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A Singaporean Declaration on Religious Harmony

Posted on 2003/6/16 9:49:02 ( 1068 reads )


SINGAPORE, June 10, 2003: After six months of intense debate over its exact wording, leaders of religious groups here have worked out a declaration on religious harmony that all parties are comfortable with. The groups plan to hold activities to recite and teach the declaration to their congregations during the week of Racial Harmony Day, beginning July 21. Representatives of the religious bodies have also formed a network called the Inter-Religious Harmony Circle. Its role will be to clarify matters if people have objections or questions with any part of the declaration. The proposal for the declaration that affirms that groups will practice their religions bearing in mind the secular and multi-religious context of Singapore was first raised by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong last September. His suggestion came after a year in which racial ties here were tested following the September 11 attacks and the arrests of Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terrorists. Mr. Goh, who came up with a draft of the creed, said it would be one of Singapore's responses to the threat posed to racial harmony by the JI. Members of different religious groups were then asked to help refine the draft.

The declaration reads:

"We, the people in Singapore, declare that religious harmony is vital for peace, progress and prosperity in our multi-racial and multi-religious Nation. We resolve to strengthen religious harmony through mutual tolerance, confidence, respect and understanding. We shall always

" Recognise the secular nature of our State,

" Promote cohesion within our society,

" Respect each other's freedom of religion,

" Grow our common space while respecting our diversity,

" Foster inter-religious communications,

" and thereby ensure that religion will not be abused to create conflict and disharmony in Singapore."

Amma's Hugs Cure Japanese Blues

Posted on 2003/6/16 9:48:02 ( 1052 reads )


TOKYO, JAPAN, June 3, 2003: What do the Japanese do when their nation's economic slide throws more people out of work and cuts into their savings? They go in for a hug from none other than Kerala's Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, who is on the Japanese leg of her world tour. For the Japanese, a hug from the holy woman is said to bring happiness -- something many Japanese feel is in short supply in their country. And for the last three days that is exactly what thousands of Japanese who flocked to a hall in Tokyo got -- happiness through hugs. All this week, people have queued up outside Amma's room, breathing in the incense-filled air and listening to strains of devotional songs. "Japan is suffering from deflation, and I think there are a lot of people who want to be helped," said one businessman, who had already been hugged twice. Hugging is not a common custom in Japan and many people were overcome by emotion when embraced. "When you watch the news or read the newspapers, there are so many depressing things, but that's not all there is in the world. That's what I felt when she embraced me," said housewife Teruko Nakamura as she dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief. When asked, Amma attributed the emotion to nothing more than a lack of love in the modern world. "It is like when someone has been drinking sewage water all their lives and they suddenly get river water -- they want more to quench their thirst," she said.

Mealtime Prayers are Very Important to Americans From Every Tradition

Posted on 2003/6/16 9:47:02 ( 1627 reads )


SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, June 4, 2003: Pausing a few minutes to say a prayer of gratitude and upliftment before partaking of a meal is a tradition followed by over 64% of homes in America. During this time of reflection, families are brought closer and grounded. Mark Jurgensmeyer, professor of sociology and religious studies and director of Global and International Studies at UC Santa Barbara says, "It's not just that the food that is blessed but that the process of eating is itself a renewal. The idea of ingestion is almost universal within religious traditions as a sacramental act." To show how important the power of prayer at mealtime is to the American people, the book called Graces: Prayers for Everyday Meals and Special Occasions written by June Cotner has sold more than 200,000 copies. Cotner says, "A reverent pause before eating in an edgy world affirms family and teaches reverence." She also believes that the popularity of her book shows that people are craving spirituality in their lives. Maura Singer, a student in interfaith ministry at the Naropa Institute in Oakland says, "She anticipates the pause that precedes a meal, a 'magical' moment when prayer and awe and praise come through. From gratitude springs openness, leading to compassion, then peace, justice and finally action. In much religious thought....the Christian eucharist, the Hindu prasad, among others....the transformational force of food has engendered dense theological discourse for thousands of years."

A popular Hindu meal prayer is the following chant, which can be done in Sanskrit or English:

Food-Blessing Chant

A Prayer of Gratitude to the Source of Sustenance.

Lines 1-4 are from Shri Adi Sankara's Annapurnashtakam.

Lines 5-6 are the Isha Upanishad invocation.

Lines 7-8 are a traditional Saivite closing.

Aum annapurne sadapurne shankaraprana vallabhe;

Jnanavairagya siddhyartham bhiksham dehi cha pArvati.

