AN INTER-FAITH VOYAGE
Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD) is a little lamp, lit and kept burning, by a group of kindred souls and fellow pilgrims. Theirs is an inter-faith voyage of discovery, sailing on the winds of near-identical views on people and events signifying that whatever the darkness, however profound the sense of lostness, the light of God’s love – be it Ram, Allah or Jesus - will continue to shine, for those who have the eyes to see, a heart to love and a soul to believe. BIRD’s premise is simplicity itself -striking a match in a dark immense cavern, to dispel the surrounding gloom.We are convinced that only through inter- religious dialogue can we diffuse the recurring tension between religious groups and communities. We believe in strengthening of inter-faith dialogue in order to elevate communal and religious harmony to the level of a practicing doctrine. In any such dialogues there is need for a full and free exchange of our differing religious experiences, in a spirit of mutual respect, appreciation and sympathy. An exchange of individual or collective experiences will lead to enrichment of each others religious life, purifying and strengthening the religious attitude of mind against irreligious and materialistic attitudes from which stem our personal, social and national problems.
BIRD came into being in 2001 as a response to the growing communal and inter-religious tensions that prevailed in the country at that time. As a first step, it organized a lecture to honour the memory of the late Rev. Dr. Stanley Samartha on 7th Oct. that year. Francois Gautier, who delivered the lecture, described Samartha as "the Christian prophet of religious pluralism".
Immediately after the lecture, the Hindu leaders who attended the programme, expressed their desire to enter into dialogue with Christians and the first meeting took place at the Dharmaram Vidya Shektram in the last week of October 2001. Since then there has been no turning back and we have been in constant touch with the so-called "Hindu fanatics".
BIRD organises a series Samartha Memorial Lectures every year in October. Prof. C.T. Kurien and Prof. M.V.Nadkarni, former vice chancellor of Gulbarga University delivered the second and third lectures respectively in 2003 and 2004. While the theme for the second lecture was "Communal Harmony – A societal Perspective, the third was on "Religion in 21st Century: A Perspective of Hope". His Grace Philipose Mar Chrysotom, Mar Thoma Metropolitan, delivered the fourth one in the St. Mark’s Cathedral, Bangalore on 12 Oct, 2005. He spoke on "Courage for Dialogue"
In the beginning we heard a voice - a voice of sanity. That was Mahatma Gandhi telling us: "Show a little humility and a little diffidence about the correctness of one's conduct and a little receptiveness. He reminded us "not to seek to satisfy our thirst for ego by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred and jealousy. We should cease to be merchants of hate. We have to teach ourselves that consideration for others is nobler than muscling our way to the front".
Our experience has proved that peace can be achieved only through talking to our perceived enemies because they are the ones supposed to be creating problems for us. Disarm them with a broad smile. Talk to them with sincerity and honesty. They are receptive to reason. That has been our experience. That has been our strategy.
BIRD's achievements are nothing to write home about. But, who can deny that we do not hear about violent attacks on Christians in India after the publication of the report of BIRD-RSS fact-finding and peace mission to Mysore following the alleged attack on the Holy Family Church at Hinkal in 2002? BIRD has also played a minor role two years ago in the release of Ian Stillman, an invalid, British social worker, from Shimla jail.
Since its inception in 2001, BIRD has been providing a platform for addressing those issues, which are the causes for religious tension and resentment. We propose to organize more meetings and dialogues between religious and community leaders to ensure harmony between followers of different faiths. We will also conduct public lectures, seminars, workshops, conferences and meetings on topics useful to the people at large.The road ahead of the fellow pilgrims of inter-faith dialogue and peacemakers is long, narrow and arduous. We seek your guidance and support – moral, material and financial.
For further details please contact:
P.N.BENJAMIN, Coordinator, Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD)