'These were great people who lived and died attempting to create a world of love, compassion and understanding, and not one of hate, prejudice and competition,' says Arun Gandhi, the Mahatma's grandson. Rediff.com's George Joseph reports from New York.
Arun Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi's grandson, who was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions last year, says he joined the board because "I am interested in bringing about a better understanding of religions and inter-faith understanding, especially at a time when there is so much fighting and killing in the name of God."
The parliament distanced itself from Swami Vivekananda's 150th birth anniversary celebrations last September.
"We need to understand that Hinduism is not the only religion in the world and not every international organisation should be expected to observe and celebrate every Hindu festival or personality," Dr Gandhi said.
"The best way to celebrate Swami Vivekananda's life is by living what he stood for and not simply holding a public function on his death and birth anniversary," he added.
Asked about the construction of the Sardar Patel statue in Gujarat, Dr Gandhi said he was against such monuments. "I am against the construction of any statue, whether Sardar Patel or Mahatma Gandhi," he said.
"These were great people who lived and died attempting to create a world of love, compassion and understanding, and not one of hate, prejudice and competition."
"Statues do not mean that people revere those personalities. They only mean they worship the person as meaninglessly as we go and pray in temples, churches and mosques and come out and do the opposite of what God expects of us to do," he added.
Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, board chair, CPWR, welcomed Dr Gandhi and said he was 'doing his best to keep the flag of satyagraha alive in America and India, where the voices of hate and anger sometimes seem to be drowning out the voices of truth and humanity.'
Image: Dr Arun Gandhi. Photograph: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images