A seminar on ‘Interfaith Harmony for a global Civilization’ was organized by Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot (Gujarat, India) on June 24, 2018 as a part of the 125th Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s Speeches in Chicago in 1893, and as a prelude to the Parliament of World’s Religions to be held at Toronto from 1 to 7 November, 2018.
The seminar was inaugurated by Shri O. P. Kohli, the Governor of Gujarat in the presence of Swami Gautamanandaji Maharaj, Vice President, Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission and Adhyaksha of Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, Dr. Bhadra Shah, a Trustee of the committee of the Parliament of World’s Religions and Dr. Jayesh Shah, Ambassador of the Parliament. Shri O. P. Kohli, the Governor of Gujarat said that Swami Vivekananda in his historic speeches in the Parliament of Religions at Chicago spoke not only of tolerance but also of universal acceptance which is the need of the hour today. Swami Gautamanandaji Maharaj said that Ramakrishna Mission started by Swami Vivekananda about 120 year ago is committed to the idea of Inter faith harmony not only by preaching but also by practicing. Dr. Jayesh Shah gave information about vision and mission of the Parliament.
The first session was chaired by Swami Gautamanandaji Maharaj. Eminent religious leaders of different faiths put forth the ideas of Interfaith harmony from the perspective of their respected faiths. Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, Ex-General Secretary Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, Amritsar, quoted Guru Nanak while pleading for Interfaith harmony. Mr. Sami Bubere, President, World Peace Council, Mumbai, quoted from Koran and said Islam is against violence in the name of religion. Archbishop Thomas I. Macwan, Archbishop of Gandhinagar, quoted Bible and said that Christianity believes in loving the neighbours. Prof. Geshe Ngawang Samten, Vice Chancellor, Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Varanasi, said that Buddhism believes in peace and non-violence. Mr. Yezdi P. F. Panthaki, Zoroastrian High Priest, Mumbai, said that Parsi people have mingled with Indian people like sugar with milk. Jain Sadhvi Shri Shilpaji, Founder, Veerayatan Vidhyapeeth, Kutch, said that we should stress more on humanity because the blood flowing in the veins of human beings of different faiths is the same. Swami Atmashraddhananda, Acharya, Probationers’ Training Centre, Belur Math, said that Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma) believes in unity of existence and harmony among people. Swami Gautamanandaji Maharaj summarized the speeches of all speakers and said that we should all work enthusiastically to bring harmony and peace on this earth as per the teachings of Shri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.
The second Session was dedicated to the topic ‘Role of Education and Media in Interfaith Harmony’. Dr. Jayesh Shah said that electronic media and social media are playing negative role on Interfaith harmony and we should try to change this trend. Shri Ajay Umat, Chief Editor, Nav Gujarat Samay quoted the speech of Swami Vivekananda delivered in Chicago in 1893 and said that in spite of the warning given by Swami Vivekananda, we saw the incidents like 9/11 and two world wars . It is high time we give due importance to the message of Swami Vivekananda of harmony of Religions. Prof. J. S. Rajput, Ex-Director, NCERT, Delhi, chaired the session and said education can play an important part in spreading the idea of Interfaith harmony, the students should be taught about importance of Vivek ( power of discrimination).
The concluding session was chaired by Swami Vishwatmanandaji Maharaj, Adhyaksha, Shri Ramakrishna Advaita Ashrama, Varanasi. In his speech he appreciated the enthusiasm of the people who were listening with rapt attention all the deliberations for nine hours (from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm). Dr. Bhadraben Shah announced special discount in registration charges for the Parliament at Toronto. The followers of different faiths presented their traditional prayers in the morning which created wonderful spiritual atmosphere. The audience enjoyed the post lunch session when the videos related to the Parliament 2018 were shown. All the delegates were gifted books on spirituality and all the speakers were given mementos. About 750 persons participated enthusiastically. The programme was also broadcasted live stream through YouTube and Facebook.