should understand and circumvent in Toto and try to dive from the static deficit of governance to good governance. After all, time in consonance with care serves as the best cosset.
The feminist inspiration of Mona Lisa
This year marks the 500th anniversary of the death of the Italian genius, Leonardo da Vinci, who died on 02 May 1519. On this occasion, UNESCO highlights some of the comments concerning the origins of one of the most famous paintings in history: Was Mona Lisa painted in a feminist spirit?
The thesis of the American art lover William Varvel highlights the links between feminism and the painting. According to his findings, Mona Lisa would represent a figure in the fight for gender equality. Why? William Varvel insists on “the theological rights of women” claimed through the vision of the famous painting from the Renaissance Period. These rights are linked to the status of priests, which women do not have access to. Therefore, the painting representing Mona Lisa would have for true desiderata the possibility for the women to have access to the priesthood. William Varvel assures that “Mona Lisa is a kind of declaration for the rights of women”.
To support his argument, the author of The Lady Speaks: Uncovering the Secrets of the Mona Lisa explains how Leonardo hid clues in the painting: in total, not less than “40 symbols, taken from the 21 verses of the chapter 14 of the Book of the Prophet Zechariah” in the painting.
Therefore, there is a link between religion, the painting of the Italian master and his feminist commitment. It is precisely this link that William Varvel wishes to highlight in order to allow a reflection on the subject. A new definition of the place of Mona Lisa in the artworks from the Renaissance is necessary to apprehend the political and feminist scope of this masterpiece.
How UN cultural treasures helped set the stage for Game of Thrones
From King’s Landing to the Iron Bank, so many of the breath-taking backdrops seen on the smash hit Game of Thrones television series are available for future generations to enjoy, thanks to a key, but little-known role played by the United Nations cultural agency.
Established in 1945, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has worked to improve dialogue and understanding between civilizations, cultures and peoples. One of UNESCO’s methods of doing this is by designating and preserving World Heritage Sites, defined as having outstanding universal value to humanity, which it inscribes on the World Heritage List to be protected for posterity.
To date, there are 1,092 natural and cultural places inscribed. The diverse and unique treasures range from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to the Pyramids of Egypt and the Taj Mahal in India.
Since 2011 UNESCO’s work has become inseparable with the magnificent film locations of the wildly popular Game of Thrones series.
For those tuning in to the show’s final episodes, here’s a look back at the Seven Kingdoms with a nod to the UN cultural agency.
Capital of the Seven Kingdoms
Long before it became known as King’s Landing – one of the Seven Kingdoms and seat of the mighty Iron Throne – the old city of Dubrovnik in Croatia was an important Mediterranean seat of power from the 13th century onwards. Severely damaged by an earthquake in 1667 and by armed conflict in the 1990s, UNESCO is co-coordinating a major restoration programme.
Dubrovnik joined the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites in 1979.
Battle of the Blackwater
You may recall the fiery Battle of the Blackwater, or scenes where King Robert Baratheon rules from the Iron Throne in the Red Keep, overlooking Blackwater Bay: Fort Lovrijenac, outside the western wall of the Croatian city, actually played an important role in resisting Venetian rule in the 11th century.
Private retreat for House Martell
It is easy to see why Doran Martell called the Water Gardens of Dorne “my favourite place in this world”. Actually located in the heart of Seville, the Royal Palace of Alcázar is imbued with Moorish influences that date back from the Reconquest of 1248 to the 16th century. UNESCO points to it as “an exceptional testimony to the civilization of the Almohads as well as that of Christian Andalusia”.
UNESCO inscribed the Royal Palace of Alcázarin in 1987.
Daenerys’ journey through Essos
When you look at the Medina of Essaouira in Morocco, perhaps you can image The Khaleesi lining up The Unsullied eunuch slave-soldiers in the city of Astapor before renaming Slaver’s Bay, the Bay of Dragons. But for UNESCO, Essaouira is an exceptional example of a late-18th-century fortified town in North Africa. Since its creation, it has been a major international trading seaport, linking Morocco and its Saharan hinterland with Europe and the rest of the world.
The Medina of Essaouira joined the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites in 2001.
Yunkai: ‘A most disreputable place’
In the Yellow City, Daenerys’ language skills are useful with the Yunkai’i, who speak a dialect of High Valyrian. But in Berber, the village of Ait-Ben-Haddou was a popular caravan route long before current-day Morocco was established. The crowded together earthen buildings surrounded by high walls offer a view of a traditional pre-Saharan habitat.
