Embrace Foundation is a non-profit, educational foundation set up to create better understanding between people of different religions, cultures, traditions and world philosophies.

Embrace Foundation works to bring leaders and scholars of world-wide religions, cultures and philosophies together by sponsoring forums, seminars, lectures and developing an international exchange program. Embrace Foundation is particularly concerned with reaching the world public through the media.
Embrace Foundation is an all volunteer organization. All donations go directly to programs.

Embrace Foundation does not and has never given permission to any outside organization to solicit or receive contributions on our behalf.

All donations should be made to Embrace Foundation only via Paypal or by mail. All donations are tax deductible. A receipt will be emailed to you. Please click on the Pay Pal link below to Donate.
Travel As An Interfaith Act
Embrace encourages all who can do so, to learn about other traditions and cultures by traveling as “Grassroots Diplomats.” We hope that people every where become life long students of our world-wide humanity.

“ In every man there is something wherein I may learn of him, and in that I am his pupil.”
Embrace Humanity

Thank you for making a donation.
Great Visions - TV
Guests are: Swami Satchidananda &
the Rt. Reverend Dean Parks Morton
Embrace Archives
Limited Editions Gallery
Umrah - Jordan
Embrace Sacred Places
Embrace Foundation Archives.Org
Monastery of Bahira - Syria
Embrace Foundation Universal
Monk Reading - Ethiopia
NEW ! See: TRAVELING IN MOROCCO 2020 article with many photos in CELEBRATE HUMANITY - A Practice of Renewed Hope For All People - SEE: EmbraceFoundationUniversal.Org   -   IMPORTANT !-See: MESSAGE from the Embrace Founders in FOCUS  -  SEE: Homeless Man creates huge bookstore in Athens, run only by people without homes ABOUT BOOKS - News - EmbraceFoundationUniversal.Org - SEE: Conference in New Delhi - Muslims Celebrate Their Diversity encouraged by the Dalai Lama who is asked to participate - in FOCUS  SEE: Bulletin for Newest Update! - VISIT: EmbraceSacredPlaces.Org now with 10,000 Photos!New! Traveling in Azerbaijan in CELEBRATE HUMANITY  - SEE: New! Traveling in Lebanon 2018 and Traveling in Georgia in CELEBRATE HUMANITY - See: TRAVELING  IN CYPRUS in CELEBRATE HUMANITY - FINALLY ! - See: CURRENT The Embrace Founders Travels in Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia, Lebanon & Cyprus  -   IMPORTANT ! See: article of TRAVELING IN TURKEY in CELEBRATE HUMANITY
Embrace Foundation International

African Christians & Muslims Stand United - Show Americans How NOT to Let ISIS Win

By William N. Grigg on January 22, 2016 -

For three years, the Nigeria-based Boko Haram terrorist group, which has aligned itself with ISIS, has carried out murderous attacks in neighboring Cameroon. The advertised purpose of that onslaught, in which more than 1,100 people have been killed, is to turn the country into an “Islamic state.” Five people were murdered in the most recent attack, a suicide bombing at a mosque in Neguetchewe.

Rather than seeing the country’s Muslim minority as a fifth column, many within its Christian population - led by prominent clerics, such as Joseph Klofou of the Protestant Church of Cameroon - have volunteered to guard mosques so that Muslims can worship in peace. Muslims have reciprocated that gesture by standing guard outside Christian houses of worship.

“I feel frustrated seeing my brothers and sisters dying,” explained Klofou. “I must act while praying to God to send his angels and warriors to fight Boko Haram because He is the merciful God of armies.”

Referring to Boko haram as “a group of bad people,” Djafarou Alamine of Cameroon’s central mosques declared that “Islam condemns all that they have been doing to both Christians and Muslims who are all God’s creatures even though they have religious differences.”

This inter-faith cooperation is not unusual in Cameroon, contends Midjiyawa Bakari, governor of the country’s Far North region.

“Cameroon is a country where priests and imams both go to churches and mosques to preach and pray during ecumenical services,” reported “It is a treasure to keep.”

Although the inter-communal self-defense project has been applauded by government officials, it is an entirely private initiative in which neighbors of different religious backgrounds organize to protect each other without the state’s involvement. All of this offers a striking and instructive contrast to the conditions that prevailed in Rwanda that led to the genocidal massacres that descended on that nation twenty-two years ago. Up to 1.1 million people were annihilated by government-backed death squads over the course of roughly one hundred days. Most of the victims were part of the Tutsi ethnic group while the government was in the hands of people identified as Hutus.

