The Acrimonious and Targeted Destruction of Houses of God: Climax of Religiophobia

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 12 Jun 2023

Prof Hoosen Vawda – TRANSCEND Media Service

Parental guidance is recommended for minors

The targeted vandalisation, demolition, destruction and repurposing of existing religious structures is the final outcome of a total loss of spirituality; humans have reached an abysmal state in their social evolution, defying all norms of civilisation and culture acquired over millennia by humanoids.[1]

Spirituality is not only destroyed, but totally non-existent, as shown in this picture of a Hindu Temple destroyed by the perpetrators of this heinous action.
Total, retaliatory destruction of a Hindu Temple by Islamic Extremists in Karachi Pakistan.  Note the vandalised statues and pictures of Hindu deities.
The mourning of the disaster, by an elderly devotee, struck with grief.

Religion has played a significant role in shaping societies throughout human history, providing moral and ethical guidance, promoting unity, and offering a sense of purpose and belonging. While religions have often been a force for peace and harmony, there are instances where they have also contributed to conflicts and disruptions within societies. This paper explores how religions, despite their noble intentions, can inadvertently lead to peace disruption by examining factors such as religious exclusivity, Religions structures and different places of worship, doctrinal differences, politicisation of religion, and historical conflicts. By understanding these dynamics, societies can strive to mitigate the negative consequences of religious divisions and foster greater peace and understanding.   The emergence of religion and associated beliefs, from the Neanderthals[2] has been highlighted by the discovery of early burial site by paleoanthropologist, Professor Lee Burger from the University of the Witwatersrand[3], an alma mater of the author, in South Africa.  This shows that there was some degree of spirituality[4] and religious inclination of our early ancestors, a fact now confirmed by the discovery, but previously disputed by various scientific groups.

Religion is a deeply personal and subjective belief system that influences the lives of billions of people worldwide. Its teachings and practices provide a moral compass and a framework for understanding the world. Religions have the potential to create social cohesion, promote compassion, and encourage individuals to lead virtuous lives. However, throughout history, religious differences have also been a source of tension, conflict, and even war. This paper aims to examine how religions can inadvertently disrupt peace in society by analysing various contributing factors such as:

  1. Historical Conflicts: Past conflicts based on religious differences can leave deep scars on societies and perpetuate cycles of violence and animosity. The historical memory of religious wars, such as the Crusades[5], the Spanish Inquisition[6], or the Israeli-Palestinian [7],[8] conflict, can fuel present-day conflicts and create a legacy of distrust between religious communities. Inter-generational trauma and narratives of victimhood can impede reconciliation efforts and perpetuate cycles of violence.
  2. Misinterpretation and Extremism: Religious texts and teachings are open to interpretation, and in some cases, individuals or groups may distort or manipulate religious doctrines to justify acts of violence or discrimination. Extremist ideologies can emerge, advocating for the superiority of one’s religious group and the suppression or elimination of others. These radical interpretations, often at odds with mainstream religious teachings, can become drivers of conflict and pose a threat to peace and stability. While religions can be a source of peace disruption, they also have the potential to contribute to peacebuilding efforts, promoting peaceful coexistence, Interfaith dialogue, religious tolerance, and the promotion of shared values can bridge divides and foster mutual understanding among different religious communities. Moreover, religious leaders can play a crucial role in advocating for peace, promoting social justice, and addressing the root causes of conflicts.

Another complicating factor was the role of early missionaries, in causing peace disruption while spreading religious doctrines to the heathens and Pagans[9] in the East and West was a complex and multifaceted one. While missionaries aimed to bring their religious beliefs and practices to new regions, their interactions with indigenous cultures often led to tensions, conflicts, and disruptions within societies. It is necessary, as a background, to explore the historical context and the impact of early missionaries on peace and stability in different regions;

  1. Historical Context: During the expansion of major world religions, such as Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism, missionaries were dispatched to spread their respective faiths to new territories. In the West, the spread of Christianity through Roman Catholic [10]and Protestant missionaries [11] led to encounters with indigenous peoples in the Americas, Africa, and Oceania[12]. In the East, Buddhist and Islamic missionaries[13] ventured to regions like Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. These encounters brought together different religious, cultural, and social systems, often resulting in clashes and disruptions.
  2. Cultural and Religious Clashes: The arrival of missionaries often represented a clash of cultures and worldviews. The indigenous populations, who had their own belief systems and cultural practices, were viewed as “heathens” or “pagans” by the missionaries. This perception of the “other” as inferior or misguided fuelled a sense of religious superiority among the missionaries, leading to attempts at conversion and the suppression of indigenous practices. The imposition of foreign religious doctrines and the denigration of local customs and beliefs often resulted in social upheaval and conflicts within societies.
  3. Loss of Cultural Identity: Missionary activities frequently brought about a loss of cultural identity among indigenous populations. The suppression or demonization of traditional practices, rituals, and beliefs led to a rupture in social cohesion and a sense of displacement among the converted communities. The eradication of local languages, customs, and social structures resulted in a loss of cultural heritage, which, in turn, created a sense of resentment and resistance towards the proselytizing missionaries.
  4. Social Disruption: The arrival of missionaries and the subsequent conversion efforts disrupted social structures within indigenous societies. Conversion often created divisions within families, communities, and even entire regions. Conflicts arose between those who embraced the new religion and those who clung to their traditional beliefs. This fragmentation of social unity and the loss of common cultural reference points led to social instability and tensions that could persist for generations.
  5. Political Exploitation: The involvement of missionaries in political matters further exacerbated peace disruption. In some cases, colonial powers utilised missionaries as agents of cultural assimilation and control. Missionaries became instruments of colonial expansion, serving both religious and political interests. This collusion between religious and political powers led to the marginalization, exploitation, and subjugation of indigenous populations. The perception of missionaries as enforcers of foreign rule and cultural imperialism fuelled resistance movements and armed conflicts.
  6. Resistance and Reinterpretation: While the spread of religious doctrines by missionaries caused disruptions, it also inspired resistance and reinterpretation of indigenous traditions. Indigenous peoples often resisted conversion efforts, either by openly rejecting the new religion or by adopting syncretic practices that blended elements of their traditional beliefs with those introduced by the missionaries. These forms of resistance allowed for the preservation of cultural identity and the emergence of unique religious syntheses.

It is true that in some instances, missionaries were dispatched with the underlying goal of colonization and expropriation of indigenous lands. Historical records show that in certain periods of colonial expansion, missionaries were closely linked to imperial powers and served as agents of cultural assimilation and control. This allowed colonial powers to extend their influence, exploit resources, and establish political dominance over indigenous populations. The connection between missionaries and colonial powers was evident in various regions, such as the Americas, Africa, and parts of Asia. Missionaries often arrived alongside colonial expeditions, and their activities were supported by colonial administrations. The spread of Christianity was viewed as a means to justify and legitimize the colonization process, as it was seen as a way to “civilize” or “enlighten” the indigenous populations. In some cases, missionaries actively participated in land expropriation, often through coercive or fraudulent means. They played a role in dispossessing indigenous peoples of their ancestral lands, either directly or indirectly. By establishing mission stations or settlements, missionaries became part of the colonial apparatus, facilitating the expansion of colonial control and economic However, it is important to note that missionaries sometimes acquired land through various means, including donations, grants, or purchase, which could indirectly contribute to the displacement of indigenous peoples. Additionally, the presence of missionaries and their activities could be intertwined with broader colonial efforts that resulted in land expropriation.

One example that can be cited is the expansion of European colonies in North America[14]. As settlers moved westward, Christian missionaries accompanied them, establishing mission stations and schools. The acquisition of land for these mission stations sometimes involved displacing indigenous communities, as settlers and missionaries sought to establish a physical presence on indigenous territories.

Another example is the colonization of Africa[15]. Missionaries played a role in the establishment of Christian missions across the continent during the era of European colonialism. As European powers colonized African territories, missionaries often collaborated with colonial administrations, acquiring land for their missions as part of the larger colonial project. This land acquisition process, while not directly initiated by missionaries, was part of the broader colonial strategy that resulted in the expropriation of indigenous lands and exploitation.

The indigenous populations, also termed “The First Nations”, [16]in a particular country or region, began to construct the “Religious Structures” as places of worship, such as temples, churches, synagogues, mosques, pagodas, etc., from ancient times, to the present day, globally, in each of the main, different religions, which resulted in significant Peace Disruption with the invading colonisers.  An overview of some significant religious structures and their historical contexts, in antiquity, highlighting instances where they have been associated with peace disruption, needs to be contextualised.  However, the following is not an exhaustive list, and there are numerous other examples throughout history.

  1. Ancient Egyptian Temples[17]: Ancient Egyptian temples, such as the Great Temple of Amun at Karnak and the Temple of Luxor, played significant roles in the religious and political life of ancient Egypt. While these temples were primarily centres of worship and served as symbols of power and authority, conflicts arose when religious rivalries led to power struggles and wars between different pharaohs and priesthoods.
  2. Ancient Greek Temples[18]: Temples in ancient Greece, such as the Parthenon in Athens and the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, were centers of worship and gathering. However, tensions and conflicts often arose in ancient Greece due to religious rivalries between different city-states and their patron deities, leading to wars and disruptions in peace.
  3. Roman Catholic Churches[19]: Throughout history, Roman Catholic churches have been associated with both peace and disruption. The Crusades, initiated by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, aimed to recapture the Holy Land from Muslim control, resulting in prolonged conflicts and violence. Similarly, during the Protestant Reformation, tensions between Catholics and Protestants led to religious wars and disruptions across Europe.
  4. Orthodox Christian Churches[20]: Orthodox Christian churches, such as the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, have witnessed conflicts and disruptions. The conversion of Constantinople (now Istanbul) from a Byzantine Christian city to an Ottoman Muslim city in 1453 led to tensions and conflicts between different religious communities in the region.
  5. Islamic Mosques: Mosques, such as the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem [21]and the Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq[22], have been at the center of religious and political disputes. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for example, has often involved clashes and tensions surrounding control and access to religious sites, including mosques.
  6. Hindu Temples: Hindu temples, such as the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi site [23]in Ayodhya, India, have been the source of significant religious and political conflicts. The demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992[24], followed by communal violence, exemplifies how disputes over religious structures can lead to disruptions in peace and societal harmony.
  7. Buddhist Pagodas: Buddhist pagodas, such as the Shwedagon Pagoda[25] in Myanmar, have been important religious and cultural symbols. In recent years, conflicts between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar[26] have caused widespread violence and displacements, with religious structures becoming focal points of tensions.
  8. Jewish Synagogues: Synagogues, such as the Western Wall in Jerusalem[27], have been at the centre of religious and political disputes. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has seen numerous incidents of violence and disruptions surrounding access and control of religious structures, including synagogues.

The main causes of the Peace Disruption for these religious structures, viz the architecture, the worshippers call, like church bells or the azan by the muezzin[28],[29] or the burning of clay lamps, the chanting of mantras or the fear of another religion. The problem is analogous to the case of Islamophobia and its equivalents, amongst the different communities experiencing these different religious phenomena and becoming subsequently, affected.  However, some key causes related to religious structures are:

  1. Religious Rivalries and Doctrinal Differences: Conflicts often arise when different religious communities perceive each other as threats or rivals due to differing beliefs, doctrines, or religious practices. These differences can lead to tensions and animosity, as each group asserts its religious identity and seeks to maintain dominance or control over religious structures.
  2. Political and Territorial Disputes: Religious structures often become contested sites in regions where political and territorial conflicts are intertwined with religious identity. The struggle for control or ownership of religious sites can intensify existing conflicts and disrupt peace. Such disputes may be fuelled by historical grievances, nationalistic aspirations, or struggles over resources and power.
  3. Symbolic Significance and Identity: Religious structures hold deep symbolic significance for communities, representing their religious and cultural identity. When different groups claim the same religious site or when one group attempts to alter or modify a religious structure, it can lead to feelings of anger, resentment, and fear among affected communities. Disruptions arise as a result of efforts to protect or assert one’s religious or cultural identity.
  4. Interfaith or Sectarian Tensions[30]: Within a particular religious tradition, divisions can emerge along sectarian or denominational lines, leading to tensions and conflicts related to religious structures. Competing claims and differing practices among different sects or denominations can create animosity and disrupt peace. Additionally, interfaith tensions between different religious groups can escalate conflicts related to religious structures.
  5. Historical Narratives and Collective Memory[31]: The historical memory and narratives surrounding religious structures can contribute to peace disruptions. Past conflicts, conquests, or acts of violence associated with religious structures may be passed down through generations, perpetuating animosity and serving as a basis for continued tensions and conflicts.
  6. Socioeconomic Factors: Religious structures can also become focal points for socioeconomic disparities or grievances. Economic disparities between religious communities, perceived inequalities in access to resources or opportunities associated with religious structures, or socioeconomic tensions exacerbated by religious divisions can contribute to peace disruptions.
  7. Political Exploitation and Manipulation: Political actors may exploit religious structures and sentiments for their own gain, exacerbating tensions and conflicts. Manipulating religious symbols, using religious rhetoric, or mobilizing religious communities for political purposes can escalate disputes surrounding religious structures.

Islamophobia[32] and equivalents for other religions can certainly play a role in generating peace disruption. Islamophobia refers to prejudice, discrimination, or hostility directed towards Islam and Muslims. Similarly, other religions may also face discrimination, prejudice, or persecution based on their beliefs or practices. Some ways in which Islamophobia and equivalent forms of religious prejudice can contribute to peace disruption:

  1. Hate Crimes [33]and Violence: Islamophobic attitudes can manifest in hate crimes and acts of violence against Muslims or individuals perceived to be Muslim. These attacks on religious communities can lead to fear, insecurity, and a breakdown of social harmony, ultimately disrupting peace within a society.
  2. Marginalisation and Discrimination: Islamophobia and religious prejudice can result in the marginalization and discrimination of individuals or communities based on their religious beliefs. Discriminatory policies, social exclusion, or institutional biases can create divisions and contribute to social unrest and conflict.
  3. Polarisation and Divisions: Religious prejudice can fuel polarization and deepen divisions between religious communities. Negative stereotypes, misinformation, and stigmatization can erode trust and understanding between different religious groups, leading to tensions and conflicts.
  4. Political Exploitation: Islamophobia and religious prejudice can be exploited by political actors for their own agendas. By scapegoating religious minorities or using divisive rhetoric, politicians can stoke fear, incite hostility, and generate social unrest, disrupting peace in society.
  5. Backlash and Radicalisation: Discrimination and prejudice can lead to feelings of injustice, anger, and marginalization among affected communities. In some cases, this can result in a backlash and radicalization, as individuals or groups may resort to violence or extremist ideologies in response to perceived persecution or discrimination.
  6. Social Cohesion and Integration: Religious prejudice can hinder social cohesion and integration within diverse societies. When individuals or communities face discrimination or are treated as “other,” it becomes challenging to foster a sense of unity and cooperation, leading to potential peace disruptions.

Anti-Semitism[34] refers to prejudice, discrimination, or hostility directed towards Jews based on their religious or ethnic background. It has a long history and has manifested in various forms, including verbal attacks, physical violence, and discriminatory policies. Anti-Semitism can contribute to peace disruption by creating divisions, fostering hatred, and promoting social unrest.

Hinduphobia[35] is a term used to describe prejudice, discrimination, or hostility towards Hinduism and Hindus. It refers to biased attitudes or actions that target Hindus based on their religious beliefs, practices, or cultural identity. Hinduphobia can contribute to peace disruption by fuelling social tensions, hindering social cohesion, and undermining peaceful coexistence.

These terms highlight the specific challenges faced by these religions in relation to prejudice and discrimination. It is important to address and counter these forms of religious prejudice to foster understanding, respect, and peaceful coexistence among diverse religious communities.  The end result is often destruction of the property of the different religious counterpart or more seriously, mass shooting as witnessed globally, outside synagogues and mosques, killings and injuring a multitude of respective believers, in the process.

If humans destroy places of worship, then their spirituality is lost” emphasises the profound impact that the destruction of places of worship can have on the spiritual and religious experiences of individuals and communities:

  1. Sacredness of Places of Worship[36]: Places of worship hold immense significance in religious and spiritual traditions. They are considered sacred spaces where individuals come together to connect with the divine, seek solace, find inner peace, and engage in communal worship and rituals. These spaces often embody the history, symbolism, and collective faith of a particular religious community.
  2. Spiritual Connection: Places of worship serve as focal points for spiritual practices, offering a tangible and dedicated environment for individuals to express their devotion and cultivate their spiritual connection. They provide a sense of sanctuary, where believers can experience a deep connection with the divine, find inspiration, and engage in rituals and prayers that nourish their spiritual growth.
  3. Community Bonding[37]: Religious spaces also foster a sense of community and shared identity. They serve as gathering places where individuals from the same faith tradition come together to celebrate religious festivals, participate in ceremonies, and engage in acts of service and charity. These communal activities strengthen social bonds, promote unity, and provide a sense of belonging.
  4. Symbolic Representation[38]: Places of worship often embody the essence of religious beliefs and teachings. Their architectural design, sacred art, and religious symbols visually represent the core tenets and values of a particular faith. The physical structure itself becomes a symbol of spiritual devotion, reminding believers of their religious heritage and inspiring them to live in accordance with their faith’s teachings.
  5. Loss of Spiritual Connection[39]: This causes spiritual depression. When places of worship are destroyed, whether intentionally or as a result of conflict, natural disasters, or social upheaval, it can lead to a profound loss of spiritual connection. Individuals and communities may experience a sense of grief, displacement, and disruption in their religious practices. The destruction of a sacred space disrupts the established rhythms of worship, breaks the continuity of rituals, and diminishes the physical embodiment of shared faith.
  6. Impact on Collective Identity[40]: The destruction of a place of worship also affects the collective identity of a religious community. It can instil a sense of insecurity, injustice, and loss, fuelling intergroup tensions and animosity. The absence of a sacred space may create a void that is challenging to fill, and the loss of a physical anchor can have long-lasting psychological and emotional effects on individuals and their sense of belonging.

