Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"Thinking Together" Meets at Shanti Ashram, Coimbatore, South India

Dr. Hans Ucko (Program Executive, WCC Interreligious Relations and Dialogue) who co-ordinates the "Thinking Together" group speaks at a Interfaith Prayer Service at the Gandhi Museum in Madurai. This prayer event has met every Friday night for over 25 years. Well over 300 people participated. Dr. S. Jeyapragasam, our host is in the foreground.

Ven. Buddhadasa, the one and only Tamil Theravada Buddhist monk. He lives in Madurai

My Colleague from the Thinking Together group, Imam Dr. Rashied Omar from South Africa in a traditional Indian head-dress and garland at our final celebration.

The WCC consultation "Thinking Together" which comprises scholars and leaders from many religious traditions met again at the Shanti Ashram in Coimbatore, India. The group which these days is focusing on the question of "Conversion," found the vibrancy of the religious diversity in India a poignant backdrop to their deliberations. This group in existence since 1998 is in its third project, the previous ones being: Religion and Violence, The Theology of the Other and now Conversion. While the papers from Religion and Violence consultation were published in the WCC journal "Current Dialogue" we are working on publishing the papers from the Theology of the Other in a book next year.
Following the consultation we participated in a seminar on Family Values at the local girls' University there and in some of the programs at the Shanti Ashram, an organization which attempts to live out the Gandhian principles of community organizing as it relates to some 60 villages in its locality. Dr. Vinu Aram, a physician who runs the organization is also active interfaith leader.

We also travelled to Madurai where we participated in a conference on Religion and Violence organized by the Gandhi Museum and the Gandhian Institute for Non-violence and Peace organized by Dr. S. Jeyapragasam. There I met Jill Carr-Harris, the Canadian born wife of the illustrious Gandhian leader PV Rajagopal founder of Ekta Parishad, a community organizing/ village revitalization institute with a large presence in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa. Rajagopal himself was in Orissa at the time organizing among Dalit and Adivasi (tribal) communities.
I also had the opportunity to visit my old seminary, the Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary in Madurai which specializes in Dalit Theology and Gurukul Lutheran Seminary in Madras where I had a meeting with faculty members and preached at their Sunday evening service.


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