Rwanda is a country in which ninety percent of the population, at the beginning of the 1990s, identified as Christians. Unfortunately, as Timothy Longman of Vassar College points out, during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries colonial administrators had created a political system in which the churches were treated as adjuncts to the government - and all positions of public influence were defined by a racial caste system. Rwandans considered to have more “European” features were labeled “Tutsis,” and given access to power. Those with what the colonialists regarded as less desirable physical traits were called “Hutus” and saw their once-autonomous tribal leadership abolished - relegating them to second-class status. This led to decades of intermittent ethnic warfare, which in turn entrenched the politics of ethnic collectivism in Rwandan society - including the Christian churches.

“The leaders of the Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches were all close associates” of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimama, and many had key positions in his “Hutu Power” government, Longman points out. In 1993, the Hutu Power regime organized a plan to massacre Rwandan Tutsis and Hutus who were seen as traitors. Weapons were cached, and death squads quietly made preparations. In December 1993, Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian officer commanding a UN peacekeeping mission to Rwanda, learned of the impending slaughter from a defector but was forbidden to intervene to prevent it. The massacres begin in April following the death of President Habyarimana in a suspicious plane crash.

When the death squads began their rampage, terrified Tutsis sought sanctuary in churches - only to find no refuge.

Church leaders in Rwanda “helped make genocide possible by making ethnic violence understandable and acceptable to the population,” Longman writes. This was “not simply because church leaders hoped to avoid opposing their governmental allies but because ethnic conflict was itself an integral part of Christianity in Rwanda. Christians could kill without obvious qualms of conscience, even in the church, because Christianity as they had always known it had been a religion defined by struggles for power, and ethnicity had always been at the base of those struggles.” (Emphasis added.)

This was why machete-wielding death squads “attended mass before going out to kill,” or, if the victims had been cattle-penned in a church, the killers would pause “during the massacres to pray at the altar.” Like the Aztec priests who personally slaughtered an estimated 30,000 victims during the 1487 dedication of a temple to Huitzilopochtli, the devout murderers in Rwanda “felt their work was consistent with church teachings.”

Acting as palace prophets on behalf of the political elite, Rwanda’s churches made the slaughter “morally permissible,” Longman continues. Some individual congregants and clergy “took courageous stands, even risking their lives to save those threatened, but the majority of people in the churches gave tacit or even open support to the genocide. Church officials lent credibility to those organizing the genocide by calling on their members to support the new government.”

With churches being used as slaughter pens, Christian Tutsis were offered sanctuary in mosques.

Jean-Pierre Sagahutu, a Tutsi who saw his father and nine members of his family butchered by fellow Christians, was offered refuge by a Hutu Muslim family.

“I know people in America think Muslims are terrorists, but for Rwandans they were our freedom fighters during the genocide,” Sagahutu told a Washington Post reporter in 2002. “If it weren’t for the Muslims, my whole family would be dead,” agrees Aisha Umwimbabazi, who was struck by the fact that mosques, unlike churches, rejected the state-defined ethnic categories and social divisions.

Rwanda’s Hutu Muslims refused to allow the government to depict their neighbors as their enemies. As the late historian and human rights activist Dr. Alison Des Forges documented in her book Leave None to Tell the Story, what happened in Rwanda was not “an uncontrollable outburst of rage by a people consumed by `ancient tribal hatreds,’” but rather the result of “the deliberate choice of a modern elite to foster hatred and fear to keep itself in power.”

At a time when many governments are fostering collectivist hatred and fear, officials in Cameroon are to be commended for encouraging citizens to regard each other as neighbors and cooperate to protect each other. Regrettably, albeit predictably, while Cameroon’s population is uniting to defend the country from terrorism, the national government’s cross-border military operations against Boko Haram may be exacerbating that threat by killing civilians and laying waste to entire villages.

Terrorism is a plague cultivated, nurtured, aggravated, and exploited by political elites working through the state, which is why the state cannot protect us from it.
Bubble Nebula looks like a gigantic cosmic soap bubble

Date: April 21, 2016
Source: ESA/Hubble Information Centre

This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, released to celebrate Hubble's 26th year in orbit, captures in stunning clarity what looks like a gigantic cosmic soap bubble. The object, known as the Bubble Nebula, is in fact a cloud of gas and dust illuminated by the brilliant star within it. The vivid new portrait of this dramatic scene wins the Bubble Nebula a place in the exclusive Hubble hall of fame, following an impressive lineage of Hubble anniversary images.
The Bubble Nebula, also known as NGC 7653, is an emission nebula located 11,000 light-years away. This stunning new image was observed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to celebrate its 26th year in space.
Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team


For 35 years Embrace has worked with open-hearted, open-minded Rabbis and Rebs and looks forward to doing so for many years to come.

Founding Rabbis, like the close personal friend of the Embrace Founders, Rabbi Gelberman, were raised in the Hasidic tradition and were even Hasidic Rabbis in Europe, before deciding to become what might be termed “interfaith - spiritual.” This change came partially because of their desire to share mystical Jewish teachings with interested gentiles and their determination to reach out to people who were not Jewish to create better understanding between communities.

Rabbi Gelberman however, is one who despite losing his wife and children in the holocaust, decided to “Embrace”
love and goodness and to look forward with hope to a new kind of world with the enthusiasm of the Besht. He was almost always cheerful. Of the Jewish Rabbis and Rebs doing intensive interfaith work in the 1960’s and 1970’s Rabbi Gelberman and Rabbi Carlbach were among the first and foremost. They both, especially Rabbi Gelberman contributed greatly to Embrace. It should also be noted that these Rabbis were recommended to us early on by members in the Sufi community who had already been doing interfaith programs with them before Embrace was founded in 1982.

(A Note: Of all the early Religious, Spiritual leaders and Scholars working with Embrace, four were deeply involved with interfaith work in the United States long before we were founded and all of them were a strong foundation for our organization to build upon. - They were: Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan (Sufi), Swami Satchidananda (Yoga, Hindu), Rabbi Joseph Gelberman (Judaism & the Interfaith Seminary) and Rabbi Carlbach.)  Also, these men were doing a lot of their work on the East Coast of the United States, so they were easy to call upon and meet with. They all knew each other for years and had collaborated with each other before Embrace was founded.)

It should also be noted that for many years Embrace had offices in two buildings in Manhattan, New York where a large number of tenants were Torah Jews, (members of the Jewish Hasidic & Litvak communities.) We grew to greatly respect and admire their unremitting adherence to “Truth” and to their devotion to the Divine despite much unkind discrimination. The Litvak community regularly demonstrates on behalf of Palestinian Human Rights in front of the United Nations and other locations. All Hasidim and Litvak are peace oriented and try hard to adhere to the 10 Commandments, which the Government in the Holy Land perpetually violates especially commandments 6, 8,9 & 10 without compunction.

To Learn More About Spiritual Judaism and Hasidic/ Litvak Judaism:

See: Ushpizin (The Guests) DVD - A Touching Story about Faith and Trying to Do the Right Thing - All people can relate to it

Kabbalah -The Way of The Mystic, by Perle Epstein - Inspiring (Good for Beginner with Basics)

Sacred Treasure - The Cairo Genziah - By Rabbi Mark Glickman - The Embrace Founders visited the Ben Ezra Synagogue where the Genziah is upstairs.  As Rabbi Glickman muses, this is a long period when Jews and Muslims were just normal neighbors and friends. Kept documents in the Genziah give reference to these years. (Fine for Introduction)

The Tales of the Hasidim - Later Masters - Martin Buber - (Excellent for Introduction)

Zohar (Their are other translations) -Daniel Matt (Skylight Illuminations, Series Editor Andrew Harvey)

The Essential Kabbalah - (Also other Translations) Daniel C. Matt - Intro. - Huston Smith

Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism - Gershom G. Scholem - (Scholarly)

Tree of Life - Zev Ben Shimon Halevi

Judaism - Edited by Arthur Hertzberg - George Braziller Publishers, (The Braziller family were neighbors of the Embrace Founders for many years) (Excellent Book for Everyone) part of a series of volumes on Buddhism, Christianity (Protestant & Catholic volumes), Hinduism, Islam & Judaism

These are just a very few we’ve pulled from our shelves.

International Repatriation of Sacred Objects for Indigenous People
Above talented young people demonstrated the difficult and fascinating Hoop Dance at the International Repatriation Conference organized by the Association of American Indian Affairs in New Mexico, USA.

