I was, and am a great believer in religious tolerance. I recently had the experience of attending an Easter celebration with one of my Christian friends. People were seated outside the church and a pastor was talking about goodness, sin and everything related to Christianity in general. Though I did find the sermon rather irritating, I was determined to put up my brightest smile and demeanor, to make sure my friend doesn't get offended or anything. And she wasn't. After a while, she herself admitted it was getting too boring and suggested we take a look around the church. After that, we settled to have a cordial chat with each other and when it was time to say good-bye, she gave me a book. It was written by the pastor who had been giving the sermon that day. He wrote about how he was once an ardent worshiper of the Hindu idols, how he had read all the important scriptures and how he had hated Christianity and Christians at first.
In it, the pastor had said that his son had fallen sick and when all his Hindu gods had let him down, it was Jesus Christ who came to his rescue in the form of a few priests. They had prayed for the son with utmost faith and the son had recovered from his illness, with the help of Jesus Christ's grace. I read till the son got alright and closed the book. The rest was about how truly wonderful Jesus Christ was [or that's what I think it was about].
After closing the book, I began to think. Why did my friend give this book to me? Maybe everyone who attended the Easter function had been given one. But then, why were all the guests given this book? To convert them to Christianity? As I thought about this, I couldn't help expressing a small smile. No, maybe to just let people know about the greatness of Jesus Christ. Somehow, this explanation didn't seem to fit. So I was inclined to think of the first reason as the truth. And then my smile became a chuckle, then a soft laugh.
There were a lot of reasons why I felt the situation amusing. Firstly, I couldn't imagine how the pastor could have hated Christianity, despite having read the Bhagavad Gita or any other Hindu scriptures. I haven't read the Koran, I haven't read the Bible. But yes, I have read the Gita and know for a fact that it preaches religious tolerance very clearly. Secondly, how could the pastor have lost faith in his God after having read the Mahabharata, where the most devoted Pandavas suffer more than the Kauravas, yet retaining their faith. Thirdly, if people want me to believe in Jesus Christ, they are wasting their time, 'Cause I already believe in him :)). I believe in Jesus, Allah, Krishna, Mahavira, Buddha and every one of them. Because I believe the truth, that all Gods are one. Changing their name doesn't change them.
All religions speak about one thing: Love. Forgetting that, would be like forgetting our religions. From http://statements.bahai.org/95-0110.htm:
The Old Testament enjoins: "thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself"(Lev. 19:18). The Bhagavad-Gita (12:13) instructs: "A man should not hate any living creature. Let him be friendly and compassionate to all." These words sound not so different from "love your enemies, bless them that curse you" as uttered by Jesus (Matthew 5:44). Compassion, loving-kindness, sympathetic joy, and equanimity are said by Buddhist scriptures to be divine conditions of the mind. "Do you love your creator? Love your fellow-beings first," reads a well-known Islamic tradition. And Bahá'u'lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith writes: "ye were created to show love to one another and not perversity and rancour. Take pride not in love for yourselves but in love for all mankind" (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, 136).
India could be so much more than what it is now, if we hadn't forgotten what our religions really wanted to teach us. There have been numerous riots, killings, etc. due to religious intolerance. The Gujarat riots (2002) are one of the numerous incidents which have been cause because of this hatred to other religions. Even the partition of India has its roots there.