MatA cha pArvatI devI pita devo maheshvarah

bandhavah shiva bhaktashcha svadesho bhuvanatrayam.

Aum purnamadah purnamidam purnAtpurnam udachyate,

PUrnasya purnamAdaya purname vava shishyate.

Aum shantih shantih shantih.

Aum shivarpanamastu.


Aum, beloved Shakti of Siva, Fullness everlasting and fully manifest as this food; O, Mother of the universe, nourish us with this gift of food so that we may attain knowledge, dispassion and spiritual perfection. Goddess Parvati is my mother. God Maheshvara is my father. All devotees of Siva are my family. All three worlds are my home.

Aum, Siva is Fullness. Creation is fullness. From Siva's Fullness flows this world's fullness. This fullness issues from that Fullness, yet that Fullness remains full.

Aum, peace, peace, peace.

Aum, this I offer unto Siva.

(Note: In this simplified Sanskrit transliteration a capital letter other than at the beginning of a line indicates a long vowel)

Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists and Muslims Worship at Same Temple

Posted on 2003/6/16 9:46:02 ( 1005 reads )


SINGAPORE, June 6, 2003: A Temple accommodating the worship of four faiths in Singapore may soon have to vacate its 1,400 square meter site by the beach. From humble beginnings twenty years ago, the Loyang Tua Pek Kong temple has become a very popular place of worship. The temple's lease runs out at the end of June and the temple committee has appealed to JTC Corporation, its landlord, to extend the lease for 2-3 years. Since the year 2000, the committee has been searching for a new home. They have found a location with a 30-year lease and construction should start in three to four months. Interracial relations have been promoted as Hindus, Taoists, Buddhists and Muslims all worship at the same location.

Kamal Hasan Declares He's Now Smoke Free on Camera

Posted on 2003/6/16 9:45:02 ( 1090 reads )


CHENNAI, INDIA, June 7, 2003: Popular South Indian Actor Kamal Hasan has vowed that he will never again be seen smoking in any of his future films. This prompted a leading cancer surgeon to appeal to other stars, particularly Mr. Hasan's peer, Rajnikanth, to follow suit. Speaking at a function organized by WHO on "Tobacco-free films and fashion" Mr. Hasan said, "I promise that I would never again wield a cigarette before the camera." His declaration evoked a wave of support from others in the Tamil film industry like producer A.V.M. Saravanan, lyricist Vairamuthu and comedian S.V. Shekher. Dr. V. Shanta, chairman of Adyar Cancer Institute, pointed out that 76 percent of the movies show tobacco in some form and 50 percent of the time the hero is shown smoking. She appealed to other stars, especially Rajnikanth, a chain smoker who made cigarette smoking an inimitable style in Tamil films, not to smoke on the screen since they set a bad example to young filmgoers. The Cancer Institute has invited film, TV stars, directors and producers for a dialogue to evolve smoking-free films. In America, tobacco companies have paid movie stars hundreds of thousands of dollars to smoke their brands in films.

Bengali Nun Killed in Attack on Christian School

Posted on 2003/6/16 9:44:02 ( 1024 reads )


SRINAGAR, INDIA, May 21, 2003: A nun from West Bengal was killed when Muslim terrorists attacked a Christian school in Anantnag, the first such incident in Kashmir. Sister Kamlesh died when a grenade exploded near the main entrance of the Saint Lukas Convent School in Nai Basti in Anantnag town, 50 km from Srinagar. Sister Mary, another teacher who also comes from Bengal, was injured in the explosion. Police said a grenade was thrown at the gates of the school when the two women were returning from a market. Sources said the area was tense after the local media carried reports that conversions were being carried out in the two south Kashmir districts of Anantnag and Pulwama, but no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. This is the first time that a Christian-run school has come under attack in Kashmir.

World Hindi Conference in an Uproar

Posted on 2003/6/12 9:49:02 ( 1019 reads )

Press Trust of India

PARAMARIBO, SURINAM, June 9, 2003: The World Hindi Conference was in an uproar Monday, PTI of India reported, when some believed efforts were made to project Hindu culture as Indian culture. Opponents alleged that it was an attempt to "saffronize" the conference. The uproar began when the chairman of the session, Dharmpal Maini, one of the ten attendees from India chosen to receive special honors at the conference, dwelt at length in his speech on Hindu culture. The chairmen of the Sanatan Dharm Mahasabha, Holland, Shyam Pandey, took exception to this and said it was not proper to regard Hindu culture as Indian culture, as did some others.

