Government to enlist gurus for organ donation campaign is a recent headline. The article goes on to say: “The health ministry plans to rope in spiritual gurus to help dispel myths about organ donation“.

This is undoubtedly a good move. Organ donation is a noble cause but so are education, child marriage, gender equality, child abuse and far too many more.

One often wonders why spiritual leaders of all faiths do not raise social issues as theirs is a voice that is always heard. In today’s disturbed world they hold the power to change things.

This is a statement made with responsibility as it is based on experience. Over the years we at Project Why have witnessed time and again the power of religious percepts. Nothing takes precedence over the rituals and religious traditions not even the child’s medical need let alone the school fee.

The importance of religious customs is deeply embedded in the lives of slum dwellers who spend enormous amount of money on ensuring that every one is respected even if money has to be borrowed at mind boggling rates.

In villages in Bihar it is, we are told, customary to ‘feed’ the whole village for three days after the demise of a close relative. We were horrified to learn that a parent who had barely enough money to survive had put up a feeding stall in the slum cluster and was ‘feeding’ everyone. Needless to say he had taken huge loans. When asked later why did he do this, he replied that it was a matter of honour and if he did not comply he would be ostracized.

Over the years we have rarely succeeded in getting people to alter deeply rooted traditions. All logic and even threat fails. So people give huge dowries, marry their girls early and so on. However if a religious leader said the same, things might be different.

At Project Why we hope that the support of such spiritual leaders will be sought for the social change that is paramount to a better world.


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