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“In dialogue, the intention is not to argue but explore; not to convince but discover”

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Urmi Chanda

Interfaith advocates underlined the importance and intersections of faith and dialogue at the Samvaad National Interfaith Summit on December 11, 2021

In her opening keynote address, Dr. Kaushikee, honorary director and professor of the Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Jamia Millia Islamia University, noted how setting the right intention and norms of dialogue was an important step in the peace process. She was speaking at The Samvaad National Interfaith Summit, held virtually on December 11, 2021, organized by Seeds of Peace India as a conclusive step of their year-long Samvaad Project. The Samvaad Project was aimed at training university level educators in interfaith dialogue facilitation – an outcome made possible because of the grant by the US Consulate Mumbai.

In their continued show of support, US Consulate Mumbai representative, Scott Ticknor, Deputy Principal Officer, flagged off the summit with a welcome address. He reiterated the consulate’s long-standing association with Seeds of Peace and expressed his pleasure at being able to help create The Samvaad Project. He also inaugurated The Samvaad Handbook, which will be made available as an open resource for interfaith dialogue facilitator and practitioner.

The welcome and keynote addresses were followed by an inspiring panel discussion on ‘Women’s Agency in Interfaith Engagement’ with notable panelists including Padma Shri Syeda Hameed, Ashoka fellow, Sushobha Barve, and Professor Joan Rebello. In addition to representing the religious diversity of this summit – indeed the nation – the panelists spoke about their rich experiences in peacebuilding and community mobilization through the decades and the role of women in it.

The Samvaad National Interfaith Summit, curated by Rukmini Iyer, consultant to Seeds of Peace India and founder-director, Exult! Solutions, also saw the presence of a variety of other prestigious speakers and varied subjects, aligned to the interfaith cause. Throughout the day, there were parallel tracks of paper presentation, workshops, and short-format talks for participants to choose from. From insights from the Bhagwad Gita to the faith-climate intersection, from the architecture of dialogue to Yogic principles, from Christian and Islamic views on interfaith to historical case studies, there was something in it for everyone. The Summit was also interspersed by musical interludes with performances by award-winning artistes like Bindhumalini Narayanswamy, Vedanth Bharadwaj, and Isheeta Chakrvarty.

A moving closing keynote address was rendered by renowned peace activist, Faisal Khan. Reiterating his signature message of love, he pronounced people who nurture hatred as sick and therefore deserving of our compassion. Love, he insisted, is the key to any dialogue – interfaith or otherwise. The Summit ended with a vote of thanks by Fr. Joshua Thomas, Executive Director, Seeds of Peace.

“Though the Samvaad National Interfaith Summit was the high point and conclusion of The Samvaad Project, Seeds of Peace India will continue to keep working in the realm,” said Sagar Gangurde, Director of India programs, Seeds of Peace. Seeds of Peace India is currently inviting heads of universities and colleges across India to join their #YesToPeace initiative and make a pledge to organize interfaith activities in their respective institutions. For any details or queries, reach out to the senior programs coordinator, Urmi Chanda at uchanda@seedsofpeace.org .

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