GFCH - Genesis and Concept
Some highly informed and concerned individuals who had been closely monitoring and analyzing the global and indigenous civilizational trends felt that the world was inevitably hurtling into a self-destructive and increasingly conflict-prone mode in which all civilizations, and particularly the non-aggressive ones, stood seriously disadvantaged.
They also viewed with concern the emerging â€œclash of civilizationsâ€ which meant essentially the clash between civilizations which have a historically proven tendency to clash without a formula for resolution of their disharmony. The clash may be prolonged and brutal and societies and communities which have large segments of minorities, particularly minorities linked with globally influential religions, dispersed over large areas (like in India) may suffer from it the most. The inherent strength and civilizational experience of non-aggressive civilizations, however, lie in their potential and capacity to promote conflict-avoidance and offer conflict resolution models. If imaginatively strategized and effectively executed, the non-aggressive civilizations, as Swami Vivekananda had envisioned in the World Parliament of Religions in 1893, could provide a solution to avert the apparently inevitable man-made calamity.
They organized a conclave in Ahmedabad (Gujarat State in India) from January 2 to 4, 2006 and extensively deliberated upon various aspects of the problems. A substantial number of delegates from abroad, particularly the US and UK, participated in the conference besides participants from different parts of the country. The foreign participants had been actively associated with a leading role in various cultural, social and religious activities in their respective countries. The concluded that a strategic initiative from the Hindu, Buddhist and other ancient civilizations could be a unique experiment in promoting global harmony pursuing the twin-goals of conflict-avoidance and conflict-resolution. Their belief emerged from their civilizational experience of coexistence with total harmony for centuries despite pursuing diverse faiths, which is in contrast to the current perception that conflict-avoidance was not possible without the intervention of the state.
It was visualized that a Global Foundation for Civilizational Harmony (GFCH) could be formed as a platform based on a non-conflicting paradigm which is founded on the conviction that all faiths are valid and sacred and therefore sees validity and sacredness in all faiths and believes that a harmonious relationship between them can be achieved based on that conviction. The GFCH will endeavour to highlight the contributions of all major faiths, harmonize them with modernity and strive to build a global society which can exist in harmony preserving their civilizational, cultural and religious identities and try to promote an intellectual and normative basis for a global society. In this endeavour the major initiative will have to come from non-conflicting civilizations which will try to effectively engage and build moral, intellectual, ideological and political pressures to induce everyone to adhere to a non-conflicting and accommodative course. The GFCH also will endeavour to change the notion that there is adversarial relation between modernity and tradition and will work to create compatibility between tradition and modernity.
The GFCH will endeavour for a paradigm shift in thinking from the now prevailing notion of tolerance of other faiths as the ideal to the ideal of acceptance of all faiths as valid and sacred to achieve peace and harmony based on mutual accommodation. Such re-orientation of thinking will promote positive complementarity among faiths and cultures, rather than reluctant and condescending tolerance of each other. The GFCH perceives a need for a thorough review of the benchmarks used to define the world's self-image. The GFCH will prepare the non-proselytizing, non-conflicting faiths for a global dialogue among themselves and also between them and the others. The GFCH considers the propensity to convert people of other faiths to one's own faith as a potentially violent idea as conversion resets upon the notion of some faith being superior to the other faiths.
It is the understanding of the GFCH that the battle for peace and harmony is to be waged at the global level for any country of people to live in peace. Today the aggressive forces of intolerance and violence are organized at the global level and lend support to all efforts to promote disharmony and violence at the global level and target different nations particularly nations like India that have a tradition of harmonious and peaceful co-existence. So the non-aggressive civilizations need global level networking with other civilizations of similar nature and all organizations and institutions which share the post-modern idea of peaceful co-existence by acceptance of all faiths as valid and sacred and not by the modern idea of tolerance of other faiths which is a condescending concept containing within itself seeds of violence.
Need for Synergized Strategic Response
Ancient and non-aggressive civilizations in their long history have faced challenges to their existence from time to time. However, strategic thinkers and a host of spiritual leaders emerged at critical junctures to meet the challenges of their times. It is no mere coincidence that despite hundreds of years of political dominance and religious persecution by aggressive faiths, these civilizations were able to survive, though profusely bled and beleaguered. It is an irony that India, free after centuries of dominance is confronted today with civilizational threats more acute than ever before. The ancient civilizations today need to carefully ponder over emerging threats and their leaders need to collectively strategize an effective and adequate response, which could ensure self-sustenance of a religiously diverse world order.