Around the world sacred objects belonging to Indigenous People are put up for auction to non-indigenous people to whom the ownership of First Peoples belongings is merely a status symbol to be put on a shelf or hung on a wall. For indigenous people, these objects have an active and important place in their cultural life.

The event honored the Honorable Kurt Riley, Governor of the  Acoma Pueblo for his work in repatriation - in particular an Acoma sacred shield from a Paris auction. The attorneys who work closely for the Native American (First American) community also need to be acknowledged for their determination, hard work and commitment to this cause.

The Lightening Boy Foundation, Youth Hoop Dancers and the Tesuque Pueblo Youth Dancers demonstrated the complex Hoop Dance at the event.

As our friend Leo Cortez from the Santa Domingo Pueblo once said,”Dancing is the Indians way of prayer...our feet pray.”

The Demographic and Ecological Situation in the Holy Land

Embrace has researched some information and percentages regarding the population in the Holy Land.  For those not familiar with the history of the Holy Land since WW II, we would like to explain that there are Palestinians that agreed to become citizens of the government now controlling the Holy Land, (hoping not to lose family homes, property and businesses - never-the-less, many lost their homes, lands and businesses anyway.)  Other Palestinians refused to become citizens and lost all of their property, family heirlooms and businesses. These Palestinians live in the West Bank and Gaza.

Dual Citizenship

One of the reasons for the discrepancy in population accounts of the Jewish population in the Holy Land is that a vast number of Jewish people with citizenship in the Holy Land actually have dual citizenship in the United States, Britain, the British Commonwealth Nations and Europe. Some *Russian Jews also have dual citizenship although dual citizenship seems to be phasing out. A very substantial number of these dual-citizens live outside of the Holy Land.

Our estimates from information gathered is that Palestinians living as citizens under the current Holy Land government already outnumber the Jewish population living in the Holy Land (not counting dual citizens) at approximately 53% or perhaps more.

(This is why when the Pentagon decides it isn’t going to fight a war for the Holy Land, amidst threats of lobbying groups and media controlled by Holy Land government interests they must call up Jewish people living in the countries listed above to serve in their armed forces.)

Having millions of Palestinians whose parents or grandparents were driven from their ancestral homes living in Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria as well as the Gulf States is the reason the Holy Land government has been tirelessly lobbying politically and through the media to get the U.S. military to bomb Palestinians particularly in Syria and their neighbors, so they don’t have to call up quasi-citizens living in Western nations to fight.

*Russian Jews - It should be noted that due to very different outlooks on life and two world wars, secular German Jews who run the Holy Land government and Russian Jews, as well as Torah Jews rarely see eye to eye. That is why large numbers of Russian Jews returned to Russia from the Holy Land.  Also, some religious Jews notably the Litvak have given testimony that secular German Jews who historically formed (and whose current adherents) run the Holy Land government collaborated with the Nazis, sometimes turning-in religious Jews who died in the concentration camps so that they could escape themselves.)

Ecological Damage

We are not going to reiterate what Aytzim.Org in the Holy Land has already honestly and concisely outlined as to the ecologically toxic environment of the Holy Land. Every single part of nature has been destroyed, air, land, water, animals, flora except to also mention the destruction of all the coral reefs off the Coast of the Holy Land which are largely dead.

Unbridled greed, total lack of respect for the planet and overpopulation are the major causes.

No Water Security

The Holy Land is a desert and water shortages were always a great probability. More so with more people.

Population Explosion of Pacifist Torah Jews

With the undisputed doubling or possibly more of the Orthodox (Torah) Jewish population, what influence will they have on Holy Land politics?  What will be socially and culturally acceptable in the future?

Population Explosion of Palestinians

If the brochures of the Bethlehem Hospital run by the Catholic Church and the CIA World Fact Book are anything to go by, Palestinians who are not part of he Holy Land government citizenship are burgeoning. Palestinians in the West Bank are tripling.

West Bank Population Growth:

The West Bank population is approximately
3,284,787 as of 2017.

“The cities included in the West Bank have grown over the years, with some being far more populous than others. As these cities are modernized and offer opportunities for employment, the population can only be expected to continue to grow. Figures from the 1990s through the 2000s show that the population has seen steady growth, with the number of Palestinians growing from almost 1 million in a 10-year period.”

Gaza Population Growth:

Population: is approximately 3,284,787 as of 2017.

Population Growth Rate: 2.33% (2017 est.)

