Dr. Dhalla promotes Zoroastrianism globally (2009)
Every year, Dr. Homi Dhalla is invited to various international conferences where he speaks about peace, human rights, ecology, interfaith dialogue etc through Zoroastrian eyes. Due to his role in the global interfaith movement, he promotes the rich heritage of Zoroastrianism wherever he travels. The following is a brief report of his contribution at various foras in 2009.
A few prominent personalities involved in the interfaith movement globally were invited by the United Nations to attend a meeting at Maryknoll (located near New York) from March 2-4, 2009. The purpose of this meeting was to plan the UN Decade for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, Understanding and Cooperation for Peace. Dhalla was deputed by the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) to this conference.
Besides the discussions in the plenary sessions, representatives were asked to work in smaller groups where Dhalla participated in the Program of Action group. He set forth practical ideas in the field of human rights and peace. He drew attention to Auroville, the international cultural township in Pondicherry, which is an ideal township devoted to human unity where people from 43 nations live amicably. He also spoke about the constructive role of Mohalla Committees which were established in sensitive areas of Mumbai after the 1993 riots.
Immediately after this meet, he traveled to Tokyo where he was invited by the Rissho Kosei-Kai (a national organization) to deliver a lecture on Zoroastrianism. Thereafter, he proceeded to Osaka, to attend the meeting of the IARF, which is the oldest interfaith body in the world launched in 1900. Besides being a member of the International Council he is in charge of the Human Rights Education (HRE) Program in India. At this meeting, he explained how the HRE Program was progressing in various parts of India.
The G8 Summit of 2009 comprising of the world’s political leaders met at L’Aquila (near Rome) in July 2009. Prior to this important event, the IV Summit of Religious Leaders was held in Rome on June 16-17. An invitation to attend this important conference was extended to Dhalla by the Vatican and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the ethical perspective providing the precious ‘spiritual’ support which is required to deal with socio-political issues.
Lengthy sessions were held where representatives of the faith communities discussed various issues which would form the ethical framework of the draft proposal. On the following day, a detailed proposal was prepared by the religious leaders, which was forwarded to the head of the Italian government. This was in turn put before the political assembly of the G8 Summit in July. In the evening of June 16, all the religious leaders were invited to Quirinale Palace where they had an audience with the Hon. Giorgio Napolitano, the President of the Italian Republic. At this function, Dhalla was introduced to the Hon. President.
Thereafter, the Government of Kazakhstan extended an invitation to Dhalla to attend the Third Congress of Leaders of the World and Traditional Religions at Astana on July 1-2, 2009. The conference was inaugurated by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in the presence of several world religious leaders. At this important event, Shimon Peres, the President of Israel was also present. His presence among many important Muslim leaders was a very important step in initiating a dialogue in healing the Middle East imbroglio. On the following day, Dhalla presented a paper entitled “In the face of violence peace is possible” in the “Dialogue and Cooperation” session. He also participated in the general discussion on various issues related to peace and human rights which took place on that day. That evening, at a banquet hosted by President Nazarbayev, Dhalla had an opportunity to converse with Shimon Peres, the President of Israel and was also introduced to President Nazarbayev.
On July 6, 2009, Dhalla was invited to an Interfaith Prayer Meeting and Tree Planting Ceremony to celebrate the 74th Birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. The book entitled “Three Missions of His Holiness the Dalai Lama” was released on this occasion. It contains papers delivered at the national seminar organized on July 6, 2008 by Tibet House on the occasion of His Holiness’ 73rd Birthday. One of the articles has been authored by Dhalla. At this interfaith meeting, he recited Zoroastrian prayers and also planted a tree in the garden of the Jamia Millia Islamia together with other religious leaders.
Seventy years ago, at 4.45 a.m. on September 1, a Nazi German battleship on a goodwill visit opened fire on a Polish fort on the Baltic Sea. This triggered World War II which led to the death of 50 million people. To commemorate this significant event in world history, an important peace conference was held in the city of Krakow in Poland from September 6-8, 2009. Dhalla as well as prominent personalities and religious leaders from all over the world were invited to participate in this landmark conference. Various sessions were held to discuss a whole range of issues, viz., dialogue, human rights, peace, ecology etc. Dhalla made a presentation in the panel “Faiths in Asia: Building a World without Violence”.
On the following day, all the delegates were taken to the Memorial Museum at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. In this monstrous form of evil, one experienced the deepest pain and sorrow. This was followed by a visit to the Birkenau Concentration Camp. The Silent March along the rail tracks was followed by a Memorial Ceremony at the Monument for the victims of Nazi fascism. Dhalla was asked to offer flowers on behalf of Asian religions at this Monument.
From December 3-9, he had been invited to participate in the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia. The Parliament is held every 4-5 years and is the largest interfaith gathering in the world. At Melbourne, about 4500 people had gathered from around the globe. Dhalla was appointed as a member of the International Advisory Committee to the Parliament. He was one of the three panelists on “Religious Freedom and Interreligious Dialogue: IARF and its work in India”. Besides this, he made four other presentations: a power point presentation entitled “Many Faces of Peace”, spoke on “The Zoroastrian View of Ecology”, “The Zoroastrian Ethos of Compassion” and was one of the panelists on “Sharing Wisdom in Search of Inner and Outer Peace”.