Religion contributes to nation building and creating caring society - PM

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe addressing the Venerable members of the Sangha, members of the Hindu, Islamic and Christian clergy at the Inter Religious Symposium held on Monday at the BMICH said:

"It gives me great pleasure to be here with you all when discussing the value of religion, the role of religion and how it contributes to building a nation and creating a caring society. That is in a sense what all governments hope to do and very few succeed.

It cannot be done by legislation. It cannot be done by administrative action. There is another aspect that we sometimes forget. That is the spiritual aspect. The Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation in Sri Lanka has thought to focus on this important aspect. As a service organisation they had done lots of work here and I need not repeat them. When they came and invited me and my wife to attend this occasion, we thought that this is the least that we could do. I myself had the opportunity of meeting the Bhagavan and having Dharshan. If I am to describe that in few words I would say that each of those occasions had been a source of strength and of guidance to me. In return, I thought I should come here today to say a few words to all of you who are assembled here.

I wouldn't go into details as to the topic as it is best left to be described by you all. In the few meetings I had with the Bhagavan, I have found his strength and also the ability to distil the essence of each religion and preach to us on what is common and what is good. Some may think that is very easy task to do. But for me and for many others it is one of most difficult tasks in the world. This is what Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has been able to and spread a message not only in India, not only in surrounding areas but throughout the world. We have to recognise the contribution the Bhagavan has made toward the spiritual progress of the 20th and the 21st century. The religions that we discuss today were all preached in a period of about two-and-a-half millenniums. That is 2,500 years. In the history of mankind which can be traced back to over a hundred thousand or more this is a very, very short period. Most of the religions we practise or adhere today were preached within this period. It doesn't mean that there were no beliefs and worships earlier. But, certainly there had been and from time immemorial people have worshipped various elements and various beings.

The first time there has been reference to one single God was about 3,000 years ago when one Egyptian decided to change the nature of all worships in some areas of Egypt and by himself decreed that there shall be only one God to be worshipped. But that practice did not last very long after his death. Fourteen centuries before the birth of Christ, as we now turn our calendars, for Moses leading his tribe, back to the promised land and hence become the beginning of Judaism. In that period or little earlier was the start of the Hindu religion which as you know was preached and practiced over a long period of time. Six or seven hundred years before the birth of Christ was another burst of religious and spiritual activity. This happened in Persia and then India where Mahaveer, Gauthama the Budha and many others preached their doctrines. I think in that short period there was more spiritual development than in any other period in the human history. The Indian Sub-continent was the centre of all that spiritual activity. From hence we had Jesus Christ preaching in Palestine, and then the words of the Holy Prophet, the basis of Islam. Religions we know were preached, practiced and organized in the religious bodies with their clergy within this Period.

That is the age of spiritual development. When look back at this period, some would look at each of these doctrines and religions as standing by itself. But some would see a connection. When that doctrine was preached and discussed and from that came further discussions and from that evolved other religions. Sometimes in answering some of the questions which the latter religious preachers thought had not been properly addressed by the earlier religions. If you look at from religion to religion you could see the issues being raised and different answers. And this is commonality of all religions.

What the Bhagavan has done in my view is to identify the universal principles on which all religions are built. That is what is most important to us. After the age of spiritual progress we have progressed in another field, materialism. There also the world progressed. We made scientific discoveries, we created empires, we developed trade, works of art unheard of earlier, dance, music and here is a 21st century world.

All this would not have been possible if not for the material progress that has been made after 600 A.D. That is nearly for fourteen centuries. When we look at the progress, we look at the wealth, we look at the knowledge, the scientific development. What is lacking is the spiritual values to utilize this wealth, this knowledge and this power. It is like any instrument which can be used for the good or for the bad. It is finally what we are, it determines what society will be. It is that gap that has to be filled. When we departed from the basic tenants of founders of our religion we even use religion to fight each other. Religion had become a basis of hatred, not of love.

What is happening now is the re-discovery of those spiritual values, of the human values that are essential for society. That for me is the contribution the Bhagavan has made today to the world. Look at what was said, look at the essence of it and it reminds us how much more it is needed in today's world than when it was preached. There was no gunpowder found, there were no guns, there were no atomic bombs, there were no rockets, there were no telephones, all that was not there. Today's world would require religions more than the time in which the great religious leaders lived and preached.

What you all are discussing today, within the auspices of this regional secretariat is how to utilise that knowledge here. At the end of these discussions you would have better understanding of each other and of the common human values. That is essential for building a national and creating a caring society. I am not an expert on these matters. But I thought I should highlight the contribution the Bhagavan had made to the 20th and 21st centuries and in fostering these ideas so we can ensure that we create a caring society and a nation that is united with human values", the Prime Minister said in conclusion.