The response strategy could have the following guiding ingredients:
a) There must be a determined effort to make different spiritual, religious and cultural institutions and leaders who have fundamental and philosophic conviction in non-aggressive approach to other civilizations, faiths and cultures, conscious of the need for a platform at the global level for networking to promote civilizational harmony through dialogue and understanding, without any resulting hierarchy, among them and without any impact on their individual and distinct identity.
b) A plan of action must be evolved to create awareness and commonality of interests among indigenous civilizations and to promote strategic thinking among them so as to network and force-multiply within the non-proselytizing and non-aggressive civilizations, which would lead to force-multiplying complementarity among them and solution-driven initiatives and actions by them in a coordinated manner.
c) The common dangers and common interests must be highlighted to network and forge alliances with other non-proselytizing and non-aggressive civilizations on mutual interest.
d) There must be an effort to address and involve civilizational groups linked to the Christian and Jewish faiths, sections of which, even though they have conflict of interests with non-aggressive civilizations. There must be an effort to make them conscious of the real need for a solution driven civilizational approach in the context of the increasing perception that militant Islam is the most potent threat at the current historical juncture. Concurrently, denominations among the Christians, like Russian Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Church, which are not fundamentally proselytizing in nature, could be leveraged to make global opinion against religious conversions which is amongst the principal reasons for civilizational disharmony particularly between the proselytizing faiths and non-aggressive Hindu-Buddhist faiths.
e) This effort must reach a reasonable number of important institutions and individuals and acquire the legitimacy and the critical mass to engage leaders of opinion â€“ religious and societal â€“ in a creative dialogue to promote civilizational and religious harmony. This can be achieved only by promoting honest, frank and free exchange of views and not superficial discussions which are politically correct for the occasion but suppressing the truer feelings and emotions inside. The object will be to promote flexibility and mutual accommodation and coexistence in diversity. The moderates should be supported in their efforts to extricate youth from the stranglehold of the fundamentalists.
a) The GFCH will strive for paradigm shift in thinking and work for capacity building and force multiplication for a dialogue and understanding to prevent any threat of violence and chaos resulting from the emerging clash of civilizations.
b) Identifying and accessing credible organizations/individuals to explain to them the concept and vision of GFCH and enlist their support to promote networking among them to bring about synergy in their efforts.
c) To undertake research studies, both directly and through outsourcing to develop strategic inputs and sharing it with academic and relevant NGOs. It will disseminate information through e-news letters, circulation of relevant features, news items etc. to concerned organizations/individuals.
d) Building up a data bank of civilizationally relevant organizations and individuals. The data bank will work as knowledge resource center both for referencing, networking and research.
e) To create awareness among people regarding civilizational threats, implications of various contemporary developments, possible responses etc. through meetings, seminars, publications etc. leveraging GFCH linked organizations.
How to work to promote civilizational and religious harmony through the vehicle of GFCH:
1. The GFCH seeks the support or association of institutions or individuals and such support and association with the cause of GFCH itself is a major contribution. It lends legitimacy to the effort and broadens its support base. The GFCH team would appreciate your supporting and propagating the idea during various meetings, congregations etc. attended by you in India and abroad.
2. The GFCH seeks the involvement of spiritual and religious leaders and institutions, intellectuals and academics, persons of influence in the society and anyone, not falling within the category of religious, spiritual, intellectual or influential persons, but, who has the desire and the drive to give time and to work for the cause.
3. The GFCH needs to access other organizations and people of eminence of different civilizational descent and get them interested/involved. Those who help to accomplish this agenda will make a major contribution for advancing the cause of civilizational harmony. Involvement of the religious, social, philanthropic organizations of stature will enable the initiative to acquire the desired critical mass required to exert moral and intellectual influence. Organizations and people of all faiths, belief systems and civilizations who subscribe to the idea of conflict avoidance and conflict resolution should be motivated.
