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South Asian Young Peoples’ Interfaith Programme

by Ashani John, SCM Sri LankaSouth Asian Young Peoples’ Interfaith Programme

Youths from different South Asian countries, gathered at Fireflies Bangalore India, for a workshop aimed at fostering peace and bringing about social and ecological transformation from the perspective of religion, spirituality, and secularism. Thirty participants from five South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka participated the meeting. The training session took place at Fireflies Ashram, from 22nd June to 1st July, 2007.

The first six days (22-26 June 2007) were devoted for exposure programmes to various parts of Karnataka. We visited places like Somnathpura Keshava temple, then to Mysore known as city of palaces. From there onwards we visited the Temple of Maha Chamundeshwari—built on the top of the Chamundi Hill, I would never forget this experience as it was a foggy late evening and we were walking through the clouds and I’m sure the temperature would have been 5 Celsius. Next day, we visited the stunning Mysore Palace and there after we attended a lecture by Professor Kikkeri Narayan, Director, Folklore Department, Central Institute of Languages, Mysore on adivasis (tribes), especially Jenu Kuruba tribe’s beliefs, spirituality and livelihood which was followed by a trip to “Machur Kare Jenu Kuruba” tribal village in Nagarhole National Park.

Advasis welcomed us in a traditional style by serving natural honey and later on discussed their lifestyle, heritage, and belief systems and shared their feeling of insecurity from the ever-increasing intrusion of modernity. Later on we visited the ‘Rural Literacy and Health Programme’ to get an overview of the development processes that have been carried out by the NGOs in the slum areas of India. Our next visit was to Tibetan settlement and Buddhist Monastery in Gurupura, following we visited the palace of Tippu Sultan, who fought bravely & fearlessly against the British. We too visited the Beautiful dam build across the river Kabini and 26th we got an opportunity to explore the city of Bangalore.

The next five days (27 June - 01 July 2007) included dialogues, ‘multilogues’, discussions and presentations that were concerned with personal, social and ecological transformation from the perspective of the different religions—Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. In the morning where we got an insight into spirituality meditation. The uniqueness of meditation session was the different strands from various traditions and faiths.

Four keynote papers were presented, by the following resource persons on the following topics;

This includes two public lectures by Rev. Dr. Hans Ucko & Prof. Anantanand Rambachan at St. Mark’s Cathedral speaking from Christian & Hindu perspectives of liberation: Also we had a wonderful dinner at a Muslim friend’s house who welcomed all of us and treated us as his family members.

Finally, the participants agreed that special efforts should be given to the voices of children and youth regarding their problems and concerns. Religions should be seen as an ever-evolving process rather than stagnated, circumscribed, and utterly inflexible principles. We must realize that it is not an easy issue and no readymade solutions are available. This could be done through constructive engagements between the religious institutions and youth, through frequent interfaith dialogues, and by encouraging self-introspection and research.