Birth Rate: 31.4 Births per 1,000 people (2017 est.)

Economy & Poverty

Population Below Poverty Line:  22%
note: Israel's poverty line is $7.30 per person per day (2014 est.)

“In the long term, Israel faces structural issues including low labor participation rates for its fastest growing social segments - the ultraorthodox and Arab-Israeli communities. Also, Israel's progressive, globally competitive, knowledge-based technology sector employs only about 8% of the workforce, with the rest mostly employed in manufacturing and services - sectors which face downward wage pressures from global competition.

Income inequality and high housing and commodity prices continue to be a concern for many Israelis. Israel's income inequality and poverty rates are among the highest of OECD countries, and there is a broad perception among the public that a small number of "tycoons" have a cartel-like grip over the major parts of the economy. Government officials have called for reforms to boost the housing supply and to increase competition in the banking sector to address these public grievances. Despite calls for reforms, the restricted housing supply continues to impact younger Israelis seeking to purchase homes. Tariffs and non-tariff barriers, coupled with guaranteed prices and customs tariffs for farmers kept food prices high in 2016. Private consumption is expected to drive growth through 2018, with consumers benefitting from low inflation and a strong currency..Expenditures on educational institutions remain low compared to most other OECD countries with similar GDP per capita.”

From the:

In conclusion, secular Jews will be increasingly out-numbered, powerless except for using the intimidation and torture tactics of the South African apartheid government and  living in a grossly polluted land without any water.

Is All the Greed, Hatred, Propaganda, Torture, Death Worth It ?
Holy Land Pollution

For Further Information Regarding Nuclear Dangers- See:
Union Of Concerned Scientists
Pax Christi (International)

Oil & U.S. Aggression

As oil in Saudi Arabia and the gulf dwindles, the United States has attempted to initiate invasions and wars
as the aggressor with those countries that do have substantial oil reserves, among them: Venezuela, Iran and Russia. It is especially meaningful that scholars and spiritual leaders from Iran attended the event in the above noted article, as the United States, now a rogue nation, (a term the U.S. government itself gives to any country that it wants to steal resources from) is once again trying to incite an unjustified war with Iran. The American media as usual, gives no idea of who the “grassroots” Iranian people actually are; school teachers, artists, writers, children, babies, pregnant women - all are OK. to drop bombs on as long as the oil companies and the government of the Holy Land can take control of Iranian oil. The government of the Holy Land and its’ lobby in Washington is a major instigator in this war-mongering.

The Iranian grassroots people are known and respected by Embrace co-Founder Virginia who attended university with a number of them. They were sent to get a higher education in America by the Shah of Iran. After the Shah was put in power by the CIA (who deposed the   democratically elected Iranian Premier Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953) (See: Bio Mosaddeq), the Shah gave the U.S. 40% of Iran’s oil fields. That situation reversed when the Iranian revolution took place and the Shah was over-thrown. The Iranian (Persian) people got their own oil fields back. Although the students that Virginia attended university with usually came from more privileged families, they all said that the Shah was extraordinarily cruel to the poor people of Iran. The Iranian students in those days not only studied hard but planned the downfall of the Shah from within universities in the United States and France. It is unlikely the revolution would have succeeded without them.

However, the article from the Office of the Dalai Lama’s website: CELEBRATING DIVERSITY IN THE MUSLIM WORLD is not about any of the above. It is about wisdom, respect and shared values. It is uplifting, please read it.

Last Word - China

Before we depart from this planet, Ajata and Virginia hope to hear of H.H.the Dalai Lama addressing the Tibetan people in Tibet. The leaders of China often speak in the terminology of Kong Zi (Confucius) and Lao Tzu but there has recently - with more and more frequency -been little correlation between their words and the Great Reality of the Tao, the admonition of “non grasping” or the concept of Harmony. Their actions do not reflect idealism or the dignity  expected of the world leadership, determined by grassroots people everywhere.

This is true of political leaders in most countries around the world, but for the Chinese - having respect is far more important than it is to most politicians. If violence against the grassroots people of Hong Kong is initiated, it is likely a war will break out between the United States and China. It can not go well. Such a war would move through Taiwan, Japan, Korea, all of Southeast Asia and quite possibly culminate in a nuclear exchange
. So, like all the rest of the world, we greatly wish a harmonious and just agreement between the people of Hong Kong and the Leaders of the Central Government.  An agreement that can bring prosperity and good fortune to every one.


