Faith as an antidote
The efforts by misguided clerics to prevent an anti-polio vaccination drive in Pakistan, on grounds of it being an American plot to sterilise Muslim children, show how powerful a tool religion can be in matters of life and death.india Updated:
The efforts by misguided clerics to prevent an anti-polio vaccination drive in Pakistan, on grounds of it being an American plot to sterilise Muslim children, show how powerful a tool religion can be in matters of life and death. In India too, clerics have sought to halt polio vaccinations on similar grounds. The Pakistan instance has obvious political overtones. In India, fortunately, there have been few takers for such fatwas from religious zealots. In fact, the power of the clergy has worked very well in several instances across the world. The Sikh clergy had come out strongly against female foeticide a few years ago. It went to the extent of issuing orders that any family that had done away with the girl child before or after birth would be excommunicated from the fold.
Kerala’s Muslim clergy has played a significant and positive role in family planning. It played up the fact that the Prophet enjoined on people to have only as many children as they could provide well for. All the propaganda that family planning was a plot to minimise the population of minorities was dispelled by facts and figures that showed how the quality of life is improved by having smaller families. It was the Catholic clergy again which spearheaded the drive against unsafe sexual behaviour in countries like Uganda, which led to a sharp decrease in the HIV infection rate.
The clergy, especially in the developing world, plays a very powerful role in the lives of people. Most often, it has been a positive one as we have seen from the instances above. Unfortunately, not enough has been done by either the authorities concerned or the clergy to spread enough awareness about the debilitating effects of preventable diseases like polio. In India, the battle against polio was almost over. But avoidable lapses and, of course, negative propaganda, have led to the virus making a comeback. The next big problem on our hands will be the fight against HIV/Aids. This is an area which the clergy of all faiths has steered clear of in India. The political establishment has been vocal on the issue in recent times. But help from the clergy could make a huge difference. After all, faith can move mountains.