During a time when there is much hatred, violence and opposition in the world, it is comforting to know
Peace and Joy!
Nuns of various faiths discuss harmony and peace in Hindu Holy City
VARANASI, India (UCAN) -- About 200 women of various faiths have recently met in an ancient Indian city of spirituality to discuss how they can promote religious harmony and world peace.
Maitri Bhavan (friendship house), a Church-run center for interreligious dialogue, and Tera Panth, a Jain group, jointly organized the Aug. 12 program in northern India's holy city of Varanasi, 780 kilometers east of New Delhi.
Nearly half the participants who attended the three-hour program on "Religious Harmony and World Peace" were Catholic nuns. The others represented Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Jain traditions.
Acharya (teacher) Sarad Kumar Sadhak, a Jain leader, told UCA News that his group collaborated with the Catholic center to bring the women together because "increasing terror and violence" has made people pessimistic. "A pessimistic society" does not last long, while women have "become the symbol of peace today" and can help reduce conflict and foster peace, he explained.
Father M. Santiago, director of Maitri Bhavan, added that sharing religious experiences and views would lead to peace because it would improve relations among religions.
Sadhvi Kalyani Devi, a Hindu ascetic woman, began her address to the meeting by extolling all religions. The nun, who is from a Hindu religious school for women, also chanted slogans from the Veda, an ancient Hindu religious text, and prayed, "All be happy, all be healthy, no one may suffer pain."
Another Hindu nun, Sadhvi Acharya Medha Devi, told the participants that the "ultimate aim" of every religion is to promote "human goodness through self renunciation." The nun, who is principal of a local college for women, said: "There is only one God for all religions. Due to ignorance we divide God."
Sadhvi Kundan Rekhaji, a Jain nun, stressed the need for people to "believe in human unity because we are children of One Almighty." Non-violence should be the basic conduct of human life, she said. "Today, violence and crimes are increasing because we are denying the truth of non-violence," she added.
Bhikhuni Karma Sonam Palmo, a Buddhist nun, urged the participants to follow their own religion to advance world peace. "We all need to appreciate other religions with their own philosophy and traditions," she said. Only those who practice their own religion, she pointed out, can appreciate other religions.
For Brahmakumari (virgin of Brahma) Saroj, religion means "peace, love and joy," essential to promote harmony and peace. "Self realization of our origin is the basis of all religions," Saroj noted, and people should realize they are children of one God. Brahmakumari is a Hindu order for ascetic women. Her companion, Brahmakumari Vandanaji, added that religion and peace are "deeply related" since religions are the source "of love, service, purity and mercy."
Sister Imelda Kulapurthazha, a Queen of the Apostle nun, told the gathering she has found similarities in the teachings of all religions. "We need to see the indwelling God in every human being," the Catholic nun said, and this attitude "is essential for promoting peace and harmony."
About 12 nuns from Sister Kulapurthazha's congregation, which she formerly served as provincial, attended the program with her. One of them, Sister Pushpita Joseph, told UCA News she was "happy to see" women Religious of other faiths coming together. She said the meeting had helped her and her companions develop "a positive attitude" toward other religions.
Sister Vardani Kindo, novice director of the Sisters of Providence of Gap, said she found the participants open and respectful to each other. She brought her novices to the meeting, she told UCA News, because learning the traditions of other religions is an "integral part of our formation."
Holy Cross Sister Gracy, who also came with some novices, said she felt "contentment" on seeing "the goodness in other religions." In her view, all religions stress love, peace and service, and their followers should stress such common values and rise above differences to bring about peace in society.
She said the program would help Religious novices "learn and grow in the spirit of openness to other religions." Tenzin Tsephel, a Buddhist woman, told UCA News, "The religious experiences of other faith have enriched me."