Muslims, Hindus Unite at International Summit in Rishikesh
Show of Unity in advance of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th Birthday Anniversary
Two Day Inter-religious Summit & Two Day Training inaugurated at Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh), with the joint collaboration of KAICIID, the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance & Parmarth Niketan
RISHIKESH: Prominent Hindu and Muslim leaders and youth joined forces at Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh) in a first ever, historic event on strengthening interreligious collaboration of Hindu and Muslim leaders and youth. The historic event was organized by KAICIID the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID), Vienna, the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) and Parmarth Niketan as a show of interfaith unity and harmony in a time of growing global strife.
Acceptance, unity in diversity and peaceful coexistence are foundations upon which India’s democracy has been built, maintained and sustained. From the founding of India, Mahatma Gandhi and great patriots not only led the nation to independence, but also fought for the cause of peaceful and inclusive societies. India is striving assiduously to hold to these values, and recommits itself each year to fostering inclusivity and coexistence. As we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth, the Summit came together to re-emphasize this vital process.
Religious leaders have been crucial in addressing many challenges that have arisen and in strengthening ties within, between and among communities in India, resulting in a wealth of knowledge and experience with the potential to serve as guidance for each other, as well as other religious leaders.
In this light, this two day Summit, from the 8-9th December, was held bringing religious leaders from the Hindu and Muslim communities to share their work and experiences, celebrate the peaceful ways societies embrace diversity, discuss challenges and potential solutions, highlight successes, and identify potential areas for concrete joint collaboration.
The gathering will also take dialogue into action through a two-day youth leader training at Parmarth Niketan from 9-10th December, during which young faith leaders and youth from faith-based organisations and intergovernmental organisations were trained to be champions of peaceful and inclusive societies. They will also learn hands-on practices to promote peace, reconciliation and conflict resolution.
The inauguration was graced by the presence of renowned faith leaders including: Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji – Muniji, President of Parmarth Niketan, Co-Founder of the GIWA, Acharya Bal Krishna Ji of Patanjali Yogapeeth, Dr Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasiji, Chief Imam of the All India Imam Organization, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, Secretary General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, Pujya MM Swami Kailashanand Brahamchariji Maharaj, Pujya MM Swami Harichetnanandji, Haji Syed Salman Chisthyji, Gaddi Nasheen of the Ajmer Dargah Sharif, Maulana Abdul Hannan Qasmiji, Principal Deoband Madrasa, Maulana Kokab Mujtabaji, Maulana Lukman Tarapuriji, National President, Global Imam Council,Gujarat and many others (list of the faith leaders below).
Joining the three-day event from KAICIID headquarters in Vienna, Austria and coordinating the leadership and dialogue training were Dr. Mohamed Safiullah Munsoor, KAICIID Programme’s Director, Mr. Anders Franzen, KAICIID Senior Programme Manager for Asia and Africa and Ms. Renata Katalin Nelson, KAICIID Coordination Officer.
Pujya Swami Chiananand Saraswatiji said, “India is not merely a piece of land but a land of peace. We are the longest standing democracy that has provided refugee and home to people of all faiths. To me interfaith is when we enter into the common faith of our one humanity. We remember that we may worship our own but we must respect all.“
KAICIID Programme’s Director Dr. Mohamed Safiullah Munsoor, expressed, “On behalf of KAICIID it gives me profound joy to be part of the Parmarth Niketan & Global Interfaith WASH Alliance launch of this event on Peaceful Dialogue, diversity, social coexistance. This partnership is important for us to enhance the Interreligious Dialogue within the Indian context. Together we are working to accomplish the noble goal of strengthening peace and harmony, which is the quintessential aspect of life of all religions and between and within communities.“
Acharya Balkrishanji shared, “When we come together we pave the way to walk and work together. This is a great beginning in which we are coming together to share and live together in greater peace and harmony and this is the core values of our nation. We are all one.”
Imam Umer Ahmes Ilyasiji stated, “When Pujya Swamiji, Sadhvi Bhagawatiji and I first brought Gurukul and Madrasa children together at Parmarth Niketan we had a great purpose and intention behind it and that was that it would be the beginning of a nationwide revolution which will begin to shape a more peaceful and inclusive societies. These children from our faith institutions will be the future priests, maulanas and muftis of tomorrow then there will be no conflict over mandirs, masjids or any place of worship because innately they will no longer see them as separate. I am so glad that today that seed is beginning to grow and the future of our nation is being shaped as we speak as these children watch our example and connect with each other.“
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji expressed “The essence of Indian culture, regardless of our religious tradition, is Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam, the whole world is one family. This great event is bringing us together to re-emphasize our togetherness, to learn together and grow together. The future is in the hands of the youth and that is why we have called all our young sisters and brothers together today – from Gurukuls, Veda Vidyalayas and Madrasas to be taught, touched and transformed by the Dharmagurus and to join hands as One Earth Family for peace and togetherness.“
Haji Syed Salman Chisthyji, said “It is crucial that today the voices of peace, love and togetherness be amplified and spread not just those of violence, terror and seperation. It is vital for our news and media share these dedicated efforts that are taking place across the nations and the thousands of year tradition
There were so many other powerful and inspiring messages and speeches of the interfaith leaders.
The event began with songs of peace and oneness from Gurukul and Madarasa children and concluded with beautiful music from renowned artists from Kolkata and a special laser music show on the theme of interfaith harmony and Ek Bharat, Shresth Bharat (United India).
Pujya Swamiji added, “Now is the time for us to take up a new global prayer, a new mantra, and a new song. Let its words be that of unity, may its harmony be that of all voices together. Let its crescendo be lasting peace. Today, the music begins, this is the music that the world needs today.“
There was also beautiful and divine sharing and campfire in which young Hindu and Muslim children and their elders/leaders shared their experiences in a more intimate, loving environment with each other.
Today was the second day of the Summit and first day of the training which included diverse and inspiring messages by more of the Hindu and Muslim leaders gathered together for the occasion in the green surroundings of the Parmarth Yoga Garden. There was a special pledge that reaffirmed the faith leaders commit for working together to abate climate change, plant more trees and protect our fast dwindling water resources. They offered sacred Rudraksha saplings to young Madrasa and Gurukul student as symbol of their commitment to instill these values of environmental preservation in the next generation.
There was also a beautiful launch of the Hindi translation of the United Nations’ Plan of Action to Prevent Atrocity Crimes, a holistic and comprehensive approach for faith leaders and faith actors to build peaceful and inclusive societies. Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Imam Umer Iliasiji and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji had been part of the preparation of the Plan of Action with the United Nations Office of Genocide Prevention and the Hindi version was prepared by Parmarth Niketan and launched on the second day of the event.