Interfaith Summit

Religions Embracing for Peace & Harmony

“There is no harm in having many religions and faiths, but it is harmful to think that they are different and that one faith is higher and the other one is lower. Children, do not see the differences. See the unity in them and the great ideals that they teach.” – Amma

Lighting the lamp (l-r): Sw. Gautamananda, Rev. Ipe Joseph, His Grace Mar Baselios, Sw. Visvesha Tirtha, Sw. Amritaswarupananda, Rev. Takeda Hakusai, P. Parameshwaran, Sadhvi Samani Jyotipragya, Rabbi Leah Novick, Sw. Raghaveshwara Bharati

24 September 2003

It was a historic moment. On Amma’s 50th birthday, religious leaders from throughout the world came together in the name of peace and harmony. The goal was clear: to discuss the roles and responsibilities of religion in modern society, stressing how the principles of each of the world’s major faiths, in truth, should sow sociopolitical peace and mutual tolerance – not hinder them.

In total, 10 dignitaries—representing Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Jainism and Judaism—addressed Amma and the 100,000-strong Amritavarsham50 attendees. Upon their conclusion, Swami Ramakrishnananda of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math read Amma’s message as well as announced the Interfaith Summit’s Resolutions and Actions Items. These were then endorsed by Shri. Bawa Jain on behalf of the World Council of Religious Leaders.

The Summit’s speakers included Swami Vishvesha Tirtha (India), Reverend Takeda Hakusai (Japan), Shankaracharya Swami Raghaveshwara Bharati (India), His Grace Cyril Mar Baselios (India), Rabbi Leah Novick (USA), Sadvhi Samani Jyotipragya (India), Reverend Dr. Ipe Joseph (India), Swami Gautamananda Maharaj (India), Dr. Saleha Mahmood Abedin (Pakistan) and Shri. P. Parameshwaran (India).

The Summit began with the lighting of the lamp. In a symbol of unity, all of the speakers took part in this traditional opening, each lighting one of the deepam’s wicks. It was a touching and solemn moment – 10 men and women of God, dressed in diverse traditional garments, reverentially standing side-by-side. The silent prayer could be felt throughout the hall, throughout the stadium grounds: “let our hearts and minds be open, let us unify in spirit.”

Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math’s senior sannyasin was first to take the mic. “If one analyses the conflicts that are prevalent across our world today, a lot of the causal indicators will point towards the apparent breakdown of communication between people and, in particular, a breakdown in healthy dialogue and communication between religions. This unique conference titled ‘Religions Embracing for Peace & Harmony’ is an effort to create a platform to foster healthy dialogue and communication.

“Let this be a beginning in shifting our collective attitudes and in expanding our collective consciousness by not just tolerating our differences, but in accepting them, respecting them and celebrating the apparent differences in diversity.”

Swamiji then went on to say that the goal and underlying foundation of all religions is the same: the recognition of the inherent divinity within all of us. Quoting Amma, he explained how each religion has two parts – the inner and the outer, the spiritual and the intellectual. “‘The intellectual part is like a pair of scissors that can only cut and chop. However, the spiritual part sews things together and creates unity and beauty. Just like when different pieces of cloth of different colors can be sewn into a beautiful garland, the heart unites everything; the intellect creates difference and conflict.'”

Amma, who was seated in the front row, then personally blessed each of the distinguished speakers with Her loving embrace, all of whom, regardless of age, looked like children as the fell into Her arms. She then sat back and listened attentively as, for the next couple hours, each speaker expressed the views of his or her religion.

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