The destruction of places of worship represents a significant loss for individuals and communities in terms of their spiritual connection, communal bonding, and symbolic representation of their faith. It disrupts the spiritual practices, cultural heritage, and shared identity that these sacred spaces embody. Preserving and respecting places of worship is vital for nurturing spirituality, fostering interfaith harmony, and upholding the rich tapestry of religious diversity in societies.

The concept of the hallowed precincts refers to the sacred or consecrated grounds on which a place of worship, such as a temple, mosque, church, or synagogue, once stood. It represents the specific area or space that holds religious significance and is regarded as sacred by the followers of that particular faith. The hallowed precincts are considered holy and revered, often believed to be imbued with spiritual energy or divine presence. They are treated with utmost respect and are considered sanctified by the religious practices, rituals, and prayers that took place within the boundaries of the place of worship.

The destruction or desecration of the hallowed precincts can be deeply distressing and provoke strong emotional reactions within the community that holds the site sacred. Such acts can be perceived as an affront to the religious sentiments, beliefs, and cultural heritage of the affected community. The violation of these sacred grounds can be interpreted as an attack on the community’s religious identity and can ignite intercommunal sectarian violence, particularly in a village community where religious and communal ties are often closely intertwined.

The destruction of hallowed precincts can trigger a cycle of violence, as it is often perceived as an act of aggression, disrespect, or provocation by the affected community. This can lead to retaliatory actions, communal tensions, and clashes between different religious groups. The sentiments of anger, frustration, and a desire for retribution can escalate quickly, resulting in intercommunal sectarian violence that further deepens the divide between communities.

In a village community, where interpersonal relationships and social cohesion play a significant role, the destruction of hallowed precincts can have a profound impact. The violation of sacred spaces can shatter the trust and harmony that existed among different religious communities, leading to long-lasting divisions, animosity, and a breakdown of peaceful coexistence.

It is important to note that the causes of intercommunal sectarian violence are multifaceted and can arise from a combination of factors such as political tensions, historical grievances, economic disparities, identity politics, and communal propaganda. The destruction of hallowed precincts, while a significant trigger, is often just one element in a complex web of interrelated causes.

Efforts to prevent intercommunal sectarian violence and promote peace in village communities require fostering dialogue, understanding, and mutual respect among different religious groups. It is crucial to uphold religious freedom, protect sacred spaces, and promote interfaith harmony to mitigate conflicts and promote peaceful coexistence.

It is for these aforementioned reasons, legislation pertaining to destruction of legacy structures, be it places of worship and associated facilities, or simply an old homestead, which is historically important, must be preserved by legal mechanisms.

Most countries, including South Africa, even during the apartheid, discriminative era, specific legislation and protections for places of worship have formulated legislation to protect places of worship of different religions.  However, these can vary from country to country. The following general examples may be highlighted, by which places of worship are protected against demolition through legislation:

  1. Heritage Laws:[41] Many countries have laws specifically dedicated to the protection of cultural heritage, which can include religious sites. These laws aim to preserve significant historical, architectural, or cultural landmarks, including places of worship. Such laws may provide legal protection against demolition or significant alterations without proper authorisation or permits.
  2. Designation as National or World Heritage Sites: Some places of worship are designated as national or world heritage sites by international organisations like UNESCO.[42] These designations recognise their outstanding universal value and provide legal protection against demolition or any actions that could harm their cultural or historical significance.
  3. Zoning and Land Use Regulations: Governments often establish zoning and land use regulations that determine how land and structures can be used. These regulations may include specific provisions for the protection of religious structures, prohibiting their demolition or modification without proper approvals or permits.
  4. Religious Freedom Laws: In many countries, laws protect the rights of individuals and communities to practice their religion freely. These laws often extend to the protection of places of worship and may provide legal safeguards against their destruction or interference.
  5. Planning and Building Codes: Governments often have building codes and regulations that ensure safety, structural integrity, and proper construction practices. These codes may include provisions for the protection of historic buildings, including religious structures, against demolition or improper alteration.

It is inevitable to appreciate that although local, national and international protective laws exist, the extent and effectiveness of legislation can vary across different countries and regions. Local cultural, historical, and political contexts play a significant role in shaping the legal protections afforded to places of worship. Additionally, enforcement and implementation of legislation can also vary, and challenges may arise due to political, societal, or economic factors.  Politicians in some countries, like India, use the “religion card[43]” to gain votes from the electorate, often operating under the most blatant violations of code of conduct of campaigning during elections and deploying unethical principles against the proper norms of democratic elections.  These techniques of ensuring mob mobilisations, then, have achieved the desired effect on the illiterate masses.  This mechanism is evident even in South African elections, post 1994, when liberation from the apartheid oppression was achieved.

In India, alone, the following are the notable instances of places of worship, which have faced demolition:

  1. Babri Masjid, Ayodhya:[44] The most significant and controversial case is the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, in 1992. The mosque, which was built in the 16th century, by the Mughal Emperor Babur[45] following the Muslim conquest of Hindu India, was demolished by a large mob, leading to communal tensions, deaths, conflicts and gross peace disruption.
  2. Temples in Karnataka: In 2009, several temples in the Mangalore region of Karnataka were reportedly demolished by the local authorities due to encroachment issues and lack of proper permissions.
  3. Dargahs in Gujarat[46]: (Muslim shrines of mystics) In 2002, during the communal riots in Gujarat, some dargahs were destroyed or damaged in various parts of the state, by a frenzied, politically motivated, fanatical Hindu mobs.
  4. Religious structures in Ahmedabad[47]: In 2002, during the same communal riots in Gujarat, there were reports of destruction and damage to multiple religious structures, including mosques and temples, in Ahmedabad.

It’s important to note that these instances are specific cases, and they do not represent the overall situation in India. India is a diverse country with a rich history of religious coexistence, and the vast majority of places of worship in the country peacefully coexist and are protected by law.

In spite of protective legislation to ensure the wonton destruction of different “Houses of God” depending on the religion, the following is a list, though not comprehensive, in each major country where an important place of worship was demolished by an acrimonious government.  While it is important to appreciate that the concept of an “acrimonious government” is subjective, and the perception of a government’s actions may vary, the fact remains that important heritage sites, some of which are World Heritage UNESCO Sites, have been lost to future generations as a historical, legacy resource, and will not be existent, any longer, for younger generations to appreciate and study in the future, like the Great Pyramids of Egypt[48].  Additionally, the context and specific circumstances surrounding the demolition of places of worship cannot be fully understood by an outside observer, in view of the interreligious dynamics and what really transpired in ancient history of the region:

The Grand Mosque of Xian in China
According to an engraving on a stone tablet inside, it was built in 742 during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). This was a result of Islam being introduced into Northwest China by Arab merchants and travellers from Persia and Afghanistan during the mid-7th century when some of them settled down in China and married women of Han Nationality. The Muslim played an important role in the unification of China during the Yuan and Ming Dynasties. Hence, other mosques were also built to honour them.
The Great Mosque combines the traditional Islamic and Chinese architectural styles.

  1. China – Great Mosque of Xian[49]: During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), numerous religious sites, including mosques, temples, and churches, were targeted for demolition or repurposed for other uses. The Great Mosque of Xian, one of the oldest and most important Islamic sites in China, was heavily damaged during this period.
  2. Russia – Cathedral of Christ the Savior[50]: In the early 1930s, during the Soviet era, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow was demolished on the orders of the communist government. It was the largest Orthodox Christian church in Russia and was later rebuilt in the 1990s.
  3. Cambodia – Temples of Angkor[51]: During the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979), many ancient temples, including those in the Angkor archaeological complex, were neglected, damaged, or purposely destroyed due to the regime’s policy of eradicating religious symbols and traditions.
  4. Iraq – Destruction of religious sites by ISIS: In recent years, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria targeted various religious sites, including mosques, shrines, and churches, particularly in areas under their control. The iconic Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul [52]was destroyed by ISIS in 2017.

