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|June 23, 2000|
A meetings of faiths
Nitish S Rele
Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Zoroastrians, Jews, Buddhists, Taoists, Wiccans, Baha'is and members of other religions are coming together for a Global Summit from June 25-30 at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Several hundred delegates from around the world will attend the June 26 signing of a charter that will launch the United Religions Initiative, an international grassroots organization. A highlight of the charter-signing ceremony will be a procession of all participating delegates in traditional religious regalia and ceremonial dress led by a drum troupe from Manipur.
Formal calls will be made to convene in each native language by members of religious traditions from every continent.
A Youth Summit will be held June 28 during which local students from all faiths will promote interfaith dialogue. On the same day, URI will hold a Public Forum where delegates will share their stories of working on interfaith issues around the world.
URI President Bishop William E Swing told rediff.com: "Just as there is a United Nations, we have been trying to build an organization that will make it possible for all the religions of the world to meet daily to promote interfaith co-operation. We are also looking to end religiously-motivated violence and create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the earth and all human beings."
For the last 3-4 years, Bishop Swing and others have been working on a charter that would have a preamble and certain principles.
"After all these years, we will sign the charter in Pittsburgh," he said. "It coincides with the 55th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations charter."
In 1996, Bishop Swing went around the world and met with religious leaders such as the Pope, the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa to see if they were prepared to have a daily interfaith organization to pursue peace.
"It was clear that wouldn't happen," he said. "So we started at the grassroots."
Representing the Hindu-Jain faith will be Vinod Doshi and Harilal Patel of Oxford University. Also, the 15-member drum troupe from Manipur will be received as honored guests before they perform during the signing of the charter.
How did the bishop hear about the Manipur group?
"Well, during the millennium celebrations, we had asked for three days, 72 hours of ceasefire all around the world," he said. And the people in Manipur, including the drum troupe members, organized numerous activities on the occasion and about 200,000 people from all religions showed up. Since then, says Bishop Swing, he has been in touch with the group.
Swing is the bishop of the Diocese of California for the Anglican Church. A resident of San Francisco, he has visited India several times. In fact, he was once a preacher for the Mar Toma Church in Kerala. "It was truly a great experience visiting India," he said.
Some countries represented at the summit are Argentina, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Uganda, Israel, Venezuela, South Africa, Sweden, Indonesia, Canada, Guatemala, South Korea, England, Ethiopia, etc.
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