Thirty seven years ago, after Ajata Sharma and Virginia Birdsall developed the idea of Embrace Foundation in Gangotri, (the source of Ganges River in the Himalayas), they decided to visit religious leaders from different faiths.  His Holiness the Dalai Lama was the first person they approached with their idea for an interfaith, intercultural, educational organization along with extraordinary Muslims (many known in their communities as Sufis) that we lived with and learned from in Kashmir.  We also spent extended time with Tibetan Geshes, Lamas and Nuns in McLeod Ganj and Ladakh in the summer of 1982.

Embrace has taken the article:
Celebrating Diversity in the Muslim World in our FOCUS section (below) from the Office of the Dalai Lama’s website. This Islamic Conference is a remarkable testament to both the Muslims of India and to H.H. the Dalai Lama.

The Possible Extinction of Humanity

Civilization on this Earth is facing a critical time. Those of us who live or spend time in the state of New Mexico  (in the United States), are constantly aware of the three national laboratories that function as manufacturers of weapons of mass destruction. These labs are building increasing numbers and variety of weapons for the express purpose of annihilating most of the world’s population.* We regularly receive notifications of their filings for the burial of nuclear and other toxic waste. Soon half of New Mexico will have nuclear waste and other poisons under it’s soil and even more of it in it’s water. We know of one death of a young man in Santa Fe County from radiation leakage into a residential well, the story of which has been deleted from most records and we imagine other instances have been covered up.

The result of petty disputes and greed makes the annihilation of humanity a very real possibility. For a very small idea of the cruelty of nuclear radiation, we suggest reading “Hiroshima” by John Hersey whose bombing was mild compared to the extinction current nuclear bombs will bring.

* LANL, Sandia Labs & the Kirtland AFB Lab also support scientists who would be struggling for grants whose research has nothing to do with weapons development.
The City of Hiroshima, Japan - After the Nuclear Bomb
Celebrating Diversity in the Muslim World June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019

New Delhi, India - Upwards of 350 people filled the auditorium at the India International Centre today to attend a conference focussed on the theme, ‘Celebrating Diversity in the Muslim World’. Inspired and encouraged by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the event was organized by the Muslims of Ladakh.

On arrival, His Holiness was welcomed by Dr Abdul Qayoom of the Anjuman Moin-ul-Islam and Ashraf Ali Barcha of the Anjuman Imamia Leh. In the auditorium he personally greeted the numerous Muslim clerics present, before taking his seat on the stage.

In his preliminary remarks he mentioned that Ladakhi Muslims came to Lhasa during the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama, who gave them a piece of land on which to construct a mosque. Subsequently, representatives of their community we always invited to Tibetan government functions.

Despite having heard no reports of disputes between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in India, elsewhere members of these different denominations are killing each other. His Holiness expressed dismay that this could happen between people of the same faith, who worship the same God, read the same Holy Scripture and follow the same pattern of praying five times a day.
“I felt that Indian Muslims should be more active in promoting religious harmony,” he explained. “I thought that a meeting of Indian Muslims here in Delhi could be helpful and I really appreciate your having arranged it. I’m also happy to know that brothers and sisters from Iran are joining us here. We have to make clear to the eyes of the world how important it is to maintain religious harmony.”

Siddiq Wahid welcomed the guests and participants, explaining that the Guest of Honour, former Vice President Hamid Ansari had been unavoidably delayed, but would come later. He alluded to the longstanding interaction between Muslims and Tibet that dates back to the 8th century. He also noted that the Tibetan language is employed in four SAARC countries-India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bhutan. He requested Hafiz Ghulam Mohammad to recite the Tilawaat e Quran Sharief, the gist of which was to say-”Do not become divided; Allah brings you together; you are brothers.”

A. Qayum Giri declared that the intent of the conference was to celebrate diversity in the Muslim world. Although the Muslims of Ladakh are few in number, they were providing this opportunity in anticipation that such meetings will continue and grow in the future. “We want to make the world aware of the harmony we maintain on the ‘roof of the world’ and ask how this can be applied elsewhere in this country and further afield. We intend to learn, to take home what we learn and spread it in the Muslim world.”

Ashraf A. Barcha observed that Ladakh is a remote region and Muslims are in a minority there, but are stable, calm and peaceful. He hoped that speakers would identify steps to avert any future problems that might arise and stimulate constructive dialogue.

