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Archive for April 9th, 2008

Participant Profile: Ravi Gupta

At the April 17 meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and representatives of other religions, five young adults will present the Holy Father with symbols of peace from their faith traditions.

Dr. Ravi Gupta will present a gift from the Hindu community. Dr. Gupta is beginning his academic career as an Assistant Professor of Religion at Centre College, Kentucky. With a doctorate in religion from the University of Oxford, he is the author of The Caitanya Vaisnava Vedanta of Jiva Gosvami: When Knowledge Meets Devotion. A recent participant in a USCCB-Hindu consultation, Dr. Gupta is committed to pursuing interreligious dialogue in both his professional and personal capacities.

Dr. Gupta will present to Pope Benedict a gift of the sacred syllable Om in brass sculpture. Hindus believe that Om is the primordial sound of creation itself, in which God is disclosed and where the worshiper experiences peace. Bronze or brass is widely used for Hindu liturgical ornaments. Flames and incense in the sculpture represent ritual worship in a Hindu temple.

Dr. Gupta described his feelings about participating in this gathering as follows:

I am deeply honored and humbled by the opportunity to render this service. When religious leaders come together in a spirit of friendship, this sends a very strong message to the world about the need for understanding and cooperation between religious traditions. This is the first step in a long process of change. It is important for each one of us to return to our own communities and build this cooperation at a grassroots level. Education is key here, for ignorance of other traditions leads to misunderstanding and intolerance. Here in the United States, we have a wonderful opportunity to make this happen. You see, many of the religions being represented at this event have their majority membership outside the United States, but the U.S. community nevertheless carries much influence back home and our voices are heard carefully. I certainly hope all the delegates take this responsibility seriously and put it into action.

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Participant Profile: Masako Fukata

At the April 17 meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and representatives of other religions, five young adults will present the Holy Father with symbols of peace from their faith traditions.

Ms. Masako Fukata will present a gift to Pope Benedict on behalf of the Buddhist community. Born in Tokyo, Japan, she is an active youth leader of Rissho Kosei-kai, a socially engaged Buddhist organization headquartered in Tokyo with six million members worldwide. Deeply inspired by Pope John Paul II’s hosting of the global interreligious assembly of the World Conference of Religions for Peace at the Vatican in 1994, Ms. Fukata served a one-year internship in the Religions for Peace International Secretariat in New York in 2003. She is also an active member in the newly developing North American regional multi-religious youth network.

Ms. Fukata will give Pope Benedict a fine cast metal bell. Such bells are used to demarcate the times of meditation practice in all Buddhist traditions. Through meditation, the Buddhist practitioner attains spiritual insight into the nature of the mind and of all things, and thus finds peace.

Reflecting on her role in the gathering, Ms. Fukata said:

It is a joy and an honor to participate in this gathering of esteemed representatives, and His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. Representing the youth of Buddhist faith in the United States is my great privilege.

Through WCRP [World Conference of Religions for peace] and Rissho Kosei-kai, I have had the chance to see how inter-religious dialogue can influence harmonious living throughout the world, achievable only by accepting and respecting our differences.

Our current global climate is one in which the news is filled with war and violence, and it is unfortunate that the positive efforts of religious leaders and the strong power of faith as a substantiated means towards achieving peace is often underemphasized.

I hope this gathering will serve to deepen the amity between various religions here in the United States, and enunciate the hope for widespread inter-religious dialogue and peace.

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Participant Profile: Aditya Vora

At the April 17 meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and representatives of other religions, five young adults will present the Holy Father with symbols of peace from their faith traditions.

Mr. Aditya Vora will present a gift on behalf of the Jain community. He is studying mathematics, computer science, chemistry, and psychology at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. He has been active since high school in the Long Island Multi-Faith Forum and Habitat for Humanity in West Virginia. Moreover, he is involved in dialogues with Holocaust survivors in the New York–New Jersey–Connecticut region, and with anti-prejudice, multicultural training programs on Long Island, New York. He was presented with the Student Human Rights Award by the Smithtown, New York, Anti-Bias Task Force.

The Jain tradition of ethics teaches two foundational principles by which peace can be attained within one’s self and in relationship to others. These principles are non-violence (ahimsa) and respecting “multiple viewpoints” (anekantavada). Mr. Vora will give Pope Benedict XVI a multisided cube that celebrates persons committed to or inspired by Jain ethical principles. The texts inscribed on the cube include the five Namokar mantras, which are recited daily by the faithful, and the principles of Jainism.


In reflecting on his role in this gathering, Mr. Vora said:

Naturally I feel the greatest honor in being able to meet one of the most revered people on this earth. More importantly the causes uniting us in this ceremony have filled me with great joy and hope. When leaders from the Islamic, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist and Jain faiths come together, I feel this symbolizes a universal priority of peace through religious tolerance. I hope for this ceremony to set an example for people across the world and serve as a seed of inspiration for mutual acceptance to counter histories and present states of mutual rejection. True harmonious peace cannot be won by war or political mandate, it must be felt from within individuals. My hopes are that the many lives lost and resources misused in conflicts rooted in religious differences will become characteristic of the past.

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Participant Profile: David Michaels

At the April 17 meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and representatives of other religions, five young adults will present the Holy Father with symbols of peace from their faith traditions.

David J. Michaels will present a gift on behalf of the Jewish community. He is Director for Intercommunal Affairs at B’nai B’rith International, the world’s oldest Jewish humanitarian, advocacy, and social action organization. A graduate of Yeshiva University, he has written and traveled extensively and trained at the Foreign Ministry of Germany, the Embassy of Israel in Washington, Ha’aretz–International Herald Tribune, the Office of William Jefferson Clinton, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, the United Nations, and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Mr. Michaels will present Pope Benedict with a silver menorah. The silver menorah with its seven lights represents the tradition of Temple worship within Judaism. It is also a symbol of the perennial validity of the covenant between God and Israel, the purpose of which is to establish peace rooted in creation itself. Silver is the metal preferred for liturgical use in Eastern European Jewish tradition.

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On April 17, Pope Benedict XVI will meet with representatives of other religions at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center.

Located in Northeast Washington, D.C., near the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the Catholic University of America, the Cultural Center began as an idea of Cardinal (then Archbishop) Adam Maida of Detroit. Cardinal Maida proposed building a center to address the relationship between faith and culture.

Construction began in 1997 and the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center was dedicated in November 2000. The Center opened to the public in March 2001. Since that time, it has welcomed tens of thousands of people to its permanent and temporary exhibits and hosted a variety of meetings, conferences, and other events.

In addition to temporary exhibits on a variety of religious topics, the Cultural Center has permanent interactive displays about the Catholic faith as well as memorabilia and other exhibits about Pope John Paul II. In addition, it serves as a research center for scholars studying the thought of Pope John Paul II, particularly his thought on interreligious dialogue, making the center an especially appropriate place for this meeting.

Source: The Pope John Paul II Cultural Center

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