“What gives you #TangibleHope in the world today? How do your values and/or belief systems come into conversation with this #TangibleHope?
Tahil Sharma, promoter of religious/secular pluralism and social justice:
#TangibleHope is uncomfortable. It means I have to step out of my world of understanding to build trust, respect, and compassion for those who think differently than I do. The discomfort of the mind leads to the transformation of the heart and the development of humankind to coexistence.
Hope to me is the transition of discomfort and anxiety to love and solidarity.
I grew up in a home of two faith traditions: Hinduism paternally and Sikhism maternally. I’ve been blessed with two unique vision of the Divine in my own home that helped me make sense of the world and its complex nature. Not many people in this day and age are born into my experience of God, but that is the richness and beauty of every individual’s path.
As amazing as I found this experience, others found themselves confused and curious about how I could coexist in a home with two religion. When I was younger, I got into the habit of answering these question but would always be annoyed at having to answer these questions every day. “What is Sikhism?” “Why are there so many Hindu gods?” “How can you practice two religions? Don’t they conflict a lot?”
I didn’t realize how important these were to people until interfaith activism became my passion. When fear, ignorance, and bigotry find their way in the hearts of mankind, humanity has a way of showing its worst attitudes and behavior. I learned about this after witnessing so many hate crimes taking place against communities that were near and dear to me. Muslims and minority religious communities, the LGBTQ community, Black lives, and immigrants from all walks of life were being sent to their gallows of hate for their convictions or existence and identity.
The Hindu and Sikh community have especially been at the forefront of said injustices and growing misconceptions and stereotypes have plagued these communities since the immigration influxes of the late 19th century. Many of these acts of violence and denigration have been rooted in the mere lack of understanding that people have for one another. How we assume people to behave and act take us down a path of worse attitudes and behavior towards others.
I realized that the questions that bothered me every day could actually be the antidote that saves many lives.
My hope resides in the fact that people are willing and able to overcome discomfort to ask and answer the toughest questions about themselves and each other. It is never easy to question our own perspectives, let alone understands the worldviews of others who may be completely different from us, but I have hope that an inquisitive nature and a genuine heart can lead people down the path to cordial and heartfelt relations.
I am a witness and a benefactor to this curiosity in action. I know how hard it might be to answer questions about your religiosity, spirituality, or humanistic philosophy. But our deep curiosity and introspection will help us to perceive others better and certify our ability to understand ourselves better too.
Don’t let curiosity get the best of you. Let there be hope that curiosity can bring out the best of you.
Tahil Sharma is a nationally recognized leader promoting religious/secular pluralism and social justice. He works as the Hope Not Hate Campaign Coordinator for AMP Global Youth, a project of Americans for Informed Democracy currently sponsored by the Stevens Initiative at the Aspen Institute. He currently serves as a UN DPI-NGO Youth Representative for the Parliament of the World’s Religions, the Interfaith Liaison for Sadhana: the Coalition for Progressive Hindus, and as a Religious Director for the University of Southern California. Tahil also serves as a member of the Working Group on Youth and Gender Equality for the UN Interagency Network on Youth Development. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @InterfaithMan.