Volume 15 Number 2
Finding the Other
01 April 2002

Jehangir Sarosh is a businessman living in Britain. He is President of the World Conference for Religion and Peace Europe and Vice-Chair of the Inter-Faith Network for the UK.

Last year I was invited to a conference at the Initiatives of Change centre in the Swiss mountains at Caux. Afterwards, I was asked to offer my view of what had transpired. I suggested that in earlier times people used to go to the desert or climb mountains to find themselves, to address the question ‘Who am I’. It seemed to me that the people who had climbed the mountain to get to Caux had done so to find the ‘other’.

One evening when I was serving in the Royal Air Force, we were sitting around the table discussing life, as one does with friends. The conversation turned to immigration and to my amazement, my best friend Mike started condemning the ‘Pakkies’ (Pakistanis). I listened for a while and then, realizing that I was boiling up inside, I said, ‘Hey, Mike! What about me? You are talking about me!’ Without a second thought he replied, ‘Ah! But you’re different. We know you.’

That was my first inkling that I was not an Indian any more. Even though I was different from them, I was no longer ‘the other’ to Mike and the gang, I was one of them, because they knew me. Deep down we were the same, even though at one level I was not the same as Mike, nor was Mike the same as me.

So what makes it possible to have this union—being one with the other?

When we look around with our external eyes we cannot see ourselves, we can only see the other. If one disregards the other, one is missing out on life.


To be fulfilled, we all need our own space in society. This gives an objective reality to the other, enabling the soul to love. Allowing others to maintain their identity and yet remaining in solidarity with them is vital to the enjoyment of the human race and all creation.

At the individual level, perhaps because of a sense of insecurity, we have a desire to belong. We long to be cared for, to be recognized, to have some worth and to be loved, whether it is through belonging to one’s own family or to the family of the community created by our ethnic or religious group, or the city or the nation state.

But belonging need not separate us from the other. The other may not belong to our group, but there can still be solidarity.

For separation will lead to division and division will lead to conflict. Division is the best tool the devil has. It says in our Zoroastrian scriptures—and in many others—that God’s creation is good and that the kingdom of heaven can be here on earth. It also says that creation is to be enjoyed by all God’s creatures. This is an indirect acceptance of the responsibility to the other. For the primary dictum in our tradition is to think, speak and do good, which is defined as only that ‘which is good for anybody whatsoever’. ‘Anybody’ does not just refer to another person but to all of God’s creation. Thus division or separation is attributed to the negative mentality (referred to as the devil in some traditions).

If I stopped being the other for Mike, simply because he knew me, it emphasizes to me the need to get to know each other for the sake of peace on earth. It has often been said that peace among nations begins with the individual knowing her/himself. But the individual is often insecure, and needs the community. It is therefore vital that both individuals and communities get to know each other. And that nations get to know and respect each other too.

The religions have a major role to play in increasing understanding between cultures by getting to know other communities, cultures and peoples. Globalization offers an opportunity for this. Religions were the earliest multinationals, and religions and cultures are intertwined.

Religious institutions have an infrastructure through which they can educate their congregations. As Imam Shahid Raza of the Council of Imams and Mosques (UK) said to an interfaith gathering, ‘If only each imam would speak positively of other religions for just three minutes during each Friday prayer meeting, we would change the world.’

This simple initiative, if taken on board by all religions, could bring to fruition the wisdom and willingness to share with and consider the other first. This opportunity to hear positive things about the other in one’s own safe environment is how mindsets can be changed.

I leave you with a Zoroastrian thought:
Remember, remember, remember
Evil is not in the body
Evil is in the mind
Therefore harm no body
Just change the mind
Just change the mind
Just change the mind

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