GFCH India was launched in Delhi on January 22, 2008 at a function attended and addressed by great religious and spiritual masters belonging to all faiths including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, founder of Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha Swami Dayanand Saraswati, founder of the Art of Living Sri Sri Ravishankar, renowned yoga guru Baba Ramdev, the chief of Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti, the president of Chinmaya Yuvak Kendra Swami Mitrananda, Jain Muni Sumermal, the Arch Bishop of Mumbai Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the chief of Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband Moulana Mohammad Ali Madani, Rabbi Ezekiel Issac Malekar and Swami Prajnan Mitranand of Mata Amritanandamayi Math. The GFCH was launched by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and former President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam delivered the presidential address at the function and blessed the initiative. The spiritual masters and religious scholars who attended the function are the now Patrons of GFCH India.
Other Activities of GFCH (INDIA)
One of the initiatives taken by the GFCH is to work with the Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband in the efforts of the latter to hold rallies against terrorism and to promote religious harmony in different parts of India. The GFCH is planning to undertake more initiatives to promote understanding and harmony among different religious and spiritual organizations.
Beginning with New Delhi, these conventions witnessed the Deoband School issuing 'Fatwa' against terrorism and describing such violent activities as Un-Islamic. These conventions, supported by organizations such as Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, were held in Hyderabad and Bangalore also and were attended among others by prominent leaders from other religions including Hinduism. On behalf of GFCH, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar addressed the rally in Hyderabad in October 2008.
Anti-Terrorism Global Peace Conference
New Delhi, May 31, 2008
Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, one of the leading Islamic organisations, along with several other Muslim outfits owing allegiance to different sects and ideologies, issued a â€œfatwaâ€ against terrorism at the Anti-Terrorism Global Peace Conference at Ramlila Grounds in New Delhi.
The â€œfatwa,â€ sought by Member of Parliament and Jamiat leader Mahmood Asad Madani and issued on the letterhead of Darul Uloom Deoband, read: â€œIslam is a religion of peace and security. In its eyes, on any part over the surface of the earth spreading mischief, rioting, breach of peace, bloodshed, killing of innocent persons and plundering are the most inhuman crimes.â€
Welcoming the fatwa, Mr. Madani said: â€œTerrorism has emerged as the most serious challenge faced by our nation in recent times. It threatens to strike at the very root of secular structure of our society besides causing irreparable loss in terms of human lives and property. The conference today has provided the opportunity for the entire Islamic community to come on a single platform and raise its voice against terrorism.â€
The conference, organised as part of a series of such public meetings across the country, adopted a seven-point declaration condemning the propaganda that â€œregards terrorism as synonymous with jehad.â€
â€œThere is a world of difference between terrorism and jehad. Jehad is constructive and terrorism is destructive. Jehad is for the establishment of peaceâ€¦terrorism is the gravest crime as held by Koran and Islam,â€ the declaration said.
GFCH Organizes first historic Hindu Spiritual and Service Fair, February 6-8, 2009
40 Hindu service organizations showcase activities, literature under one roof
Hindu religious and spiritual organisations which have avoided media glare and publicity and silently worked for decades among women, children, youth, villagers, tribals and deprived sections of the society as also natural disaster affected people came together for the first time in a unique exhibition of their activities and literature in Chennai.
The three-day Hindu Spiritual and Service Fair, organised at the Jaigopal Garodia Vivekananda Vidyalaya, Anna Nagar, provided a platform to exhibit the spiritual and service activities of the different sponsoring and participating institutions to the public, particularly the students and youth and also enabled the followers and members of different organisations to have an overview of what other organisations are doing so as to promote healthy, harmonious and mutually respectable relations among them.
The Fair brought about the much required synergy between these organisations, particularly in humanitarian relief activities.
This was the first of many such fairs which will be later held on bigger scale in different parts of the country by the other Chapters of GFCH and the Fair will be extended to spiritual and religious organisations belonging to other faiths such as Islam and Christianity to showcase their contributions to the society.
About 40 leading Hindu organisations including Arya Samaj, AIM for Seva, Brahmakumaris, Art of Living, Chinmaya Mission, Vidya Bharati, Sewa Bharati, Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, Patanjali Yoga Peeth, Ramakrishna Math, Ekal Vidyalaya, Vivekananda Kendra, Mata Amritanandamayi Madhom, Oneness University etc participated in the event.
The inaugural function of the Fair was addressed among others by Swami Abhiramananda of Ramakrishna Math, Swami Dayananda Saraswathi of Hindu Acharya Sabha, Swami Nithyananda Paramahamsa of Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam and noted thinker S Gurumurthy. Devotional and cultural programmes including bhajans, chanting of the Bhagavat Geetha, play by students of different school and institutions were also organised during the three-day event.