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The Netherlands (or Holland) is one of the most advanced countries of the world. The 10th most populous country of 17 million ranks second in agricultural exports after the US. If produces a quarter of world’s tomatoes. Besides, peace is palpable in the country. There is no recent history of major armed conflicts. Besides all nature’s gifts from alluvial land to world’s one of the tallest people, Netherlands has another advantage to make progress, with peace – its majority population is non-religious. There are only 39 per cent people ‘religious’ people in the country. Since 1989, the people without religion became the majority in The Netherlands while atheists (25%) surpassed the number of theists (17%) in 2015. Although Christians are still the major religious group in the country, religion is considered as a personal matter, not to be propagated in public.

Most of the world’s major conflicts centred around either religious or ethnic affiliations. Reason behind the Holocaust was Nazi hatred against the industrious Jews. It was racial hatred again behind the massacre of Germans and mass rapes of German women – from children to grandmas – by Soviet Red Army after Allied Forces captured Germany. The Dutch, not a weak nation as evident in their history of invasion and conquering territories across world, might have learnt that religion does not pay much. Rather, it cost at lot. Their less attention towards so-called religion might be one of the key factors of Netherland’s international homicide rate (IHR) of 0.9 per 1 lakh people. IHR rate of the US stands at 4.7, India 3.5, Pakistan 7.7 and China 1. Thus conflicts – a major cause of which is religion – in a nation appear to be inversely proportional to its progress and peaceful atmosphere.

Social media in Meghalaya recently saw intense debate over a hoarding stating ‘We are Khasi by birth, Indian by accident’. Here the issue is both religion and ethnicity. Like most other ‘backward’ tribes in the North-east India, Khasi groups in Meghalaya are yet to embrace Indian nationhood. This despite the Central government’s 90:10 funding ratio specially set for the backward region. These groups are also very vocal about Christianity, which their people started adopting around 150 years ago from missionaries. The media are always agog with news about reservations, tribal ‘rights’, influx of ‘outsiders’ and also homicides on ethnic or religious lines. It will, perhaps, take decades for this part of the world to take lessons from Netherlands and live with peace.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on April 11, 2015)

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