In his address His Holiness noted that of seven billion human beings alive today, one billion have no interest in religion, leaving six billion who follow one of several different religious traditions. He noted that the Indian practice for cultivating a calmly abiding mind, shamatha, gave rise to the traditions of non-violence and compassion (ahimsa and karuna). He suggested that, compared to the ancient civilizations of China and Egypt, that of the Indus Valley had resulted in particularly sophisticated philosophical developments.

“Today, everyone wants to live a happy life. No one wants to suffer. Indeed, happiness is part of the basis of our survival. Scientists have concluded that basic human nature is compassionate. This is linked to individuals’ survival being dependent on the rest of the community. Those who grow up in a more compassionate atmosphere tend to be happier and more successful. On the other hand, scientists suggest that living with constant anger or fear undermines our immune system. Interdependence means that all seven billion human beings belong to one human community.

“In today’s world, despite material development, many problems we face are of our own creation. They are provoked by our tendency to see others in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Children don’t make such distinctions. They don’t care what religion, race or nation their playmates belong to so long as they smile and play happily. We need to remember the oneness of humanity, that in being human we are all the same, and I am committed to letting people know this.

“All our religious traditions convey a message of love. In Buddhist terms we talk about feeling that all sentient beings are as dear to us as our own mother. Muslims in Tibet were very peaceable. In Turtuk, the northernmost village in India, an Imam told me that a Muslim should love every member of Allah’s creation. Elsewhere another elder told me that someone who causes bloodshed is no longer a proper Muslim.

“We are peaceful here and now, but among our neighbours in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen children are suffering deeply. Why is that? We have to make an effort to create a more peaceful world, by cultivating inner peace within ourselves. Of course, we follow different traditions, we have different philosophical points of view, but the underlying message is one of love.

“Theistic faiths suggest we are all creatures of a merciful God, like children of a single father. We have to think about what unites us rather than what makes us different. All religions have the same potential to create a happy human being; they convey the same message of love. There are wonderful people belonging to all these traditions.
“Meanwhile, killing among Muslims and Buddhists in Bangladesh, Burma or Sri Lanka, among Muslims and Christians in Egypt, in the name of religion is unthinkable. If we have peace of mind within ourselves, peace in the world will come about. But religious harmony is essential. If you ask-”Is religious harmony possible?” the answer is-look at India. Look at the example of Zoroastrians or Parsees who barely number 100,000, but who live among millions of Hindus and Muslims in Mumbai completely without fear.

“It seems to me that Shias and Sunnis are brothers and sisters and yet in our neighbour Pakistan they are killing each other. I feel that Indian Muslims should show the rest of the world, especially people in other Muslim countries, that religious harmony is possible, which something else I’m committed to sharing with others.”

His Holiness explained that as a Tibetan in whom Tibetans inside and outside Tibet place their trust, he has a responsibility to consider their well-being. He is also concerned to protect Tibet’s natural environment, the source of so many of Asia’s great rivers. He warned that there is a real danger of a reduction in the amount of water available due to the climate crisis. He added that he tries to educate people about Tibet’s cultural heritage and the advanced centre of learning at Nalanda from which it is derived. Allied to this is his commitment to trying to revive interest in ancient Indian knowledge of the workings of the mind and emotions.

After a short break for tea, His Holiness answered questions from the audience. He expressed great sympathy for the Rohingya refugees from Burma along with his conviction that the Buddha would have protected such people. He reported that Aung San Suu Kyi had told him that due to military involvement the situation was difficult to deal with.

When asked to explain how to cultivate inner peace, His Holiness suggested that believing in ‘God, the father’ can help. Otherwise, recognising that things do not exist as they appear, and cultivating altruism, can counter the destructive emotions that disturb us. He added that both ‘ahimsa’ and ‘karuna’ involved training the mind.

His Holiness told a questioner who wanted to know about nirvana that it was complicated. Nirvana, he said, is a state of mind purified through a deep understanding of reality. He clarified that since ignorance is not part of the nature of the mind it can be dispelled from it. However, to achieve that requires study, reflection and meditation.

Maulana Syed Kalbi Jawad Naqavi, a Shia teacher from Lucknow, confessed that using English he learned 40 years ago left him short of words. Of the three points he made, the first was that most of us are not real Muslims; we are not actual but artificial Muslims, because real Muslims are expected to help others, to work to serve all human beings. A Muslim is one who helps other human beings, whatever faith they follow.