It is relevant that these examples represent specific instances and should not be seen as a comprehensive representation of the entire history or actions of the respective governments. The protection and preservation of places of worship vary widely across different countries and regions, and instances of demolition can arise due to various factors, including political, ideological, or social tensions, but are an existential cause of not only regional peace disruption, but even globally, when the other country’s’ national religious affiliation is the same as the structures of worship were destroyed, in a particular country.  This was borne out by the sad, retaliatory destruction of Hindu Temples in Pakistan[53], being an official Muslim country, following the infamous partition in 1947[54], by the departing, British Raj, giving India its independence, as a vindictive parting shot.  Britain occupied and oppressed the Indian peninsula for nearly 200 long, years.  Such incidences, reflect on the absence of spirituality amongst the perpetrators of these destructive activities on both sides, after the targeted destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, by the Hindu Nationalists.

Furthermore, in India, there is a move afoot to remove The Places of Worship Act, 1991 and reasons were advanced as to why was this Act, enacted?[55]

  1. Congress government, in power, in 1991 enacted the Places of Worship ( Special Provisions) Act at the peak of Ram Janmabhoomi movement [56]to fraudulently prevent such movements to restore other ancient Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh places of worship plundered, demolished and converted to mosques by barbaric Islamic invaders.
  2. It wanted to prevent conversion of religious character of any place of worship from one denomination to another, i.e. wanted to prevent restoration of temples demolished and converted to mosques by invaders.
  3. Thus, Congress wanted to legalise the illegal plunder and demolition of temples by Islamists invaders and rulers from the Muslim Invader, Mohammad Ghuri,[57]

In the opinion of this group The Places of Worship Act [58]was considered unconstitutional and illegal and must be removed from the constitution, for the following reasons:

  1. It arbitrarily and irrationally freezes the religious character of all places of worship retrospectively as it stood on 15th August, 1947, when independence was achieved from the brutal British Raj[59].
  2. By barring and abating any suits seeking to reclaim temples converted to mosques before 15thAugust 1947, other than the Ram Janmabhoomi suit, the Act violates fundamental right to pray, worship and propagate religion of Hindus under Art.25 and 26 of the Constitution.
  3. The Act violates “Secularism” which is the basic structure of the Constitution by being biased against Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs who were victims of Islamic iconoclasm[60]. Thus, it also violates fundamental rights under Art. 14 & 15 of the Constitution
  4. The Act prevents right to legal remedy for restoration of temples, by barring suits and approaching courts, including High Courts & Supreme Court which is violative of fundamental rights under Art. 226 & Art.32 of the Constitution.
  5. The Act while denying legal remedy criminalises anyone who tries to convert the religious character of a place from one denomination to another by imprisonment upto 3 years.
  6. The Congress government, at Centre [61]did not have the legislative jurisdiction to enact the law as it was enacted under the garb of ‘Public Order, which is a State subject under Entry-1, List-II of Schedule VII of the Constitution. Similarly, “Pilgrimage other than pilgrimages to places outside India” is also a State subject under Entry-7, List II, Schedule VII. Thus, the Act is patently illegal, ultra vires and unconstitutional.

Important Temples Demolished & Converted into Mosques:

  1. Kashi Viswanath Temple: Gyanwapi Mosque[62]
  2. Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple: Shahi Idgah Mosque[63]
  3. Rudra Mahalaya at Patan, Gujarat: Jami Masjid
  4. Bhojsala Temple of Saraswati at Dhar, Madhya Pradesh: Kamal Maulana Dargah[64]
  5. Adinath Temple at Pandua,West Bengal: Adina Mosque[65]
  6. Bhadrakali Temple at Ahmedabad: Jama Masjid[66]
  7. Vijay Temple at Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh: Bijamandal Mosque[67]
  8. Dhrub Stambh-Vishnu Dhwaj: Kutub Minar[68]
  9. Attala Devi Mandir at Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh: Atala Mosque[69]
  10. Saraswati Temple at Ajmer, Rajasthan: Dhai Din ka Jhopra Mosque[70]
  11. Sankaracharya Mandir, Sri Nagar: Pather Masjid Sri Nagar[71]

The movement calls for the central, BJP government [72]or the Supreme Court of India, should either repeal or quash the Places of Worship Act as access to legal remedy to reclaim holy temples at Mathura, Kashi etc. is not only a fundamental religious right but also a case of reparation for historical wrongs and national dishonour by foreign invaders, in the sad history of India

Actually, the following additional legislation, precludes any wonton destruction of places of worship in India:

  1. The Constitution of India[73]: The Constitution of India guarantees freedom of religion under Article 25, which grants individuals the right to profess, practice, and propagate their religion. It also ensures equality before the law and prohibits discrimination on religious grounds.
  2. Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991: Although contested by the Hindu nationalist following, this Act, enacted by the Indian Parliament, aimed to freeze the status of religious places as it existed in 1947. It prohibited the conversion of any place of worship and maintained the religious character of these places. However, this Act primarily addressed the specific issue of the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute in Ayodhya and did not encompass all places of worship in India.
  3. State Laws and Regulations: Each state in India may have its own laws and regulations governing the management, administration, and protection of places of worship. These laws can vary from state to state and may cover matters such as the appointment of trustees, maintenance of religious properties, and regulation of religious practices.

Ayodhya is located in the northern part of India, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It is situated on the banks of the River Sarayu[74]. Ayodhya holds immense religious significance for Hindus as the birthplace of Lord Rama, and it is considered one of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism.  Ayodhya remains present in India as a city and is an important pilgrimage site for Hindus. It attracts millions of devotees and tourists who visit to pay homage to Lord Rama[75] and to explore the historical and cultural heritage associated with the Ramayana epic. The city is known for its various temples, including the recently constructed Ram Mandir at the disputed site, which has become a symbol of devotion and faith for many Hindus.  The Ayodhya dispute, cantered around the ownership and control of the site where the Babri Mosque [76]once stood, has been a significant source of controversy and legal proceedings. However, the city itself has continued to exist and thrive as a cultural, religious, and historical centre within India. It remains an important destination for spiritual seekers and those interested in the mythology and heritage of Lord Rama.

An artist’s Impression of the new Ram Mandir at Ayodhya

There is no conclusive historical evidence to determine the exact location of the original temple at Ayodhya, believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama, and whether it was situated along the banks of the River Ganges[77]. The significance of Ayodhya in Hindu mythology and religious texts is widely acknowledged, but specific details regarding the temple’s precise location vary in different accounts and historical sources.  According to some traditional beliefs and religious texts, Ayodhya is associated with the ancient city mentioned in the Hindu epic Ramayana[78], and it is said to be located on the banks of the River Sarayu, a tributary of the Ganges. However, the specific location of the temple within Ayodhya remains a subject of historical debate and lacks conclusive evidence.  It is important to note that historical accounts, particularly those dating back centuries, may have inconsistencies, variations, and multiple interpretations. The events surrounding the temple’s destruction and the subsequent construction of the Babri Mosque have become highly politicized, making it challenging to discern historical facts from religious beliefs and political narratives.  In recent times, archaeological excavations have taken place at the disputed site in Ayodhya, aiming to provide insights into its history and antiquity. These excavations have uncovered remnants of a large structure beneath the disputed site, indicating the possibility of a pre-existing temple or structure. However, the interpretation and significance of these findings remain subject to ongoing debates and scholarly discussions.

It is crucial to approach discussions about Ayodhya with sensitivity, acknowledging the diverse perspectives, religious beliefs, and historical interpretations surrounding the site. The Ayodhya dispute represents a complex intersection of religion, politics, and history, and its resolution requires careful consideration, dialogue, and respect for the sentiments and rights of all communities involved.

Interestingly, it is important to define, the following structures and places of worship in Hinduism and give them context as to their religious significance to Hindus.

