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HindustanTimes Thu,02 Oct 2014
The appalling silence about good people and the actions of bad ones
Renuka Narayanan
September 15, 2012
First Published: 22:48 IST(15/9/2012)
Last Updated: 22:54 IST(15/9/2012)

It's never lonely being the lone She Baba with you, dear HT readers, but it's rare to get an email from another religion columnist and blogger. Last week I got a mail about the column on the Burning Man from Rabbi Rami Shapiro, who is an American rabbi and Adjunct Professor of Religion at Middle Tennessee State University. He was apparently in New Delhi to deliver a paper at the Peace and Harmony conference hosted by the Ramakrishna Mission. This conference celebrated the 119th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda's famous Chicago Address - the "Brothers and Sisters of America" speech - and it's disappointing to find hardly any coverage of it at home.

Maybe the Ramkestos could do with some elegant pro bono PR work by corporate and media mavens, a payback from society for the spiritual, educational, literary, welfare and disaster relief work that the Order and Mission have staunchly put in since 1897?

Anyhow, I read that Rabbi Rami has both a PhD and a DD (Doctorate of Divinity) and has been an ordained congregational rabbi for 20 years.

He's a speaker and author whose prayers are in several anthologies and I found these interesting words on his home page: "To me religions are like languages: no language is true or false, all language is of human origin. Each language reflects and shapes the mindset of the civilisation that speaks it… and the more languages you know, the more nuanced your understanding of life. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit, I try to be multi-lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence."

In terms of reporting religion, it could paradoxically help to remember the energy of silence. Not the bad silence headlined by Martin Luther King Jr: "We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people."

As and how it finds appropriate, our media may like instead to nuance Thomas Jefferson's view that "The way to silence religious disputes is to take no notice of them."

It would engage the public positively and help balance our worldview, don't you think, if cynical and malevolent publicity-seekers and motivated whipper-uppers of ugly feelings between people were concertedly told to shove off by our press and the deeds of those who do good, reported more?

Renuka Narayanan writes on religion and culture

shebaba09@gmail.com


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