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Educators, peace activists, faith leaders and citizens to convene for first Samvaad National Interfaith Summit

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The Indian arm of the global peacebuilding organization, Seeds of Peace, is organizing this virtual interfaith summit on December 11, 2021 

Urmi Chanda

In India, the problem of communal strife and religion-based conflicts has been steadily rising over the past decade. Religious identity and difference have played a large role in the nation’s political and social dynamics, at times fueling communal conflict that has periodically disrupted the peace, stability, and growth of the country.  

While dialogue has been a major facet of Indic philosophy and hence been practised in the subcontinent from ancient times, colonisation and the impact of modern religious and social practices have disconnected us from dialogue both in spirit and in practice. We have a lot of debates and opinions in every aspect of our lives: political, social, economic, and even personal. However, the ability to dialogue need to be reclaimed for us to engage in everyday peacebuilding. The case for interfaith education at all levels is in order to fuel the capacity for self-inquiry and co-living.

Samvaad ki shuruwaat

In a first of its kind, Seeds of Peace India is organizing a virtual national summit to create and promote the idea of interfaith harmony. The Samvaad National Interfaith Summit (SNIS) is culmination of their larger program – The Samvaad Project – meant to offer interfaith dialogue facilitation training to university/ college level educators. The Samvaad Project was conceived and set in motion in fulfillment of a grant received from the US Consulate in Mumbai.

At the heart of the issue is a lack of understanding and empathy toward those of different faiths, which contributes to in-group/out-group dynamics, which in turn fuel xenophobia and communal conflict. It is with the aim of allaying this pain point that ‘The Samvaad Project’ was initiated. This pioneer program sought to promote interfaith dialogue among college students by training college lecturers/professors in interfaith dialogue facilitation skills.

The need for a national discourse

While The Samvaad Project itself aimed at a select institutions from Western India, the Samvaad National Interfaith Summit will have a wider reach, with participants joining from all over India. Delegates and speakers from across states and professional spectrums will join in for this day-long convention. Invitees include educators, students, peace activists, non-profit organisations, faith leaders, legal professionals, policymakers, and citizens interested in interfaith dialogue and harmony. A virtual platform has been chosen and entry kept free to encourage and ensure maximum participation from a wide range of geographical and ideological arenas.

Themes and Speakers

The Samvaad National Interfaith Summit broadly addresses the matter of interfaith explorations, but the more specific sub-themes include: (a) Need for dialogue in the current context; (b) Relevance of Throughout the day, delegates will be able to listen to two keynote addresses, and choose between attending paper presentations, workshops or short format talks. There will also be musical interludes and a concert to underline the artistic face of interfaith engagement. 

Some of the most prominent speakers include Dr. Kaushikee, Honorary Director and Professor, Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Jamia Millia Islamia; Syeda Hameed, Padma Shri awardee and Women’s Rights Activist, New Delhi; Sushobha Barve, Executive Director at Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation, New Delhi; Dr. Syed Zafar Mehmood, President, Zakat Foundation of India, God’s Grace Foundation and Interfaith Coalition for Peace, New Delhi; Faisal Khan, Peace Activist and Leader, Khudai Khidmatgar, New Delhi; Arun Wakhlu, Founder Director and Chief Mentor of Pragati Leadership Institute, Pune; and Bhanwar Meghwanshi, award-winning writer and peace activist, Bhilwara to name a few. 

Seeds of Peace India is excited to invite such luminous speakers to the forum, and hopes to see enthusiastic participation from interfaith enthusiasts from across India. To attend the Summit, register at www.seedsofpeace.org/samvaad or write to uchanda@seedsofpeace.org for any queries. 

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