  1. Ram Mandir: Ram Mandir refers to the temple dedicated to Lord Rama, the central figure of the Hindu epic Ramayana. It is a place of worship and devotion for followers of Lord Rama. The term “Mandir” denotes a Hindu temple.
  2. Temple at Ayodhya: The Temple at Ayodhya refers to the proposed construction of a grand temple dedicated to Lord Rama at the site in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, India. It is associated with the belief that Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Rama and the site of the original temple that was destroyed.
  3. Ram Janmabhoomi: Ram Janmabhoomi translates to “the birthplace of Lord Rama” in Sanskrit. It specifically refers to the disputed site in Ayodhya, believed by many Hindus to be the exact location where Lord Rama was born. The term gained prominence due to the Ayodhya dispute surrounding the ownership and control of the site.
  4. The New Ram Temple[79]: The New Ram Temple, presently complete at 40%, refers to the temple that is currently being constructed at the disputed site in Ayodhya. Following a Supreme Court judgment in November 2019, the court ruled in favor of the construction of a Ram temple at the site. The New Ram Temple represents the envisioned grand temple that will replace the demolished Babri Mosque.
  5. Vrindavan[80], is a town located in the Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh, India. It is a significant pilgrimage site for Hindus, particularly devotees of Lord Krishna. Vrindavan is associated with the life and leelas (divine pastimes) of Lord Krishna, who is believed to have spent his childhood and performed various divine activities in the region. The town is known for its numerous temples, ashrams, and sacred sites dedicated to Lord Krishna and Radha. It is revered as a place of devotion and spirituality for followers of Vaishnavism.

In Hinduism, Lord Rama”s Ramayana is a Hinduism reality and indeed a scripture, like Moses and splitting of the sea, during the Great Exodus, narrated in all the scriptures of the Abrahamic faiths, including the Quran.  Hence, the Ramayana is highly respected and revered by both Hindus and non-Hindus, alike, as the tome propagates peace and harmony while highlighting the futility of worldly pursuits by humanoids, causing gross peace disruption, in the process.

The story of Lord Rama and the epic Ramayana is a significant part of Hindu mythology and religious beliefs. It is considered one of the most revered texts in Hinduism. The Ramayana narrates the life, adventures, and divine exploits of Lord Rama, portraying him as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the Preserver in Hindu theology.  In Hinduism, the Ramayana is regarded as an important scripture that holds profound spiritual and moral teachings. It explores themes of righteousness, devotion, loyalty, duty, and the triumph of good over evil. The story of Lord Rama’s journey, his exile, the rescue of his wife Sita from the demon King Ravana[81], and his ultimate return to Ayodhya is seen as an embodiment of ideals and values that followers strive to emulate.  However, it is important to note that Hinduism encompasses a wide range of beliefs and practices, and interpretations of religious texts can vary among different sects, regions, and individuals. While the Ramayana is regarded as a sacred scripture by many Hindus, the extent to which it is considered historical or literal can vary.

In general, the narrations and characters of Hindu mythology, including those in the Ramayana, are seen as symbolic narratives that convey deeper spiritual and philosophical truths rather than strict historical accounts. They are understood as metaphors, allegories, and archetypes that provide guidance and inspiration for individuals on their spiritual journeys.

Comparing the stories in Hindu mythology, such as the Ramayana, with the narratives found in Abrahamic faiths[82], like the miracles attributed to Moses, parting of the sea, or other significant events, can be approached from different perspectives. Hinduism, unlike the Abrahamic faiths, does not have a singular central authority or a standardized approach to scriptural interpretation. Therefore, views on the historical or mythological nature of these narratives can vary among different Hindu traditions and scholars.

Ultimately, the significance and interpretation of the Ramayana, like other religious texts, depend on one’s personal beliefs, cultural context, and the specific Hindu tradition followed. For many Hindus, the Ramayana holds deep religious and spiritual meaning, serving as a guiding scripture that offers insights into moral conduct, devotion, and the pursuit of a righteous lifestyle, ensuring Peace.

There are also similarities between Greek Religion in antiquity and the deities in Hinduism. Greek religion and Hinduism are both ancient belief systems that have their roots in polytheism, worshiping multiple gods and goddesses. While there are differences in their theological concepts and cultural contexts, there are also some notable similarities between the deities in these two religions. Here are a few key points of similarities:

  1. Polytheism: Both Greek religion and Hinduism recognize and worship a pantheon of gods and goddesses. In Greek religion, the Olympian gods like Zeus, Poseidon, and Goddesses like Athena, among others, hold significant importance. In Hinduism, there is a vast array of gods and goddesses, with major deities including Brahma[83], Vishnu, Shiva, Lakshmi, and Durga, among many others.
  2. Divine Hierarchy: Both traditions have a hierarchical structure within their pantheons. In Greek religion, the gods are organized hierarchically, with Zeus as the king of the gods[84]. Similarly, in Hinduism, there is a hierarchy among the deities, with different gods and goddesses having specific roles and responsibilities.
  3. Human-like Attributes: Deities in both Greek religion and Hinduism are often portrayed with human-like attributes, emotions, and relationships. They exhibit both positive and negative traits, engage in relationships, and intervene in human affairs.
  4. Legends and Myths: Both religions have rich mythological narratives that explain the origin of the gods, their interactions with humans, and their various exploits. These myths often serve as moral lessons, cultural explanations, and sources of inspiration.
  5. Symbolism and Iconography: Both traditions use symbolism and iconography to represent their deities. Greek religion employed statues and artworks to depict gods and goddesses, while Hinduism utilizes images, sculptures, and symbols in temple worship and rituals.

While there are similarities, Greek religion and Hinduism developed in distinct cultural and historical contexts, resulting in unique theological frameworks, practices, and mythologies. These similarities should be understood within the broader context of human religious expression and the diverse ways in which different societies have sought to understand and relate to the divine.

Hinduism and Greek religion differ in several aspects, including their timelines, deities, and theological concepts.  The key differences are:

  1. Timelines: Hinduism is considered one of the oldest religions in the world, with a history that spans several millennia. Its roots can be traced back to the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, making it one of the oldest surviving religions. In contrast, Greek religion emerged in ancient Greece around the 2nd millennium BCE and remained prevalent until the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire.
  2. Deities: Hinduism has a vast pantheon of gods and goddesses, with various forms and manifestations. These deities represent different aspects of the divine and are worshipped by different sects and communities. Greek religion also has a pantheon of gods and goddesses, but the number and nature of deities differ from those in Hinduism. Greek gods and goddesses were often associated with specific domains or aspects of life, such as Zeus, the god of thunder and sky, and Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty.
  3. Concept of Avatars[85]: The concept of avatars is unique to Hinduism. In Hindu theology, avatars are considered manifestations or incarnations of deities who descend to Earth to restore balance, protect righteousness, and guide humanity. The most famous example is Lord Vishnu, who is believed to have ten major avatars, including Lord Rama and Lord Krishna. In Greek religion, there is no equivalent concept of avatars.
  4. Reincarnation[86]: Reincarnation, the belief in the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, is a fundamental concept in Hinduism. It is believed that individuals undergo multiple lifetimes based on their karma, the consequences of their actions. In Greek religion, the concept of reincarnation is not prominent. Instead, Greek mythology focuses on the afterlife, with the souls of the deceased traveling to the realm of Hades.
  5. Religious Texts: Hinduism has a rich collection of sacred texts, including the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Puranas[87], among others, which serve as authoritative scriptures. Greek religion does not have a central authoritative text like Hinduism.

Greek mythology and religious beliefs were primarily passed down through oral traditions and were later recorded in works like Hesiod’s Theogony and Homer’s epics.

It is important to note that while there are some similarities and differences between Hinduism and Greek religion, they are distinct religious systems that developed within unique cultural and historical contexts. These differences reflect the diversity of human religious expression and the varied ways in which different societies have sought to understand and relate to the divine.  However, it is generally accepted that Hinduism is older than Greek religion. Hinduism is considered one of the oldest religions in the world, with its roots dating back thousands of years. Its origins can be traced to the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, which thrived from around 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE in what is now present-day India and Pakistan. The religious practices and beliefs of the Indus Valley Civilization [88]are believed to have influenced the development of early Hindu traditions.  On the other hand, Greek religion emerged in ancient Greece around the 2nd millennium BCE, which is several centuries later than the origins of Hinduism. Greek religion evolved over time and became more structured and organized with the rise of city-states and the influence of poets, philosophers, and religious figures. While both Hinduism and Greek religion have ancient roots, Hinduism’s history and development extend back further in time, making it one of the oldest continuously practiced religions in the world.

Moving to the South American civilisations, the timelines of the present Latin American religions, such as the Aztec, Inca, and Mayan civilisations, differ from those of Hinduism and Greek religion. The general overview is:

  1. Aztec Civilization[89]: The Aztec civilization flourished in Mesoamerica from the 14th to the 16th centuries CE. Their religious beliefs and practices were deeply intertwined with their daily lives and encompassed a pantheon of gods and goddesses. The Aztecs were known for their elaborate rituals, human sacrifices, and the worship of deities like Huitzilopochtli, the sun god, and Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent.
  2. Inca Civilization[90]: The Inca civilization, also known as the Incan Empire, thrived in the Andean region of South America from the 13th to the 16th centuries CE. Their religious system centered around the worship of natural forces, such as the sun (Inti) and the earth (Pachamama). The Inca religion was characterized by ceremonial rituals, sacrifices, and the belief in the divine nature of their rulers, the Sapa Inca.
  3. Maya Civilization[91]: The Maya civilization emerged in present-day Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador around 2000 BCE and reached its peak during the Classic period (250-900 CE). Maya religion involved a complex pantheon of gods and goddesses, with a focus on agricultural fertility, rain, and celestial bodies. The Maya performed intricate rituals, including bloodletting and human sacrifices, and built elaborate temple complexes to honour their deities.

