Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday made a strong case for religious freedom in the world, stressing that radical elements trying to force their own ideologies on others gave rise to conflicts.
The Prime Minister’s comments come in the backdrop of growing religious and cultural intolerance in the world, highlighted by violent acts of fanatical groups like the Islamic State.
Modi was speaking at the concluding function of a Hindu-Buddhist conclave on ‘conflict avoidance’ which was attended by delegates from nearly 50 countries.
“On the issue of conflicts, most of which are driven by religious intolerance, participants have agreed that while there is no problem about the freedom to practice one’s religion, it is when radical elements try to force their own ideologies on others that the potential for conflict arises,” Modi said.
He also quoted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, one of his closest friends among all world leaders, “who the other day highlighted the importance of tolerance.”
Before addressing the conclave, Modi offered prayers at the Mahabodhi Temple, the holiest shrine of the Buddhist community targeted by Islamic terrorists in July 2013.
The temple complex houses the ‘holy bodhi tree’ under which Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. This was Modi’s first visit as Prime Minister to Bodh Gaya, about 110 km from capital Patna.
Modi described Buddha “as great preacher of equality” and said the country could also be termed as ‘Buddhist India’ because of the religion’s influence in shaping the nation’s socio-religious character.
He also announced that Bodh Gaya, a Unesco World Heritage site, would be developed as a spiritual hub of the Buddhist world to strengthen the bonds between India and the Buddhist nations.