Written Statement by Indialogue Foundation (India) for
Geneve Peace Conference on
“Mobilizing Civil Society for Building Peace”
October 24, 2014 Geneva
Indialogue Foundation, its objectives and activities
Indialogue Foundation is an action-oriented international dialogue and peace foundation, was founded in 2005, through imagination and fortune of a group of Turkish and Indian people. Foundation is inspired by sensible and spiritual thoughts of the eminent scholars and spiritual leaders of the world. Its objectives are to champion proactive studies, to pioneer international, intercultural and interfaith dialogue initiatives and to promote universal values as love, respect, harmony, co-existence, cooperation, care and peace. Indialogue contributes to information exchange and networking on current issues of dialogue and peace building through its analyses and reports as well as meetings and conferences. Indialogue Foundation envisions eradicating polarization, animosity and prejudice among communities and groups through its academic, social, interfaith and cultural events, programs and projects.
Indialogue recalls taking other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace, and to achieve the objectives in promoting and encouraging respect for religions, human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without discrimination or distinction as to religion, culture, race, sex, language etc.
Organization’s name derived from combination of two words “India” and ”Dialogue”, which literally means being “in dialogue in India”. It also can be stated as “In” and “Dialogue” which will refer to be “in dialogue with people”. The mission statement of the organization is “Dialogue for Peace”. Through both meanings and mission statement, Indialogue strives to be a dynamic and prominent think tank institution in India that will be an address for causes of peace building, reconciliation and inclusive & responsible development.
Indialogue logo represented by Chakra a wheel of a cart. Chakra in its originality is Ashoka Chakra which is a symbolism of peace in Hindu and Buddhist mythologies, which is also represented today at central part of Indian National Flag. According to Buddha each 24 arrows of Ashoka Chakra symbolises human virtues as Love, Peacefulness, Faithfulness, Selflessness, Sacrifice, Truthfulness, Justice, Mercy, Goodness, etc. In Indialogue logo there are ten small and ten big arrows, the big arrows are coloured with different colours to represent diversity of human kind and connected in central part for common good.
Indialogue Foundation in its eight years tenure in India with four offices in New Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai has organized number of notable interfaith forums, cultural events, academic conferences, contests, study trips, etc. Indialogue developed good relationships with several civil society organizations, university academics, intellectuals, community leaders and general public. And these associations resulted in collaborative efforts in organizing socially beneficial endeavours.
One of the striking activities of Indialogue are annual Gandhi Jayanti Seminar focusing each year on different aspects of Gandhian thought, during seminar the papers are invited to focus on Gandhi’s perspective and other treasured philosophical trends. Current year, the theme of the seminar was “Embracing the Other”. Some other noteworthy events are Turkish Cultural Festivals, Contests, National Seminars focusing for Peace, Study trips and annual Interfaith Dialogue on Common Values. Interfaith Dialogue initiative will be discussed in detail in coming chapter.
Indialogue Foundation is especially inspired by teachings and exemplary life of the M. Fethullah Gulen. Who is an eminent Islamic scholar and peace activist from Turkey, whose teachings are based on dialogue and education, expanded worldwide and he has been subject to many academic studies. His more than 60 books have been translated to many languages and his philosophy is well accepted in East and West. He has denounced and condemned terror activities carried during 9 September and as well current atrocities committed by ISIS terror outfit. In 1990s, he advocated the necessity of interfaith dialog; he personally met with many religious and community leaders, including Pope John Paul II, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomeos, and Israeli Sephardic Head Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron.
The need of Interfaith Initiatives
Diversity is the Divine Will; God has created human being with distinct features, different colours and languages and made us into nations and tribes, that we might know one another. The diversity of religions, cultures and languages should not be viewed as a national threat but should be accepted as a national asset and should be cherished. Rainbow is formed with different colours, and gives auspicious appearance that we all rejoice, and in same way differences among people also should be acknowledged in same direction.
India is second most populous country in the world with population of 1.2 billion (census 2011), more than sixth of the world’s population. Its population growth rate is 1.41% and population expected to reach 1. 6 billion in 2050 and becoming most populous country surpassing China. India is a nation of religious, linguistic and ethnic diversity. In terms of religious diversity its population constituted as: Hindus 80.5%, Muslims 13.4%, Christians 2.3%, Sikhs 1.8%, Buddhists 0.8%, Jains 0.4%, others 0.7% and unspecified 0.1%.
India is known as land of “Unity in Diversity” as for centuries it has accommodated different ethnicities, religions and languages. Citizens to be able to live peace in this vast geography with this huge population requires only applause. Still some unfortunate incidents trigger inter-religious and inter-ethnic violence. India’s Partition is remembered with pain where thousands people were killed in Muslim-Hindu riots especially towns close to the border. Many horrible stories are told and remembered in this dark page of the history. In recent decade also the number of violence observed in different parts of India. The peaceful environment do not guarantee that communal tensions will not occur in future, hence sensitizing public and community leaders on peace is a right direction.
Sceptics and critics of Interfaith Dialogue events argue that the events only bring elites of society and do not produce concrete results. We would say that community leaders coming together and showing their position of being pro dialogue sends signal to vast majority of people.
