Malappuram: Against the backdrop of debate over intolerance, Vice President Hamid Ansari on Tuesday said tolerance is a pragmatic formula for functioning of a conflict-free society and made a strong pitch for inter-faith dialogue to remove misunderstanding.
Accepting and understanding of religions along with tolerance was necessary to build an inclusive and pluralistic society, Ansari said, inaugurating an Inter-faith Conference in Malappuram.
"Tolerance is a pragmatic formula for the functioning of the society without conflict between different religions, political ideologies, nationalities, ethnic groups, or other us-versus-them divisions," he said.
Stating that tolerance is a virtue and freedom from bigotry, he said, "It is a version of the golden rule in that, as we want others to treat us decently, we need to treat them decently as well."
He said that both the law and the public life in India promote and endorse religious tolerance. "Yet, tolerance alone is not a strong enough foundation for building an inclusive and pluralistic society. It must be coupled with acceptance and understanding," he said.
Ansari said the institutions of the state are expected to ensure that the principle of secularism is observed in letter and spirit in public life.
He said the country has been home to all great religions of the world, adding, "Our society has, for centuries, provided a unique social and intellectual environment in which many distinct religions have not only co-existed peacefully but have also enriched each other."
"The Constitution lays down that the conduct of the state shall be governed by the principle of secularism, that the state action must be determined by fairness, non-partisanship and impartiality," he said.
"The state shall treat all religions in the country with equal respect, that it shall not privilege one religion or community over others," he said.
Quoting Swami Vivekananda, Ansari said, "We must not only tolerate other religions, but positively embrace them, as truth is the basis of all religions."
On the significance of dialogues among religions, he said, "Dialogue removes misunderstanding and promotes empathy and understanding. And in this crucial task, inter-faith dialogue plays an important role."
Mentioning Kerala's long tradition of religious pluralism, the Vice President said, "It is a state that has the oldest traditions of Islam and Christianity in India and is known for the relative harmony that exists between the various religious groups."
State ministers PK Kunhalikutty and MK Muneer and MP Shashi Tharoor were among those who attended the conference.