Interfaith Pilgrimage to India, 2016, as reported in asianews.it

The following three reports of our pilgrimage were printed in asianews.it which publishes in English, Chinese, Japanese and Italian.

INDIA – AUSTRALIA

India-Australia interfaith pilgrimage, to reinvigorate the dialogue between faiths

Nirmala Carvalho

Australian religious leaders arrive tomorrow in the Indian capital. From here, they embark on a pilgrimage across the country. Islam expert Fr Victor Edwin SJ has arranged various meetings and visits, including to a Delhi mosque and shrine.

 Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Tomorrow “some pilgrims will arrive in New Delhi from Australia. They are believers from different denominations who work in their own country to build relations between people of all religions,” said Fr Victor Edwin SJ who is and an expert on Islam and interfaith relations.

Speaking to AsiaNews about the upcoming visit, he said that the group of Australians will take part in a pilgrimage across the country. The first event “will be Sunday mass (on 7 February) in Delhi’s cathedral,” followed by “a meeting with Mufti Mukarram Ahmad, imam of the Fatehpuri Masjid mosque in the capital. In the evening, we have another meeting with Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, a famous Islamic scholar.”

The schedule includes activities with members of other religious communities as well. “The next day,” Fr Edwin said, “we start with another Eucharistic celebration. We then go to Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah shrine and well as Humayun’s Tomb, in Delhi, where we will read Muslim religious texts, reflect, pray and meet people.”

Some of Australia’s best-known Australian religious leaders will take part in the pilgrimage. One of them is Rev John Dupuche, a senior lecturer at MCD University of Divinity, and Honorary Fellow at Australian Catholic University. His doctorate is in Sanskrit in the field of Kashmir Shaivism. He is chair of the Catholic Interfaith Committee of the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Four lay people will be part of the group. They are: Claudia Barduhn, a Catholic student of Buddhist meditative practices; Kate Daddo, a Baha’i who is involved with the Kingston Interfaith Committee of the Kingston City Council; Pamela Ferrar, an Anglican who has participate in meetings with Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, and Orthodox believers; and Tom Thomas from the Mar Thoma Syrian Church who has spent the last 30 years studying various religious traditions.

Three people religious will also join the group. They are: Sister Corrie Van Den Bosch, of the order of the Missionary Sisters of Service; Fr Nicholas De Groot SVD, a former director of the Janssen Spirituality Centre; and Rev Robert Stickland, a married priest with the Greek Ukrainian Catholic Church who chairs the Interfaith Network of Greater Dandenong.

The group will end their visit to the Indian capital on the evening of 8 February, with a meeting with the Interfaith Coalition for Peace and representatives of the Henry Martyn Institute.

Speaking about the pilgrims from Australia, Dr Victor Edwin said that they “work in that country building relationships between people of different religious traditions.” In light of this, “they are coming to India on an interfaith pilgrimage” to “visit different places of faith and meet people of different religious traditions”.

 

INDIA

Interfaith pilgrimage to the cities of India’s great religions “to understand the faith”

Nirmala Carvalho

A group of seven people of different faiths from Australia have already visited Delhi and Varanasi, symbolic places for Islam and Hinduism. Now they will travel to Bodh Gaya (the cradle of Buddhism) and Kolkata, important for Christians thanks to Mother Teresa. “It is also true, that at times people are afraid; however, faith is always open to others”. Sadly, “Those who close in on themselves do not understand their own faith”.

 

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – An interfaith pilgrimage from Australia to India is currently underway and will touch four cities that symbolise the great religions of the South Asian nation.

“The purpose of the pilgrimage is to visit religious sites that are sacred to Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity, to study texts from our sacred writings, to discuss points of agreement and disagreement, and so sense the religious experience that is proper to these faiths,” said Fr John Dupuche, chair of the Catholic Interfaith Committee of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, who is leading the pilgrimage.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Dupuche said that interfaith pilgrimage shows “the great need for interfaith dialogue”. For him, the visit, which will touch the cities of Delhi, Varanasi, Bodh Gaya and Kolkata, is part of the Jubilee of Mercy.

The group of Australian pilgrims includes seven leading figures from different faiths who want “to live our own faith, with understanding another’s faith,” Fr Dupuche explained.

The Jubilee, he added, can help “find out what is true and holy in other religions and in that process, one can understand another’s faith better. During these meetings and visits to the sacred spaces of the other faiths, we come to face the ‘shadows’ of our tradition and acknowledge the truth that is found in the other.”

In Delhi, which is important for Islam, the Australian pilgrims met with several Muslim leaders promoters of dialogue between the faiths. At present, they are in Varanasi, a city that symbolically important for Hinduism.

