CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, September 25, 2013: HPI Note: Following is a letter sent by Dr. Anantanand Rambachan and Anju Bhargava to the Council. Dr. Anantananda is Chair of the Department of Religion at St. Olaf's College, Minnesota; Ms. Anju Bhargava is Founder of Hindu American Seva Charities and a member of President Barack Obama's inaugural Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnership.
Dear Board Colleagues,
It is with deep regret that we write today to inform you of our decision to resign as members of the Board of Trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions (CPWR).
The CPWR Executive Director, after consulting with one of us (Anantanand Rambachan) made a commitment to participate in the Chicago World Without Borders event, celebrating this 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. Support for the CPWR participation was received from a significant number of Hindu organizations and individual Hindu leaders. We feel that these Hindu perspectives were not weighed or treated with significance in the decision-making process.
Both of us implored our colleagues on the Board to reverse this decision and to consider some form of official participation in the event, emphasizing that participation is not endorsement of the ideology or program of any group participating in the event. We emphasized that our participation would signify our expressed value for Swami Vivekananda's legacy and this alone could be the ground and rationale for our involvement. We explained that this reversal is inimical to the interests of the CPWR and damages the standing of our organization in the Hindu community in the United States and abroad. We pointed out that none of the complaints against our participation came from Hindu organizations and that no Hindu organization had withdrawn. We affirmed that we are troubled by the decision making process. In spite of our passionate arguments, our Board, with very few exceptions, voted to ratify the decision to withdraw.
We feel deeply that the decision making process of the Board in this matter was not exercised in a manner that reflects impartiality and fairness of treatment to all parties concerned. We do not believe that some level of official participation of the CPWR would have damaged the credibility of the organization. On the other hand, the refusal of the Board to approve any form of official participation has alienated and hurt the Hindu community. We wish to clarify also that we did not participate in the Board meeting on September 24, 2013 when the Board approved its recently released resolution. For us, the heart of the matter is the Board's unwillingness to consider any form of participation.
Our dissatisfaction with the decision making process of our Board in this matter, and our inability to convince you of implications of this decision on the Hindu community leave us no choice, sadly, but to tender this letter of resignation.
Anantanand Rambachan Anju Bhargava