It’s important to note that the timelines of these civilizations and religions are approximate, and specific events and practices may have varied within each culture. Additionally, the spread and influence of different belief systems were not confined to specific time periods, as cultural exchange and religious developments occurred over time.

Identifying the most tolerant countries in terms of accommodating different religions can be subjective and can vary based on various factors. However, there are several countries that are often recognised for their efforts in promoting religious tolerance and accommodating diverse religious communities. In the 21st century, the few global examples of nations demonstrating religious tolerance are:

  1. South Africa: In South Africa, presently called the Rainbow Nation, [92]even under the Nationalist, apartheid government of the White minority, religious freedom was operative, although the churches were racially segregated. Post 1994, South Africa’s multicultural and diverse populations of different religious affiliations live harmoniously, with absolutely no social peace disruption on the basis of religious difference, ever.
    • In addition, South Africa has the Heritage Act in its constitution governing the protection of monuments, ancient places of worship and other legacy structures, even representative of the apartheid era. The Heritage Act in South Africa refers to the National Heritage Resources Act (No. 25 of 1999), which is the primary legislation governing the protection and management of heritage resources in the country. The Act was established to safeguard South Africa’s rich and diverse cultural and natural heritage for the benefit of present and future generations. Here are some key features of the Heritage Act[93]:
    • Definition of Heritage Resources: The Act defines heritage resources broadly and includes both tangible and intangible aspects of heritage. It encompasses natural features, landscapes, archaeological sites, historical buildings, structures, objects, artifacts, documents, oral traditions, and more.
    • Heritage Authorities: The Act establishes heritage authorities at different levels, including the South African Heritage Resources Agency [94](SAHRA) at the national level and Provincial Heritage Resources Authorities (PHRAs) at the provincial level. These bodies are responsible for the identification, protection, and management of heritage resources.
    • Protection and Conservation: The Act sets out measures to protect and conserve heritage resources. It requires the identification and declaration of heritage sites, the establishment of conservation areas, the formulation of management plans, and the regulation of activities that may impact heritage resources.
    • Permits and Approvals: The Act establishes a permit system for the alteration, demolition, or excavation of heritage resources. It stipulates that certain activities may only be undertaken with the necessary permits and approvals to ensure that heritage resources are properly managed and conserved.
    • Heritage Impact Assessments: The Act requires heritage impact assessments to be conducted for development projects that may affect heritage resources. This ensures that potential impacts on cultural and natural heritage are considered in the decision-making process.
    • Public Participation: The Act emphasises the importance of public participation in heritage matters. It provides for public consultation, appeals processes, and the involvement of interested parties in the identification, management, and protection of heritage resources.

The Heritage Act of South Africa aims to balance the protection of heritage resources with sustainable development. It recognizes the significance of heritage in fostering national identity, cultural diversity, and social cohesion. The Act provides a legal framework for the preservation, promotion, and responsible management of South Africa’s rich heritage.

  1. Canada: Canada is often praised for its multiculturalism and commitment to religious freedom. It has policies and laws in place that protect individuals’ rights to practice their religions freely and prohibits discrimination based on religion.
  2. Netherlands: The Netherlands is known for its progressive approach to religious tolerance. It upholds principles of religious freedom and has a long history of welcoming different religious communities. The country promotes interfaith dialogue and has policies aimed at fostering inclusivity.
  3. New Zealand: New Zealand has a reputation for being a welcoming and inclusive society. It respects and protects religious freedom, and the country has taken initiatives to foster interfaith understanding and collaboration.
  4. Sweden: Sweden is often recognized for its commitment to human rights and religious freedom. It provides legal protection for various religious communities and promotes dialogue and cooperation between different faiths.
  5. Indonesia: As the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, Indonesia has a diverse religious landscape. The country promotes a philosophy called “Pancasila,” which emphasizes unity, diversity, and religious harmony. It provides legal protection for multiple religions and actively encourages interfaith dialogue.
  6. Qatar: Qatar is known for its efforts in promoting religious tolerance and inclusivity. The country is home to a diverse population and has policies that protect the rights of various religious communities to practice their faith.

It is important to appreciate that while these countries are often considered more tolerant in terms of religious accommodation, no country is without its challenges or areas for improvement. Religious tolerance is a real challenge and a political issue, which could decide on the outcomes of national elections.  Religion is often used as a weapon in stirring up of nationalistic fervour in countries like India, where the BJP, under the baton of Prime Minister Narendra Modi [95]and his Deputy Adityanath Yogi[96], are trying extremely hard to create a nationalist India, for Hindus, over the past decade.  This Islamophobic philosophy, at official government level, resulting in the ongoing destruction of mosques and general harassment of Muslims, who previously coexisted with Hindus, Christians, Sikhs[97] and other minorities, happily for centuries, are now subject to blatant discrimination, declassification as citizens of India and are murdered, as in the saga of Love Jihad[98].  Hence religious tolerance, a key factor in maintenance and sustenance of ongoing Peace and this essential element in the pillars as well as foundation of peace can vary within different regions or communities even within these countries.

Main Photo: The Babri Mosque in a derelict stat, with the remains of the original
 Ram Temple on the left side.
Inset: The Dome of the Babri Mosque, bearing Hindu Extremist demolishing the mosque.

The Bottom Line is that the destruction of places of worship, which are in reality are physical and substantive representations of the unseen, Divine Supreme, created by the community for the mortals to reflect therein by worshipping their respective, Divine Supreme and generate inner peace, for their personal, physical bodies, as mortals.  Devoiding the community of this spiritual facility, with physical connections to the Divine Supreme, can have profound societal and community impacts, based on religious factors. There are some aspects to consider with reference to the impact of religiophobic destruction of the places of worship, simply because, the perpetrators.

  1. Intensifying Religious Tensions: Demolition or destruction of a place of worship can deepen existing religious tensions or ignite new conflicts. It can create a sense of grievance, anger, and injustice among the affected religious community and lead to increased animosity between different religious groups.
  2. Erosion of Trust and Social Cohesion: Places of worship are not just physical structures; they serve as important social and communal spaces where people gather, interact, and foster a sense of belonging. When these spaces are destroyed, it can rupture social bonds, erode trust between religious communities, and undermine social cohesion within a society.
  3. Displacement and Loss of Identity: Destruction of places of worship can result in the displacement of religious communities who are connected to those sites. This displacement disrupts their way of life, separates them from their spiritual and cultural heritage, and can lead to a loss of identity and a sense of belonging.
  4. Deepening Divisions and Segregation: The destruction of a place of worship can contribute to the segregation of communities along religious lines. It may fuel the formation of isolated enclaves, where people from the same religious background seek safety and solidarity, leading to further divisions within society.
  5. Impact on Peace and Stability: The destruction of places of worship can have broader implications for the peace and stability of a region or country. It can exacerbate existing conflicts, ignite violence, and create an environment of fear, mistrust, and insecurity.
  6. Interfaith Dialogue and Reconciliation: However, in some cases, the destruction of a place of worship can also serve as a catalyst for interfaith dialogue and efforts towards reconciliation. It can mobilize religious and community leaders, as well as civil society, to come together, engage in dialogue, and work towards healing and rebuilding.

It is essential to address the societal and community aspects resulting from the destruction of places of worship and promote dialogue, tolerance, and respect for religious diversity to foster peaceful coexistence among different religious groups.  Regarding the ongoing source of Peace Disruption in India is the Destruction of the original Temple in Ayodhya. The destruction of the Hindu temple in Ayodhya, believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama, by the Mughal Emperor Babur is a significant event in the history of India.

The city of Ayodhya, located in present-day Uttar Pradesh, India, holds immense religious and cultural significance for Hindus. It is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama, an important deity in Hinduism. According to historical accounts, the temple dedicated to Lord Rama, known as the Ram Janmabhoomi temple, stood at the site for centuries, becoming a place of pilgrimage and devotion for millions of Hindus.