Representatives from Surinam, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago began speaking in support of Dharmpal Maini. Ram Bachan Rai of Bihar came to the dais and opposed Maini's viewpoint. B. Upadhyaya then intervened by cutting off the microphone and said the session was over. When the address system was restored, verses from Ram Charit Manas were played. Later several conference attendees criticized this development, claiming the World Hindi Conference was being converted to the World Hindu Conference. HPI adds: We have no further information on this incident, and do not understand what points were being made regarding "Hindu" culture vis-a-vis "Indian" culture that led to objections by delegates.

Insensitive Remarks by British Religious Panel Dismay Hindus

Posted on 2003/6/12 9:48:02 ( 1010 reads )


LONDON, ENGLAND, June 10, 2003: A serious controversy has erupted following the release of a report by the House of Lords Select Committee on Religious Offenses. The committee was asked to decide whether the present law on religious offenses, that, according to yesterday's HPI, guarantees protection to only the Church of England, should be extended to protect all religious faiths against blasphemy or should be scrapped.

Many prominent leaders of the UK Hindu community are now shocked over a statement made by a member of the Committee, the Earl of Mar and Kellie, that was published in the minutes of the oral evidence given by the Hindu community to the Select Committee in November 2002. During an oral evidence before the members of the Select Committee, Ramesh Kallidai, speaking on behalf of the Hindu Community, pointed out an article by the Christian Medical Fellowship's Pastor Juge Ram that claimed that Hindus were lost and spiritually blind and that Hinduism was a false religion. Responding to this statement, the Earl of Mar and Kellie said, "They (the Christian Medical Fellowship) were not actually telling any lies about the Hindu religion in the sense that they were not actually putting out any false remarks which were possibly going to distort people or mis-educate them." (i.e. the Earl agreed Hindus were "lost and spiritually blind" and that Hinduism was a "false religion.")

Hindu community leaders contend that a person who sits on a panel to discuss laws relating to Religious Offenses must not be seen to support a sweeping statement amounting to the of vilification of Hindus all over the world. "To say that all Hindus are spiritually lost and blind and that Hinduism is a false religion is not something that most Hindus would agree to be a truthful statement," said Kallidai. "The crucial issue here is that the Earl purports to say that the statement, 'Hindus are lost and spiritually blind,' is not a distortion," pointed out the Chair of HINCOM, Swami Nirliptananda. "It is clear that a person holding or supporting such views may not be in an appropriate position to inquire about the legalities of religious offense." A few leaders pointed out that historically, the Houses of Parliament have witnessed earlier attempts to vilify Hindus. Lord Macaulay had made a statement in the 19th Century at the House of Commons to say that all the ancient books of wisdom from India could not compare with the one shelf of books from England." Dr. J.C. Sharma, Director of the UK Council of Hindus said, "I'm surprised that thinking like Lord Macaulay's still exist in modern Britain."

Indians Are the World's Most Nationalistic People

Posted on 2003/6/12 9:47:02 ( 966 reads )

Hindustan Times

NEW DELHI, INDIA, June 7, 2003: A survey of people's attitudes from around the world has shown Indians were the most nationalistic. The latest survey of the US-based Pew Global Attitudes Project (http://people-press.org/), "Views of a Changing World," asked people of 44 countries about the superiority of their culture, their wariness regarding foreign influence on their way of life, and whether "parts of other countries belong to us." 74 percent of Indians "completely agreed" with the statement their culture was number one. This was more than any other country and 11 percent higher than Turkey, the next proudest nation. In comparison, the comparable figure for Americans was 23 percent. A few countries topped India on specific points, but none showed consistent approval on all fronts. The survey's authors concluded Indians were the "most likely to agree with all the three statements."

Ohio Hindu Temple Flourishes Under Doctor's Care

Posted on 2003/6/12 9:46:02 ( 1656 reads )

Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

COLUMBUS, OHIO, June 6, 2003: At times Dr. Raj Tripathi seems as much a fixture at Powell's Hindu temple as are the majestic statues that give the building its identity. And yet he is at or near the Bharatiya Temple only part of the week. The rest of the time, he's 90 miles to the east, working as a cardiologist. His presence is felt not only in his profession but also in many civic organizations in both communities. "He's certainly been a legend in this area," said Dale H. Hileman, trustee and past board president at Southeastern Ohio Regional Medical Center. Tripathi, a native of Mumbai, India, has been a trustee at the temple since 1989 and chairman since 1995. Tripathi's main duty at the temple is fund-raising. "We had $20,000 to start with in 1992; this temple now is worth $1 million-plus," he said. Tripathi takes great pride in the annual youth camp, which will be conducted for the sixth time Aug. 10-16 on the temple's 25 acres along Hyatts Road. When Tripathi and his wife, Prabha, first began attending the temple, they made the 180-mile round trip at least every weekend, staying in motels, which was not always easy with three young children. Special occasions often mean taking a day off work, but anything Tripathi can do for the temple makes the trip worthwhile, he believes. "God has been good to me; it's good to pay back."

