Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain leaders meet at the White House
Addressing a meeting of leaders from these religious leaders this past week, Paul Monteiro, Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement, observed that the Dharmic American community is interested in all the issues that everyone is interested in—healthcare and security.
"As we see it, in America, the seva movement is a tool of social justice, a way to deal with community issues.
The eastern Dharmic traditions share many commonalities. We are trying to understand how can we engage with each other collectively, what are our issues—How can more of us engage with the administration," said Anju Bhargava of Hindu American Seva Charities (HASC).
HASC co-hosted with the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Agencies and the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships the conference 'Community Building in the 21st Century with Strengthened Dharmic Faith-Based Institutions for the Dharmic (defined as, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh) Religious Leaders'.
For the event, HASC had partnered with many Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Sikh organisations, including Council of Hindu Temples, JAINA, Soka Gakkai International-USA and others to create a coalition.
Former US Senator Harris Wofford, advisor to Martin Luther King and the pioneering force behind the creation of Peace Corps said this room, where the conference is being held, is the Indian Treaty room, where many things have happened, and history can be made here with this Dharmic undertaking.
"A follower of Gandhi said that the two great idea ideas of the 20th century were from Einstein and Gandhi. Einstein showed how to access tremendous physical energy through splitting the atom; Gandhi taught us how to crack the atom of people power. The diaspora power of India is great," Wofford said.
Kenneth Bedell, Policy Advisor, shared the announcement of Together for Tomorrow, a programme initiated by the Department of Education and White House Faith OFBNP to re-emphasis the idea that education is not just the responsibility of the teachers and schools, or of the parents, but of the whole community (and the students' responsibility).
"This marked an expansion and deepening of the dialogue between the administration and the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain and Sikh communities, and recognition of the growing contribution these faiths are making in American society," Bill Aiken, public affairs director, Soka Gakkai Buddhist Association, said.
Rev Suzan Johnson Cook, the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, advisor to President on religious issues and freedom, talked about her role in relationship building with religions around the world.
During the conference leaders of these religions questioned her about the condition of minorities (Hindus, Sikhs and Christians) in Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as the plight of Buddhists in Bangladesh, South-east Asia and Tibet.