Annual Interfaith Dialogue Iftar Dinner on Common Values
Indialogue Foundation shoulders Iftar Dinners during the Holy Month of Ramadan as a special occasions to invite people of diverse backgrounds to come together and share meal under high human values. In 2009 Indialogue Hyderabad Office organized an Interfaith Dialogue Iftar Dinner under the theme of “Fasting in Religions” at its office. Besides previous several interfaith forums, this was its first kind that brought religious leaders to discuss the Common Values. Distinguished speakers deliberated about the existence of fasting practices in their respective Religions and quoted from sacred texts. And moreover speakers also counted the spiritual benefits of this worship and also the social advantages as assisting development of humane characters like empathy, care and patience.
From year 2009 it became an annual event for Indialogue Hyderabad Office to organize an Interfaith Dialogue Iftar Dinner under selected Common Values. As first event was organized during the month of Ramadan this tradition carried out to be held in same month in coming years. In 2010 Indialogue Hyderabad Office invited COVA (Confederation of Voluntary Organizations) to partner in holding this interfaith milieu. COVA is a grass root organization, working for peace building, empowerment and spreading social awareness in the old city of Hyderabad, the locality which has witnessed dozen communal violence in the past. It was appropriate to come together to work together for same cause.
The second event with the remarkable theme “Rights of Neighbours in Religions” in 2010 was conducted in atmosphere of sympathy and care. And especially the host Indialogue Centre’s neighbours were also invited to this occasion to suit to the theme of the activity. “Helping in difficult times”, “Loving” and “Caring” are among the fundamental principles advocated by all the Religions to favour Neighbours despite their religious beliefs. Current advanced technology and telecommunications era makes our world smaller and it is supposed to bring humankind much closer to each other. But strangely and unfortunately the more technology and communication advance the more gap between humankind increases and especially among neighbours. In this hectic age humanity needs to understand each other more than ever.
More awareness on the fact that World Religions give value to Neighbours could probably assist bringing more activism into neighbourhoods. In this direction the Indialogue Hyderabad Office facilitated an inspiring family get-together on “Neighbourhood Iftar/Meal” on Sunday, 21st August 2011 at its centre after one year of said Interfaith Dialogue event. Indialogue Foundation took initiative of bringing families of residencies in neighbourhood with entire family members including children and elders with aim of fostering neighbourliness. This event had many important distinctions from conventional get-together, as guests being requested to bring meal along with them to share during Iftar feast to enable better socialization. The partaking of a good number of families from different communities and perhaps some neighbours meeting each other first time was a motivating gesture that this endeavour should be promoted to assist building of relationship between neighbours.
In 2011 the Interfaith Dialogue had meaningful theme on “Respect to other Faiths in Religions”, during event the deliberations had strongly revealed that Religions advocate “Respect to others Faiths”. Especially India being home to people of diverse faiths and living in harmonious atmosphere for centuries could be set as an evidence of this reality. The exceptional cases are instigation and provocation of hate-mongers who seek to achieve their goals by triggering religious sentiments.
In 2012 organizers decided to expand the audience and reach by holding this meaningful event at the convention hall of the hotels. During this time guests were fortunate to listen to religious leaders on “Charity for Empowerment in Religions” and distinguished speakers enriched with wisdom and reminded one and all about the importance of sacrifice, care, charity, love and cooperation.
In 2013 organizers welcomed guests for Interfaith Dialogue under the theme of “Care for Elders in Religions”. In current scenario the life expectancy of people are increasing and percentage of elders are increasing world. The care of senior citizens also started to be discussed in Indian scenario. The religious leaders who have come all the way to share their thoughts on the subject thanked the organizers for selecting this pressing subject for deliberation. Speakers shared on caring elder from their respective religious teaching.
In 2014 organizers wanted to bring attention for refugees and altruistic approach of Religions, therefore the theme of the Interfaith Dialogue was decided “Altruism in Religions for Refugees and Migrants”. Religious leaders spoke on the subject and it was interesting to note that many noble religious personalities and Prophets themselves were refugees. By religious leaders and scholars it was highlighted that “altruism”, in general was described as a kind of behaviour which a) benefits another person, b) must be performed intentionally, c) the benefit must be the goal itself, and d) must be provided without expecting any external reward.
These six experiences had strongly revealed that there are many similar features in World Religions that should be discovered to enable to act as bonds for relationship among communities. Many intellectuals, writers, journalists, community leaders, academicians, opinion makers, social activists attended these events. And all of them carried the message that other faiths also share similar values. These annual event holds the objective of bringing similarities among World Religions and voicing the message of Peace. After Indialogue Hyderabad Office initiative other Indialogue Offices also plan to implement same event series in their respective cities.
It is our nature that we are enemy of unknown. When any of us hear a strange noise while walking in a dark street, our first reaction will be defence and worry, but after going and seeing that the noise is caused by a small kitten our defensive and worried reaction will turn into love, care and sympathy. It is necessary to promote intercultural and interfaith dialogue to its new heights so that we learn fundamental principles of each other’s faith so to lay foundation for peaceful living and to prevent consequences of intolerance and hatred in the future. This exemplary initiative by Indialogue Foundation can be implemented by other civil society organizations worldwide.