Indo Romuva Cultures Conference Announced

Posted on 2003/6/12 9:45:02 ( 2963 reads )


ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY, June 12, 2003: The World Council of Elders of the Ancient Traditions and Cultures in collaboration with the World Congress of Ethnic Religions, Vilnius, Lithuania, proudly announces the First Conference (in a series of understanding ancient traditions and cultures of the world) on Indo Romuva Cultures. The conference will be October 10-12, 2003, at the Howard Johnson Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.A. The Romuva people are from the Baltic countries, with a major concentration in Lithuania. They worship Fire as well as many Deities with prayers similar to Sanskrit prayers. For presenting a paper or conference attendance, kindly contact Dr. Yash Pathak, International Coordinator, at "source" above for details.

Edmonton Maha Ganapati Temple's Annual Festival

Posted on 2003/6/12 9:44:02 ( 1070 reads )


EDMONTON, CANADA, June 12, 2003 The Maha Ganapati Temple's Alankaara Utsavam (Annual Festival) will begin on Friday, June 27, and continue through Sunday, July 6. The last day marks the date of Attha Nakshadhra of the Tamil month of Aani on which day the Prathishta Maha Kumbabishekam took place in the year of 2000. The temple is located at 128 Running Creek Road, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. To read more about the temple, log onto http://www.mahaganapatitemple.com, however contact "source" above for a detailed program of the festival's events.

House of Lords Considers Proposals to Change Blasphemy Law

Posted on 2003/6/11 9:49:02 ( 964 reads )

Religion News Service

LONDON, ENGLAND, June 10, 2003: Any attempt to change the current law on blasphemy to provide protection for all religions "is likely to run into profound controversy," according to the chairman of a House of Lords committee studying the issue. The present law on blasphemy protects only the Church of England. Laws on race relations have the effect of protecting Jews and Sikhs from incitement to religious hatred but not other religious groups because they are not seen as having a common ethnic origin. Britain's Muslim community -- which makes up three percent of the population -- "feels itself the least protected from hatred and most exposed to hostile attack, both verbal and physical," the committee said in its report. "The diversity of the United Kingdom's population now makes it imperative that, if there is to be legal protection for faiths, it must embrace all faiths," the committee stated. But, while the 12-member committee believed there should be "a degree of protection of faith," there was no consensus on the precise form such protection might take.

India's Anti-Dowry Movement Gaining Momentum

Posted on 2003/6/11 9:48:02 ( 986 reads )


CHENNAI, INDIA, June 8, 2003: Leaders of the women's movement in Tamil Nadu have decided to make the two recent anti-dowry incidents--Vidya in Chennai and Nisha Sharma in Delhi calling off their marriages because of new demands--prototypes for young brides harassed by greedy grooms and their families. The follow-up action by the police and the media attention that these two women have attracted have helped in sending the message across to grooms and their families that the consequences of demanding dowry are sure to be severe, says a representative of the All India Democratic Women's Association. The courage of the two brides in reporting dowry harassment on the eve of the wedding has been most inspiring, add police officials, who believe that the cases will enable them to take the anti-dowry message to every nook and cranny of the State. "More women will now take courage to come to a police station," says a senior police official.

World Hindi Conference Begins in Surinam

Posted on 2003/6/11 9:47:02 ( 927 reads )


PARAMARIBO, SURINAM, June 6, 2003: In a bid to get Hindi established as an international language, the 7th World Hindi Conference began here today with the singing of Saraswati Vandana. Surinam President Ronaldo declared the four-day conference open with nearly 400 delegates from 20 countries participating, the largest contingent being from India. Indian President Kalam said the conference would enrich both Hindi and Surinam. He complimented the people of Surinam, particularly those of Indian origin, for their efforts to develop Hindi. Terming Hindi as a "living embodiment" of cultural unity in the country, another speaker today asked scholars to work with full dedication to get the language its place of pride at the international level.

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