08/31/2018, 13.43
INDIA
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Kerala, the 'God's own country' where harmony between religions reigns

by Biju Veticad

During the recent flood the population became the protagonist of gestures of solidarity, regardless of religious affiliation. "Harmony existed in the culture of the state well before the water came to the first floor of the houses".

Changanacherry (AsiaNews) - Since the 1980s Kerala has been known as “God's Own Country”.  Of course it was a promotional stunt by Kerala Tourism Department.  Of course, Kerala has been the dream destination form many tourists from all other states in India as well as from West.

I have been personally questioning, if Kerala is God’s own Country only due to its nature’s beauty.  For me, it has much more intrinsic value in it.  All have witnessed it during Kerala’s tragic flood disaster which hit the state during mid-August.  For me the harmony that people enjoy in this state makes it God's own Country in India.  20 years back, when I had been to Italy for the first time, Italians used to ask  me three questions.  It continued for more than a year, whenever I meet someone with whom I had something to do.  I used to get irritated of the third question: What is your name, How old are you and which religion you belong to. 

Since childhood we were taught not to ask directly about others’ religion.  This is for two reasons: Primarily we do live in multi-religious atmosphere and such a question would create  discriminating atmosphere between persons. 

Secondly, from primary schooling itself we are able to understand others’ religion from their names (90% cases).  Of course, after a year, I got accustomed to the questions of Italians.   Yes, this peculiar cultural and religious harmony between all religions in Kerala, helped us always to respect each other, to love each other and to live peacefully.  Hinduism is Polytheistic religion whereas Christianity and Islam are Monotheistic. 

For Keralites, the belief of other religions are not a barrier to reach the other, but they were the ways to celebrate together, due to the religious festivities.  I still remember, since childhood when we used to go in Procession on the roads during our Parish Feast or during the Way of the Cross on Good Fridays, all the Hindu families who live on roadside light the lamps in respect of us.  In turn when during Hindu processions get across Christian churches, our Parish priests do give respect to them.  These are simple gestures, but with great values.  I think, such a harmonious way of living together can only be seen in Kerala.  Mutual respect come from education.. and education is gained where one lives. 

Again for this, Kerala stands unique among all other states in India. The main reason why Kerala stands apart is that it has the highest literacy rate (of both male and female) in India. The people live life as a cooperating society where religion, gender, or social status have failed to create tensions among those in a society. The public have a better say in political issues and education is of supreme importance to all families as it is considered as the key to successful living. Kerala has the highest human development index and the health sector is one of the best in India. People live a happy and peaceful life irrespective of their income.  I don’t say that Kerala is perfect. But it could be a model of how to keep multi-ethnic and multi-religious communities stable in the long term.

Back in the summer of 2015, the heart of a Hindu man was transported across Kerala for a Christian patient in dire need of a new one. Funds were raised by a Muslim businessman to pay for the operation, which was performed by the state’s top heart surgeon: a Christian. The entire state became engrossed as the story unfolded.   

So, communal harmony did not blossom just as water rose up to the first floor of our houses during flood, but it existed in the culture of Kerala.  We do believe that real faith does not bring hinders in judging what others follow in creed or what others consume, but it paves way to extend our hand to shorten the distances especially when others are in difficulty. 

All of India, may be the whole world witnessed, the Mallus (this is how we are called due to our language Malayalam) involved in rescue operations during the recent flood:  3000 fishermen sailed their small boats on the roads of Kerala, Youth coordinated relief centres, local people accompanied Military and Police men, film actors rushed to aid, doctors extended medical assistances, music artists conducted concerts during the evenings at relief centres and those who had spaces welcomed the unknown in their own houses.

That’s the beauty of Kerala.  And we did it without knowing who the other was.

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