Ait-Ben-Haddou was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Theon returns to Lordsport Harbour
County Antrim envelops UNESCO-designated Giant’s Causeway and Causeway coast. It is also home to the small fishing harbour of Ballintoy, known to fans as the port of Pyke, home to the Iron Islands of the Greyjoys. Located in real-life Northern Ireland, the Causeway consists of some 40,000 massive black volcanic rock columns sticking out of the sea. Over the last 300 years, geographical studies have greatly contributed to the development of the earth sciences.
The Causeway coast was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986.
Cersei’s ‘Walk of Shame’
The iconic scene in in which Cersei Lannister is forced to walk naked through the streets of King’s Landing began atop of the baroque Jesuit Staircase, which leads to the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola and Jesuit College in the UNESCO-desnigated Old City of Dubrovnik .
Kingslayer for gender equality
The connection between the United Nations and Game of Thrones does not end with UNESCO’s inspiring sites.
While Jaime Lannister is the twin brother of Cersei and slayer of the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, real-life actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Development Fund. Passionate about ending discrimination and violence against women, the father of two girls is focusing his considerable talents on drawing attention to critical issues, such as gender equality – encouraging everyone to be agents of change.
Mr. Coster-Waldau was appointed a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador in 2016.
Baku forum to push back against ‘rise of hate’ with strong call for cultural and religious tolerance
Just off a plane from Sri Lanka, Miguel Angel Moratinos, United Nations High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations (UNOAC), said on Wednesday that tomorrow’s 5th World Forum for Intercultural Dialogue is opening at a “very timely” moment.
Speaking in Baku, Azerbaijan, ahead of the UN-backed Forum, Mr. Moratinos told UN News about his “emotional visit” to Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, where he paid his respects to victims of the suicide bombings that took place on Easter Sunday which killed more than 250 people at churches and hotels across several cities.
“Sri Lanka has been an open country with different religions and cultures, and suddenly there was this massacre”, he said, adding that it had dealt a “tremendous blow to a country that is trying to live together in peace.”
While social intolerance is not new, Mr. Moratinos was concerned about what he called “the return of hate.”
“Hate is the word that mobilizes certain communities to destroy”, he said, adding: “It drives people past the point of not being able to live together to the direction of exterminating their opponents and that is very dangerous.”
“This Forum is important to send a strong message to the international community that it is possible to live together, that we can respect each other and that we have to better understand different cultures and religions,” he told UN News.
Complex situations need clarity
He said that as the world is becoming more complex and uncertain, a global strategy for intercultural dialogue is ever more important.
“Solutions sought through financial, military and political means take a simplistic view”, he stated, noting that sustainable solutions require a social-cultural approach that digs deep into the roots of different societies to bring clarity.
“Unless you understand the mentality of your neighbor, the history of an issue, how you come to this situation, what the consequences are and the relationship is, it is very difficult to find sustainable solutions,” he maintained.
The High Representative is taking up this approach wholeheartedly, using it as a new tool “to explore and develop in the near future”.
Mr. Moratinos also spoke about the message of interfaith dialogue and tolerance on which both the Grand Imam of Al Azhar and the Pope agreed.
He said the historic declaration that Al Azhar and the Vatican had produced was about “brotherhood, mutual understanding and overcoming past controversies to look toward the future”.
“And it is not only between Islam and the Catholic Church, they want to go larger, to ask other religious faiths to join them”, he said, noting that is provides “a good basis for discussion and for interreligious dialogue”.
Turning to the global plan of action to safeguard religious sites – a fresh mandate given to UNAOC last month by UN chief António Guterres in the wake of the horrific mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques – Mr. Moratinos told UN News that while working on the draft, his Officer was “shocked by what happened in Sri Lanka”, stressing that those attacks further demonstrated the urgency of developing a plan.
He detailed some of the work his team is doing to this end, such as in Sri Lanka, where they reached out to the Congress of Religions and “went into specific elements”, including on how national legislation should be adapted “to meet new challenges” and the work needed to “put an end to social networks of hate and discrimination”.
The High Representative shared his hope that by end-July a draft plan should be ready for adoption and implementation.
The 5th World Forum, which will open in Baku tomorrow, 2 May and through Friday, will examine the critical role of intercultural dialogue as an actionable strategy for building human solidarity and helping localities counter the violence and discrimination in diverse communities.
Running under the theme Building dialogue into action against discrimination, inequality and violent conflict, the Forum will also host the 2nd High Level Panel of the Heads of International Organizations and the Ministerial Panel, in order to build synergy and partnership among political, economic, financial, military, humanitarian and social organizations along with other stakeholders to elaborate a common roadmap for assisting public, private and third sector organizations in building inclusive and sustainable societies through promoting intercultural dialogue and human dignity.
The Government of Azerbaijan, in partnership with the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UNAOC, the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the Council of Europe and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) is the host of the Forum.
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