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Dr M M Verma, President, Interfaith Foundation, India

The Colloquium this morning has been organized to explore, discover and formulate Interfaith Paradigm to live together – which we should learn, understand and follow in day- to- day life for peace, harmony, love and brotherhood. Let the panelists thrash out Interfaith Paradigm for learning to live together. All that we wish to do is to systematically organize thoughts and wisdom of the spiritual leaders of all faiths.

In this era, when hatred can be expressed with biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, we urgently need to hear some unifying story. In view of the current events and unanswered questions, shaking our faith, we need to become more acquainted with all prophets through the cascade of familiar, forgotten, rejected and unheard teachings. Let us admit that similarities and commonalities do exist among all faiths. Let some True Light radiate from each one of them.

In this embattled world, bedeviled and vitiated by double standards, ignorance, distortion of the messages of prophets and misinterpretation of Holy Scriptures, we recognize one thing that religion is a great power, which ought to be put to positive use. As religious people we have tremendous responsibility to present truthful and unbiased interpretation of Holy Scriptures.

Interfaith Paradigm is not meant to eclipse other faiths, much less replace them. It is not a synergy of all faiths. It is not even a syncretism or a mix of all faiths. It should represent a samagam of the universal human values, embodied in all religions. It begins with the premise that the subject matter of all religions is the same (Sukhmani Sahib canto 24). His worship and worshippers are of the same hew (ibid canto 17). The Supreme Spirit is one. We are all His creation. We should remember him 24hrs and sing songs of his glory. That we should do good and righteous deeds and worship the Lord in the wellbeing of all (Bhagavad-Gita, chp XII).

The Interfaith Paradigm comprises a common theological platform, universal human values and basic message of unity, universal language, culture and manners. In a nutshell, Interfaith Paradigm must reflect semblance of unity and brotherhood. Today, there is a need to change the mindset of our religious leaders. They need to undergo some sort of modernizing program. The value system of every religion is its soul, whereas institutions and rituals constitute only its body. Guru Nanak says: There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim. It implies that all human beings are children of the same God. It is essential to understand the difference between the body and the soul. At the level of soul, all are the same. There is no Hindu, no Muslim, no Pakistani and no American soul etc. All these designations are external designations. In fact, a person who understands and follows his religion correctly should embrace all religions.

The starting point of Interfaith Paradigm is that God is one, the wise call it by many names. There is a consensus among religious leaders that God is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. He is the creator, preserver and destroyer. Everything exists in him and He exists in everything. Secondly, we are all children of one God. He is the Soul of souls.

He is timeless, formless, birthless and deathless. Thirdly, we should sing the glory of his greatness. And lastly, we should serve God in the wellbeing of all, irrespective of caste, color, creed and nationality etc. Service to God needs no boundaries. Thus, serve the whole mankind. All religious Scriptures stress on the righteous deeds. Therefore, we should identify universal human values, which could help us formulate Interfaith Paradigm for learning to living together.

A Hindu who meditates on Brahma, A Muslim who praises Allah, A Sikh who sings the glory of Akal Purakh (The Timeless Lord), A Christian who magnifies Jesus, A Jew who magnifies Adonai, A Zoroastrian who honours Ahura Mazda (The Wise Lord) may have differing interpretations of God’s nature, name and ways, but in a united way, they are all reaching out to the same Creator.

The social concept termed “The Golden Rule” is found in all religious writings. All Holy Scriptures and books of ethical philosophy are replete with the positive and negative expressions of the Golden Rule.

Religious power like any other power can be used for a good cause or a bad one. What we need so desperately in our world today is mobilization of religious power on behalf of world peace. This power, if mobilized among the right people all over the world, will usher in a golden period in human history.

It is well - known that the Asian religious and cultural traditions have made significant contribution to creating an environment of tolerance and peaceful coexistence. This continuing legacy has a great relevance for the intercultural and intercivilizational dialogue, which needs to be projected and highlighted in the Interfaith Paradigm.

Every effort of interfaith and intercultural dialogue is a new initiative and a new beginning. Let this initiative, taken at this Colloquium, cross the narrow national boundaries and religious exclusivism. Let us highlight in the Interfaith Paradigm the shared wisdom and light of the great religious teachers of the world. May this light shine brightly. May there be peace on Earth. May diverse cultures and civilizations coexist. Let us value and practice the Interfaith Paradigm to live together.

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