In the early 16th century, the Mughal Empire, led by Emperor Babur, expanded its dominion over northern India. As part of their conquests, the Mughals encountered various religious sites, including the Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya. The exact circumstances surrounding the destruction of the temple are a subject of historical debate, and different accounts exist regarding the events that transpired.  According to some historical sources, Babur’s general, Mir Baqi, was given the task of constructing a mosque on the site of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple. The mosque that was built came to be known as the Babri Mosque, named after Emperor Babur. This event took place in the early 16th century, around 1528 AD. It is important to note that historical accounts from that time can be subject to bias and may differ in their details. The construction of the Babri Mosque led to a shift in the religious landscape of Ayodhya. The site, once revered by Hindus as the birthplace of Lord Rama, now had a mosque standing on it. However, the destruction of the original temple and the construction of the mosque did not lead to immediate widespread conflict or communal tensions in the region. Over the following centuries, Ayodhya and the disputed site remained a topic of occasional contention but did not witness significant clashes or violent disputes. Hindu and Muslim communities coexisted in Ayodhya, and both sides had their own religious spaces for worship.

The issue of the Ram Janmabhoomi and the Babri Mosque gained prominence during the colonial period in the 19th and 20th centuries. Various Hindu organizations, activists, and religious leaders began advocating for the reconstruction of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple, asserting the belief in the birthplace of Lord Ram.  In the late 20th century, the Ayodhya dispute gained national and international attention, leading to a highly contentious and polarized debate. The demand for the reconstruction of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple became a rallying point for Hindu nationalist sentiments and identity politics in India.  The dispute reached its peak in 1992 when a large crowd of Hindu activists, led by right-wing organizations, gathered near the Babri Mosque and demolished it. The destruction of the mosque sparked widespread communal violence and tensions across India, resulting in loss of lives and property. The event had a profound impact on intercommunal relations and became a defining moment in Indian history.  The destruction of the Babri Mosque and the subsequent communal violence led to legal battles and political debates over the ownership and control of the disputed site. The case went through various courts and legal proceedings, culminating in a landmark judgment by the Supreme Court of India in November 2019[99]. The Supreme Court verdict recognized the religious significance of the disputed site and ruled in favor of the construction of a Ram temple at the site while also directing the allocation of a separate plot of land to the Muslim parties for the construction of a mosque.

In conclusion, the destruction of the Hindu temple in Ayodhya, followed by the construction and subsequent demolition of the Babri Mosque, has had a lasting impact on the socio-political fabric of India. The events surrounding the disputed site have fueled religious tensions, communal divisions, and legal battles that spanned several centuries. The Ayodhya dispute remains a sensitive and complex issue, deeply intertwined with questions of faith, history, and identity. Efforts are now being made to promote reconciliation, communal harmony, and the peaceful coexistence of different religious communities at the site, as the construction of the Ram Mandir, dedicated to Lord Rama, takes place on the disputed land.

In different historical contexts, mosques, churches, and synagogues have all been subject to destruction due to sectarian violence, warfare, or religious intolerance. These acts are not representative of the teachings or principles of the respective religions but rather reflect the actions of individuals, groups, or political powers seeking to assert dominance or suppress rival religious communities. It is worth noting that in many societies today, there are legal protections in place to safeguard religious sites, regardless of the faith they represent. These protections aim to promote religious freedom, respect for diverse beliefs, and the preservation of cultural heritage.

In summary, the repurposing, demolition or destruction of religious structures, including mosques, churches, and synagogues[100], have occurred throughout history for various reasons and in different contexts. While there have been instances of mosques being demolished, there are also numerous examples of churches and synagogues facing destruction. It is crucial to promote religious tolerance, respect for diverse beliefs, and the protection of all places of worship to foster peaceful coexistence and harmony among different religious communities.

Mechanical destruction of an ancient, 200-year-old Indian Temple, in Jaipur, India.
The temple is demolished by the authorities to make way for the Metro rail project and relieve traffic congestion in Jaipur, much to the distress of the devotees.

References:

[1] Personal quote by author: June 2023

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neanderthal

[3] https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/1077655-scientists-uncover-worlds-oldest-known-burial-site-in-south-africa#:~:text=The%20skeleton%20of%20Homo%20naledi%20pictured%20in%20the,under%20the%20direction%20of%20renowned%20palaeoanthropologist%20Lee%20Berger.

[4] https://www.transcend.org/tms/2023/06/spirituality-negation-in-religions-a-catalyst-for-global-peace-disruption/

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crusades

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Inquisition

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Israeli%E2%80%93Palestinian_conflict

[8] https://www.transcend.org/tms/2023/06/peace-disruption-part-2-palestines-killing-fields-the-end-must-go-on/

[9] https://www.bing.com/th?id=OIP.FQ1kWHlsiZG9uTgjgsuIbAHaEK&w=305&h=160&c=8&rs=1&qlt=90&o=6&dpr=1.2&pid=3.1&rm=2

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_missions

[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestant_missions_in_China

[12] https://www.bing.com/search?q=oceania&filters=dtbk:%22MCFrZ192NF9jb3VudHJpZXMhb3ZlcnZpZXchMzJkMzJjMTItYzMxNS03MzA5LWVmNTYtOTZmM2UxZDhkMDJk%22+sid:%2232d32c12-c315-7309-ef56-96f3e1d8d02d%22+tphint:%22f%22&FORM=DEPNAV

[13] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_missionary_activity

[14] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_European_colonization_of_North_America

[15] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonisation_of_Africa

[16] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_peoples#:~:text=Indigenous%20peoples%2C%20also%20known%20in%20some%20regions%20as,occupied%20or%20colonized%20by%20other%20ethnicities%20more%20recently.

[17] https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=ancient+egypt&cbn=KnowledgeCard&stid=6508c8f8-4d50-1346-0808-a16665af1618&FORM=KCHIMM

[18] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Ancient_Greek_temples

[19] https://www.bing.com/search?q=roman+catholic+churches&qs=MT&pq=roman+catholic+churches&sk=MT1&sc=6-23&cvid=D2D1408D34144B808F31E2E72BB7D8AF&FORM=QBRE&sp=2&lq=0

[20] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Orthodox_Church

[21] https://www.bing.com/aclick?ld=e8KaQK1V1ZaZR3zKL9nzgtJzVUCUwfSXubo9m8fp2afLxoqdJetqnPXLbIXZjcqsKpKqJ4C9OSJw5UHAOs4MDteNj0fq8wmXgrBrdnO7YYu0W0oz0bMFR6YCRqvLgNxrGlbCfN5d3ECT7RYwoq6CgyHvivO7R6tf8YTvuOzI0ly8YAxV0WTDiWV6TFnUEo53xM2d52-A&u=aHR0cHMlM2ElMmYlMmZ3d3cudHJpcGFkdmlzb3IuY29tJTJmQXR0cmFjdGlvbl9Qcm9kdWN0cyUzZmdlbyUzZDI5Mzk4MyUyNmRldGFpbCUzZDMyNDEzMCUyNm0lM2QxNTQzMiUyNnN1cGNtJTNkMjY4NDUwMzI5JTI2c3VwYWclM2QxMTc0Mjc4NzgwOTYxNTIyJTI2c3VwdGklM2Rrd2QtNzMzOTI3MzYwOTUwNTglM2Fsb2MtMTY4JTI2c3VwYWklM2Q3MzM5MjY4MzA0NjY4NiUyNnN1cGR2JTNkYyUyNnN1cG50JTNkbyUyNnN1cGt3JTNkYWwtYXFzYSUyNTIwbW9zcXVlJTI1MjBpbiUyNTIwamVydXNhbGVtJTI3cyUyNTIwb2xkJTI1MjBjaXR5JTI2bXNjbGtpZCUzZDcyNWJjYjA4Y2VlYzE0N2ZjNmFkYWY4Y2I2ZmExMDZl&rlid=725bcb08ceec147fc6adaf8cb6fa106e

[22] https://www.bing.com/search?q=great+mosque+of+samarra&filters=dtbk:%22MCFvdmVydmlldyFvdmVydmlldyFlZDgxMDA1MC0zYWU1LTM0ZDctZTVjMy1iMjlhZjdjYTZiMzk%3d%22+sid:%22ed810050-3ae5-34d7-e5c3-b29af7ca6b39%22+tphint:%22f%22&FORM=DEPNAV

[23] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayodhya_dispute

[24] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babri_Masjid

[25] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shwedagon_Pagoda

[26] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rohingya_genocide

[27] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Western-Wall

[28] https://www.dictionary.com/browse/azan#:~:text=azan%20%2F%20%28%C9%91%CB%90%CB%88z%C9%91%CB%90n%29%20%2F%20noun%20Islam%20the%20call,day%2C%20usually%20by%20a%20muezzin%20from%20a%20minaret

[29] https://www.transcend.org/tms/2021/11/the-muezzins-call/

[30] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sectarianism

[31] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collective_memory

[32] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamophobia

[33] https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=hate+crime&cbn=KnowledgeCard&stid=c5569410-5692-61b1-4571-b794ae167a86&thid=OSK.HEROJjJ6c4nxN1EPr9OIbPXrKtp4_yP9l7gnWXDwhoRW6T0&FORM=KCHIMM

[34] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism

[35] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Hindu_sentiment

[36] https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/z36xk2p/revision/1#:~:text=Having%20a%20place%20of%20worship%20is%20important%20for,who%20regularly%20come%20together%20to%20express%20their%20faith.

