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Hindu members of global inter-faith group quit

By George Joseph
September 26, 2013 01:36 IST
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Hindu members in the Council for Parliament of the World's Religions resigned protesting the decision to withdraw the council’s sponsorship to the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Swami Vivekananda in Chicago, scheduled for September 27-28.

Baba Ramdev is among the invited speakers at this event.

Anju Bhargava and Dr Anantanand Rambachan, members of the board of trustees of the council, resigned after the trustee board endorsed the decision of Dr Mary Nelson, executive director, dissociating from the celebrations under the banner of ‘World Without Borders’ with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and several temples as its sponsors.

Meanwhile, the board of trustees of the CPWR said it will organize another celebration to ‘honour the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda and the 120th anniversary of the Parliament on November 16, 2013 in Chicago.’ 

‘The first Parliament of the World’s Religions took place in 1893, and was addressed by Swami Vivekananda. The CPWR continues to honour this exemplary Hindu saint for his ideals of interfaith understanding and mutual respect,’ a statement issued by the board said. 

Bhargava and Rambachan did not attend the board meeting, which endorsed Nelson’s decision on September 24.

In their resignation letter, Bhargava and Rambachan noted: ‘The CPWR executive director, after consulting with one of us (Rambachan) made a commitment to participate in the Chicago World Without Borders event, celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda.’

‘The Hindu community received the news of this commitment with great joy. The name of Swami Vivekananda is forever etched in the history of the Parliament and Hindu interest and support for the Parliament is linked inextricably with his pioneering contributions at the 1893 event in Chicago.’

‘His name is synonymous with the interfaith movement. The decision to withdraw, made without consulting either one of us, has caused hurt and great disappointment across the Hindu world and especially here in the United States.’

‘This pain reflects the Hindu historical esteem and value for the Parliament. One is not hurt by the actions of an institution that one does not value. We feel strongly that in ratifying the decision of the executive director to withdraw from the World Without Borders event, the Parliament has not acted in a just and fair manner.’

‘In spite of claiming neutrality, the Board chose to be influenced in its decision by giving credibility to complainants against its participation in the event and by showing no  interest in considering or deliberating on the Hindu responses received. In doing so, the CPWR has made judgments and taken sides without careful deliberation. We feel that the Hindu perspectives were not weighed or treated with significance in the decision making process.’

‘We feel deeply that the decision making process of the Board in this was not exercised in a manner that reflects impartiality and fairness of treatment to all parties concerned,’ the resignation letter noted.

Nelson kicked off a storm withdrawing support for the ‘World Without Borders’ celebrations saying, ‘Our organization was not informed that an event we were asked to co-sponsor was also co-sponsored by organizations promoting controversial political positions.’

‘The council is a 120-year-old peace building organization whose mission, like Swami Vivekananda's is to promote peace and inter-religious harmony. We honour Swami Vivekananda and that legacy he left creating inter-faith cooperation to build a just, peaceful and sustainable world,’ the statement said.

The Hindu organizations came out strongly against the statement, questioning what was controversial.

Bhargava and Rambachan noted that the board was not consulted before the decision and asked to reconsider it.

Hindu organizations had expected the trustees would reverse the decision of the executive director, but it did not happen, which followed the resignation of Bhargava and Rambachan.

Their statement also noted that the Parliament is an interfaith organization and not a political one. 

Mihir Meghani, co-founder and member of Hindu American Foundation’s board of directors, responded, “The condescending tone of the announcement from CPWR demonstrates a complete disregard to the issue of fairness, transparency, and mutual respect raised by the organizers, the Hindu trustees, the Hindu American Foundation, and a coalition letter with over 300 signatories, which included Hindu spiritual figures, organizations, community leaders, interfaith partners, and lay people.”

“I cannot recall any recent event that has brought together so many Hindus, across a broad and diverse spectrum of political, religious, and linguistic backgrounds, on one page to voice their collective concern over a wrong,” Megani noted.

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