“In Delhi, and now in Varanasi, we are very happy as a group,” noted Fr Dupuche, who is a senior lecturer at the University of Divinity (Melbourne), and an Honorary Fellow at Australian Catholic University. “We are participating in group discussions on the major texts of these traditions, and sharing the reflections on them. Raising questions has been a rich experience.

At the same time, “This is a spiritual journey,” he explained. “The acceptance of our own diversity has helped us understand the depth of each other more clearly. Diversity helps us perceive the Depths of God more deeply.

In Varanasi, the pilgrims met with Rakesh Pandey, a renowned yoga teacher, and had dinner with Dr Bettina Sharada Bäumer, a noted scholar of Hindu texts.

Participants will continue to Bodh Gaya and then Kolkata, where they will take part in a Mass at the tomb of Mother Teresa and visit Khalighat, the hospice for the dying.

The “great variety of religious experiences,” Fr Dupuche said, “allows us to feel the rich beauty of India’s differences, showing that it is a land of great richness.”

Acknowledging the contradictions of a country where intolerance threatens religious freedom, the Australian clergyman noted, “This just shows the great need for interfaith dialogue, because people can very easily close in on themselves and see the other, as an enemy, whereas, they should see the other as a friend, and as a way to understand their faith better.”

Although “at times people are afraid, faith is always open to other people.” Sadly, “Those who close in on themselves do not understand their own faith”.

INDIA

Pilgrims of every faith follow in Mother Teresa’s footsteps to learn mercy

Nirmala Carvalho

 

An Australian interfaith group ends its pilgrimage to various shrines representing India’s religions. After Delhi, Varanasi, and Bodh Gaya, they reached Kolkata. Here they learnt, through Mother Teresa’s charities, how “important it is to serve, not only for Christians but for all religions.” Religious fundamentalism “does not build peace; it only leads to war.”

 

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – A group of Australian pilgrims is set to travel home after visiting a number of sacred shrines that belong to India’s various religions. They will do so with a number of teachings, like opening doors to others without fear, serving them without distinction of creed or race following the example of Mother Teresa, and understanding that the religious fundamentalism of those who want to impose their faith only leads to war and away from peace.

In early February, a group of eight Australian believers came to India for an interfaith pilgrimage, with the aim of reinvigorating inter-faith dialogue. Rev John Dupuche, an expert in Sanskrit and Kashmir Tantric Shaivism who chairs the Catholic Interfaith Committee of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, led the group, which included four lay people and three religious with different religious experiences.

The group first visited Delhi, where they met several Muslim experts and vetted Islamic texts. This was followed by a visit to Varanasi, the city that symbolises Hinduism. The third stop took them to Bodh Gaya, where they meditated under the Bodhi tree, where, according to tradition, the Buddha attained enlightenment.

Speaking about this leg of the pilgrimage, Rev Dupuche noted that “there were huge groups from overseas”, and so “we not able to pray together; however, we stood in silence in the presence of the sacred. Silence is also an important aspect of dialogue.”

“This place,” he added, “reminded me of the Holy Sepulchre, the empty tomb in Jerusalem where Jesus rose from the dead.”

The last city visited was Kolkata, which for Christians symbolises Mother Teresa’s charities. This city was a crucial part of the pilgrimage, because “we did not come here only as pilgrims, but also to serve.”

Here, the pilgrims visited the Nirmal Hriday, the hospice for the sick, the poor and prostitutes founded by the Blessed in Kalighat, Kolkata, where she served the poorest of the poor.

Mother Teresa’s teachings “are important,” said the clergyman, “not only for Christians but also for all religions; they symbolise inter-faith dialogue. Every religion that serves shows the true depth and meaning of its teachings.”

This trip, said Rev Dupuche, after visiting L’Arche community in Kolkata, home to people of people living with different disabilities, “has taught us that serving others, regardless of creed or race, is a source of intense joy and peace. Conversely, religious fundamentalism is not only negative, but also counterproductive. It leads to war rather than peace. What we have to do instead is follow Pope Francis’ call for this Year of Mercy to open doors, minds and the hearts of others.”

 

About interfaithashram

Rev. Dr. John Dupuche is a Roman Catholic Priest, a senior lecturer at MCD University of Divinity, and Honorary Fellow at Australian Catholic University. His doctorate is in Sanskrit in the field of Kashmir Shaivism. He is chair of the Catholic Interfaith Committee of the Archdiocese of Melbourne and has established a pastoral relationship with the parishes of Lilydale and Healesville. He is the author of 'Abhinavagupta: the Kula Ritual as elaborated in chapter 29 of the Tantraloka', 2003; 'Jesus, the Mantra of God', 2005; 'Vers un tantra chrétien' in 2009; translated as 'Towards a Christian Tantra' in 2009. He has written many articles. He travels to India each year. He lives in an interfaith ashram.
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