[37] https://www.forbes.com/sites/tracybrower/2020/10/25/how-to-build-community-and-why-it-matters-so-much/

[38] https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100546771#:~:text=A%20form%20of%20knowledge%20representation%20in%20which%20arbitrary,is%20the%20most%20familiar%20example%20of%20symbolic%20representation.

[39] https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/spiritual-depression

[40] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collective_identity

[41] https://law.indiana.libguides.com/ArtLaw

[42] https://en.unesco.org/cultnatlaws

[43] https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=religion+meaning&id=62586E055A18A24921D7A6B159242AFD18B2C54B&FORM=EQNAMI

[44] https://www.transcend.org/tms/2022/11/peace-disruptors-the-conversion-and-repurposing-of-places-of-worship-part-2-the-ayodhya-temple-from-hinduism-to-islam-and-back-to-hinduism/

[45] https://www.bing.com/search?q=babur&filters=dtbk:%22MCFvdmVydmlldyFvdmVydmlldyE1ZDY5NWVmNC00YWJjLWI4MjEtNjRkYS1jMGY5NjczYWFkOTY%3d%22+sid:%225d695ef4-4abc-b821-64da-c0f9673aad96%22+tphint:%22f%22&FORM=DEPNAV

[46] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254339198_Religion_as_Practice_Religion_as_Identity_Sufi_Dargahs_in_Contemporary_Gujarat

[47] https://www.bing.com/search?q=ahmedabad&filters=dtbk:%22MCFvdmVydmlldyFvdmVydmlldyFmNzQxZTJjMC1hNDAxLTRiY2ItMmQ5Mi1jMzY0ZmU2ODM1MTM%3d%22+sid:%22f741e2c0-a401-4bcb-2d92-c364fe683513%22+tphint:%22f%22&FORM=DEPNAV

[48] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pyramid_of_Giza

[49] https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E6%B8%85%E7%9C%9F%E5%A4%A7%E5%AF%BA

[50] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathedral_of_Christ_the_Saviour

[51] https://www.bing.com/aclick?ld=e8wOyfVkR-n9xgyd28sszzkjVUCUx03R-vi5zp-T9ogndgZXk81PC_IhIq0QVPm7vkVSCjNa37to2DAsKqJmrPcLpd_aBUWzqEHnx57r3yW5pLhYyovdnvRD31lPLN1LSvijoiWAxUxJuksVwhGSEOF0DfWWah7_l041RFoM4MogkonmfzBNVBES_0Ji0HuXQbO9Y41Q&u=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&rlid=7d2f63e9926114f9f239076d12e495f2

[52] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Mosque_of_Samarra

[53] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-55545524

[54] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partition_of_India

[55] https://kreately.in/why-should-places-of-worship-act-1991-be-scrapped/

[56] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ram_Janmabhoomi

[57] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Battle_of_Tarain

[58] https://www.jagranjosh.com/current-affairs/what-is-places-of-religious-worship-act-1991-know-key-clauses-1652793376-1

[59] https://www.bing.com/search?q=british+raj&filters=dtbk:%22MCFvdmVydmlldyFvdmVydmlldyEyMDE5M2FiZS03OWE3LTQ3M2YtOTc5Yy1hM2NmZGFjODYzOWE%3d%22+sid:%2220193abe-79a7-473f-979c-a3cfdac8639a%22+tphint:%22f%22&FORM=DEPNAV

[60] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iconoclasm

[61] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_of_India

[62] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gyanvapi_Mosque

[63] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krishna_Janmasthan_Temple_Complex

[64] https://www.opindia.com/2022/05/bhojshala-hindu-educational-centre-a-historic-temple-of-goddess-saraswati-how-it-became-the-kamal-maulana-mosque/

[65] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adina_Mosque

[66] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jama_Mosque,_Ahmedabad

[67] https://www.indianetzone.com/16/bijamandal_or_vijayamandira_temple_vidisha.htm#:~:text=Built%20in%20the%2011th%20century%20AD%20Bijamandal%20temple,site%2C%20using%20the%20same%20material%20of%20the%20temple.

[68] https://www.booksfact.com/archeology/qutub-minar-dhruv-sthambh-vishnu-dhwaj.html

[69] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atala_Mosque,_Jaunpur

[70] https://www.gosahin.com/places-to-visit/adhai-din-ka-jhonpra/#:~:text=Adhai%20Din%20Ka%20Jhonpra%20is%20a%20mosque%20located,destroyed%20and%20then%20were%20converted%20into%20a%20Mosque.

[71] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shankaracharya_Temple

[72] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bharatiya_Janata_Party

[73] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_India

 

[74] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarju

[75] https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=rama&cbn=KnowledgeCard&stid=99475f3d-fd7a-40d7-9b24-2ee1ba1b3092&FORM=KCHIMM

[76] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babri_Masjid

[77] https://www.amazingfactshome.com/interesting-facts-about-the-ganges-river/

[78] https://www.bing.com/search?q=ramayana&filters=dtbk:%22MCFzdW1tYXJ5IW92ZXJ2aWV3IWE1Y2IyMmMxLTA3YTUtYjg5MC1hYjBkLTBhOTRlNDg2NDZmNA%3d%3d%22+sid:%22a5cb22c1-07a5-b890-ab0d-0a94e48646f4%22+tphint:%22f%22&FORM=DEPNAV

[79] https://www.news18.com/news/india/ram-temple-construction-work-40-complete-trust-engineers-say-first-floor-to-be-ready-by-early-2024-5697739.html#:~:text=The%20construction%20work%20at%20the%20Ram%20temple%20site,was%20expected%20to%20be%20ready%20by%20early%202024.

[80]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vrindavan

[81] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravana

[82] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abrahamic_religions

[83] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Hindu_deities

[84] https://greekgodsandgoddesses.net/gods/zeus/

[85] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar

[86] https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=reincarnation+meaning&id=E6E6A7A44A4052FA350386A4E5A0F6D786708307&FORM=EQNAMI

[87] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaishnavism

[88] https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=indus+valley+civilisation&cbn=KnowledgeCard&stid=d3cd3c06-2bf8-d58a-d332-e58efbebdde2&FORM=KCHIMM

[89] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aztecs

[90] https://www.bing.com/search?q=inca+empire&filters=dtbk:%22MCFvdmVydmlldyFvdmVydmlldyFhN2UxNmU2NC04ZDE0LTQ3MjQtODk0OS1mMDY3MTdjZjg3NWU%3d%22+sid:%22a7e16e64-8d14-4724-8949-f06717cf875e%22+tphint:%22f%22&FORM=DEPNAV

[91] https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-updates/daily-news-analysis/maya-civilization

[92] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_nation

[93] https://www.gov.za/documents/national-heritage-resources-act

[94] https://www.sahra.org.za/

[95] https://www.bing.com/search?q=narendra+modi&filters=dtbk:%22MCFvdmVydmlldyFvdmVydmlldyEwNGZlZTYyMy1lOWJkLWVlNGItZjMwZC1jYWQzYzI5MTk5ZTQ%3d%22+sid:%2204fee623-e9bd-ee4b-f30d-cad3c29199e4%22+tphint:%22f%22&FORM=DEPNAV

[96] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-60688309

[97] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikhism_in_India

[98] https://www.transcend.org/tms/2022/02/the-execution-of-love-as-a-tool-in-ethnic-and-religious-cleansing-in-india-part-4/

[99] https://www.thehinducentre.com/resources/article29929805.ece

[100] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/365930/jewish/What-Is-a-Synagogue.htm

______________________________________________

Professor G. Hoosen M. Vawda (Bsc; MBChB; PhD.Wits) is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.
Director: Glastonbury Medical Research Centre; Community Health and Indigent Programme Services; Body Donor Foundation SA.

Principal Investigator: Multinational Clinical Trials
Consultant: Medical and General Research Ethics; Internal Medicine and Clinical Psychiatry:UKZN, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine
Executive Member: Inter Religious Council KZN SA
Public Liaison: Medical Misadventures
Activism: Justice for All
Email: vawda@ukzn.ac.za


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