Interfaith Dialogue Delves On Convergence Of Faiths

Lucio Mascarenhas.
Orthopapism II/Michaelinum | Index of Articles

News Report in the Afternoon Despatch & Courier, Tuesday, 20th February 2001, Bombay.

A five day interfaith dialogue between Hindu and Christian thinkers in Bombay last week brought forth a "final statement" declaring the development of a dialogue of convergence between different faiths at grassroots.

According to an official statement, the participants included a host of priests and nuns, led by Cardinal Simon Pimenta, former archbishop of Mumbai, bishop Thomas Dabre of Vasai, Swami Kritarthananda of the Ramakrishna Mission, noted Sanskrit scholar, Prof. Satyavrat Shastri and others.

The international delegates included Japanese priest Fr. Fuyuki Hirabayashi (specially deputed by the Vatican), Fr. Thomas Matus from Italy, founder of the Interfaith Monastic Dialogue, Fr. Carlo Torriani, an Italian priest working in Maharashtra and Fr. D. Mayeul from France.

The dialogue was held at the K. J. Somaiya's Bharatiya Sanskriti Peetham - the Indian Cultural Institute, at Vidyavihar, a north-eastern suburb, which was also the venue for two earlier Hindu-Christian dialogue sessions in 1997 and 2000.

Discussion On Convergence Of Faith

"K. J. Somaiya's Indian Cultural Institute takes the initiative to start an inter-faith dialogue." Report by Renuka Suryanarayan in the Community Speak column, Indian Express, Newsline supplement, Bombay edition, 27th February 2001.

Keeping pace with advancing technology, there has been a growing convergence of Hindu and Christian faiths at the intellectual level. A special observer from the Vatican, priests from Italy, local priests and nuns led by the Cardinal of the Catholic Church, Simon Pimenta, and the bishop of Bassein, Thomas Dabre, interacted with Hindu monks and thinkers at the fourth round of the Interfaith Dialogue held at the K. J. Somaiya's Bharatiya Sanskruti Peetham - Indian Cultural Institute, in Vidyavihar, Bombay, recently.

The highlights were a 'Final Statement' declaring the 'development of a dialogue of convergence' based on themes grounded in respective traditions and a fervent plea by Cardinal Pimenta to take Inter-Religious Dialogue to the level of the common people.

Dr. S. K. Somaiya, the moving spirit behind the work that is going on under the auspices of the Institute, plays down his role in the setting up of an institution like this which is meant to foster friendship and understanding between religions.

Four generations before, Dr. Somaiya's forefathers immigrated from Kutch and from humble beginnings, not only raised their own stature but also that of Bombay through their foundations for education, social and cultural betterment, etc. He describes his father, K. J. Somaiya, as a dreamer and creator who made his visions a reality. Dr. Somaiya runs the Somaiya Vidyavihar (school), the Somaiya Ayurvihar (school of Hindu medicine), tribal welfare centers, Grihanvasi Pragati Mandal, medical camps, etc.

The International Seminar for Interfaith Dialogue on Mahakavyas in Hinduism and Christianity was jointly organised by the Somaiya Institute, the Interfaith Dialogue Center of Sassari, Italy, the Interfaith Monastic Dialogue, the Department of Oriental Studies and the University of Florence, Italy. Talking to Newsline, Dr. Somaiya, the vice-president of the Somaiya Vidyavihar, says, "The Bharatiya Sanskruti Peetham is housed by the Somaiya Vidyavihar of the Somaiya Trust. I have always felt that the fundamentals of religions are the same, only the perceptions are different. We all want to worship the creator, ethically we have the same thoughts, we just feel that we should encourage our faculties to understand these virtues. Once youngsters reach high school, their thoughts are quite firm, the formative years are critical. So we wanted to form a curriculum incorporating the thoughts of the Vedic religion."

He prefers the name 'Vedic religion' than Hindu religion, because, he feels, all the religions in India have their roots in the four Vedas, the oldest Hindu scriptures. "So we started a nine month program for teachers from different parts of Maharashtra to be trained to teach young students on this subject," he explains. He mentions that the theme of Shankaracharya's Advaita enables Christian participants to learn more about the Christian faith and the Hindus to discover points of convergence with Christian teachings.
Lucio Mascarenhas.
Orthopapism II/Michaelinum | Index of Articles
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