Annual Commemoration of Dr. L. M. Singhvi’s Interfaith Contribution
Joint Celebration of Holy Events During National Interfaith Week
18th November, 2009 Committee Room 4, House of Lords
This was an opportunity to remember a great figure’s interfaith activities as well as participate in the National Interfaith Week activities through the Joint Celebration of Holy Events in the religious calendar.
Prof. Lord Parekh, the host for the evening, quoted Nehru when saying, ‘We are all little people who only deserve to be remembered because of the great causes we support.’ He added, ‘The best tribute to one who is departed is that we continue their work.’ Lord Parekh remembered Dr Singhvi’s leadership of the significant World Parliament of Religions delegation from India. He supported Hans Kung’s position of discovering the principles that are common to all religions and challenging the religions that did not share the six or seven principles that were deemed important by the other faiths.
Dr LM Singhvi was an Indian High Commissioner to the UK from 1991 – 1997. He was a President of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) in India and on International UPF’s Global Peace Council. He came to the UK six months before he passed away in order to connect his UK friends to UPF. He held a conference in the House of Lords on May 21st 2007 entitled, ‘Inter-Religious Initiatives For Universal Peace: An Enduring Foundation for Understanding the Culture and Climate of Peace.’ A report of that event is available through the following link. (May 21st 2007 Dr Singhvi Inter-religious Initiatives.)
Lord Parekh hosted that event in the Moses Committee room of the House of Lords. Dr Singhvi used the opportunity to express support for the proposal of the Inter-Religious Council at the UN that is one of the purposes of the UPF expressed by Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon in its founding speech. Dr Singhvi had held meetings in Goa, India and in the UK’s House of Lords in order to promote this council as a way to improve political discourse and decision making. Anand Kumar, the Hindi and Culture Attache of the Indian High Commission, Lord Tarsem King, Rajan Sehgal of the Pakistan India Friendship Foundation all spoke glowingly of the influence he had had on them as well as the accomplishments of his career. It was concluded that he had raised the profile of India and particularly enhanced the relationship of India and the UK.
Photo link for more photos of the event.
In the second part of the evening there was a explanation of the significance of the Holy Days of several religions.
Harrison Cohen explained the significance of Hannukah to him and to his faith.
‘I have chosen to speak about the Jewish festival of Chanukah because it is one that ultimately teaches us the importance of religious freedom and human dignity. Chanukah demonstrates the importance and indeed necessity that even just a few good people can triumph over a tyranny of evil. On each of Chanukah’s eight nights we light candles that in many ways represent the triumph of good over evil, of light over darkness. It is also notable to say that the act of lighting the Menorah during the winter period is significant in that we light an extra candle as we approach the Winter Solstice. If we look to history we see so many occurrences within which just a few good men managed to triumph over evil, I am reminded by some inspirational words said by the American president John F. Kennedy, who said: “We are not here to curse the darkness; but we are here to light a candle.” ‘ For the full speech click here
Imam Dr. Mahmadou Bocoum spoke about the significance of Eid al-Adha which is the enactment of Abraham’s offering of Ishmael. He mentioned that this was interesting in that the celebration originated in Abrahamic times. He asked if we could offer what is most precious to us as Abraham did. He mentioned that the Eid holidays have become commercialised but he reminded the audience of the Prophetic Tradtion, which is the second most authoritative source after the holy Qur’an,
” None of you is a true beliver who goes to bed with full stomach while his nieghbour remains hungry”.
Vijay Metha spoke of the significance of Diwali or the “Festival of lights”. Diwali or “Festival of lights” is an occasion of joy, prosperity and brightness. It is a significant festival for Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains. While in Hinduism, Diwali signifies victory over Darkness, it marks the attainment of nirvana by Mahavira, in Jainism. Sikhs often represent Diwali as a ‘Day of Freedom.’ The festival has emerged as a prime tourist attraction of Varanasi and present a breathtaking spectacle as millions of diyas are lit on the ghats and sent floating the river waters. A large number of people, including Indian and foreign tourist, congregate on the ghats and take boat rides to witness the spectacle. Since the day also marks ‘Kartik Purnima’, millions of Hindu devotees take a dip in the river Ganga. For the full speech click here.
Sister Elizabeth O’Donohoe, Secretary of Westminster Interfaith, spoke about All Saints’ Day. She said that it was a time of change of season and in the darkness we are preoccupied. Those whose names are written on the Book of Life, or Saints, are prayed for on that day. It is an encouragement to follow the path of holiness. St Ignatius Loyola began a series of spiritual exercises to follow the path of holiness. He taught followers to imagine they were standing in front of God on the Judgement Day. The society of the Saints that are prayed for on All Saints Day are the ones who will put in a good word for us at that time.
That almost everyone stayed until the end illustrated both the popularity of interfaith and the popularity of the great causes Dr Singhvi promoted so passionately during his life.