World Interfaith Harmony Week Programs in India See Altruism as Common Ground

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1 Report Part: II World Interfaith Harmony Week Programs in India See Altruism as Common Ground Four UNs World Interfaith Harmony Week 2014 programs were held throughout India. They addressed the role religions must collectively play in peace-building. Two seminars were held at the UN Conference Hall in the capital, New Delhi. Other programs were in West Bengal, Siliguri, and in the southern city of Chennai in Tamil Nadu. The Universal Peace Federation (UPF) of India was the main organizer of these events. To build social harmony, religions must find common ground. They need to discover principles that they agree on without compromising the tenets of their own faith traditions in order to go beyond tolerance and engage in meaningful, constructive and sustainable peace initiatives. A summary of the WIHW programs sponsored by UPF-India will be presented first. Then an overview of the religious teachings that acknowledge universal principles of goodness will be offered. Third WIHW Event: Venue: UN Information Centre, New Delhi, India, February 3, 2014 Executive Summary: An Interfaith Conference: Seeking Common Ground While Building Interfaith Harmony among Youth Religious leaders from all major faith traditions of India affirmed their need to work together to send the message to young people that prejudice and intolerance are not acceptable. UNIC Director Kiran Mehra-Kerpelman read the UN Secretary-General s message and called for practical steps to promote interfaith harmony, starting with interreligious dialogue among young people in schools and colleges. The Chief Guest, Member of Parliament Najma Heptullah, spoke of the need to cast aside extremist ideologies and reassert the messages of peace and mutual understanding which are at the root of all religions. Dr. Yong explained that by Living for the Sake of Others (the motto of the UPF Founder) we can be empowered to reconcile the divisions in our human family. 1

2 Religious leaders stand united after praying for world peace. The dais and audience at the UN Conference Hall in New Delhi 2

3 Speakers: UNIC Director Kiran Mehra-Kerpelman Dr. Chung Sik-Yong, Chairman, UPF-Asia H.E. B.P. Singh, former Governor of Sikkim and Chairman, UPF-India Amb. Ashok Sajjanhar, Secretary, National Foundation for Communal Harmony Hon. Najma Heptullah, Member of Parliament, India Hon. Ek Nath Dhakal, former minister, Government of Nepal Dr. Robert S. Kittel, Director of Peace Education UPF-Asia Mr. Krishna Adhikari, Secretary General, UPF-India Executive Summary: Fourth WIHW Event: Venue: Chennai, Tamil Nadu, (South) India, February 4, 2014 Inauguration of an Interfaith Peace Club and Awarding Ambassadors for Peace Three partners the United Nations, the Universal Peace Federation and Madras University conducted a WIHW program in south India. The WIHW event brought together religious leaders, social activists, and prominent educators, including: 3

4 Rev. Dr. G. Joseph Antony Samy SJ, Principal of Loyola College Dr. Chung Sik Yong, Chairman of UPF-Asia Mrs. Malini Kalyanam, social and spiritual activist, and daughter of V. Kalyanam, former personal secretary to Mahatma Gandhi, Mrs. Padma Venkataraman, social activist and daughter of the late Shri R. Venkataraman, former President of India. Mr. Krishna Adhikari, Secretary General of UPF-India Dr. Jothi Ganesh, medical doctor and UPF-South India representative Mr. Karunakaran conducted the interfaith prayer In addition to launching a Peace Club on the campus of Madras University, seven prestigious UPF Ambassador for Peace awards were presented to prominent citizens of Chennai. Dr. Chung Sik Yong, Chairman of UPF-Asia delivering his keynote address. Rev. Dr. G. Joseph Antony Samy SJ, Principal of Loyola College delivering his special address. Malini Kalyanam, social and spiritual activist, daughter of V. Kalyanam, former personal secretary to Mahatma Gandhi speaking. Dr. Jothi Ganesh, Youth Leader of UPF-India, serving as the Master of Ceremonies of the event. 4

5 Appendix: Universal Principle of Goodness All religions teach altruism or living for others as the essence of being good. Universally, religions encourage and instruct us that it is good to sacrifice without ulterior motives or personal merit. This is common ground that can take us beyond tolerance. Do not expect, in giving, any increase for thyself! Quran 74:6 Where egoism exists, [God] is not experienced, Where [God] is, egoism is not. Adi Granth, Maru-ki-Var, M.1, p Of sacrifices, the sacrifice performed by those who desire no reward, is the nature of goodness. Bhagavad Gita 17:11 養心莫善於寡欲 To nourish the mind there is nothing better than to make the desires few. Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it. 孟子 - Mengzi Luke 17:33 Misers certainly do not go to the heavens but noble men find joy in generosity, and this gives them joy in higher worlds. Dhammapada 13:177 5

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