His second point was to ask the meaning of victory in Islam. We tend to think that victory involves conquering or overcoming others, but victory is to establish peace among human beings. Thirdly, the Maulana asked, what is ‘jihad’? He explained that when darkness is dispelled by lighting a candle-that is ‘jihad’. When you work to eliminate illiteracy-that is ‘jihad’. When a mother feeds her child to allay its hunger-that is ‘jihad’. Shedding blood is not ‘jihad’.

He ended by remarking that it is a sorry state of affairs when it takes a non-Muslim like His Holiness to remind Muslims about the value of non-violence and reconciliation.

Maulana Mahmud Madani, from Deoband, spoke of visiting Ladakh and Turtuk. There he met Shias and Sunnis and came across some who prayed together. He noted that communal harmony exists when Muslims work not only for Muslims but for everyone. He agreed with His Holiness’s observation that very often it is not religious issues that underlie conflict but political considerations. Too often religion is used as a weapon for short term political gain. He recalled that it was ‘fakirs’ who captured the hearts and minds of people and who could be called their rulers more than kings or emperors.

Dr Mohammed Husain Mokhtari (Chancellor of University of Islamic Denomination or Madhaheb University, Tehran, Iran) told the audience that it is a religious duty to respect each other. He commended accepting diversity among followers of religions, but also that in following religion they are united. He said we have to recognise diversity as a fact and that to do so is beneficial for everyone.

Mutual respect is important. Acceptance and recognition of each other is the preliminary to dialogue and if the goal is unity, there has to be dialogue. He encouraged the recognition of similarities as well as the acceptance of differences. Ignorance and negligence are significant obstacles to the spirit of diversity. We cannot achieve unity if we view some groups of people with fear. Nor is it helpful to criticize others as non-believers.

Former Vice President of India, Hamid Ansari spoke of diversity as such a desirable and simple concept. He asked what we find in nature-no flowers, trees or human beings are exactly the same; there is diversity. He commended the efforts made to convene this conference, but wondered if it would have been necessary if we properly understood diversity.

Muslims are a global community, Mr Ansari said. They number 1.6 billion. Of those, 66% live in Asia; 15% live in West Asia or the Middle East; 20% live in Africa. India, with 190 million Muslims, has the second largest Muslim population after Indonesia. Muslims, he suggested are united in their belief and religious language, but diverse in their manners and customs. The unity of their faith is demonstrated during the annual pilgrimage of the Haj. Wherever they’re from the ritual is the same. There is unity in diversity and diversity in unity.

“Islam has been present in India for a long time and has shown not only diversity but also adaptability. It can be a model for others around the world to emulate. Living together in diversity as we see in India is as unique as it is rare; let’s take it further.”
In bringing the morning session to a close, Siddiq Wahid recalled something he learned from His Holiness long ago when he was about 13 years old-to practise one religion explicitly is practise them all implicitly. He thanked His Holiness for coming and expressed the hope that what was learned today may be impressed on Ladakh, J&K, India and South Asia. He went on to thank everyone who had contributed to making the conference a success.

The delegation from Iran presented gifts to His Holiness and to Mr Ansari. His Holiness ate lunch with the Muslim clerics, while the public ate on the patio.

In the afternoon, the conference was to hear from other members of the Iranian delegation, as well as from Prof Ali Khan speaking about Dialogue within the Muslim World; from Ms Farah Naqvi about Gender in the Muslim World and from Ms Seems Mustafa about Muslims and the Media.

His Holiness returned to his hotel and will return to Dharamsala tomorrow.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama arriving at the India International Centre to participate in the conference on "Celebrating Diversity in the Muslim World" in New Delhi, India on June 15, 2019. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at the conference on "Celebrating Diversity in the Muslim World" at the India International Centre in New Delhi, India on June 15, 2019. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
Siddiq Wahid welcoming guests and participants to the conference on "Celebrating Diversity in the Muslim World" at the India International Centre in New Delhi, India on June 15, 2019. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
Ashraf Ali Barcha of the Anjuman Imamia Leh addressing the conference on "Celebrating Diversity in the Muslim World" at the India International Centre in New Delhi, India on June 15, 2019. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at the conference on "Celebrating Diversity in the Muslim World" at the India International Centre in New Delhi, India on June 15, 2019. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
Members of the audience listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama's address at the conference on "Celebrating Diversity in the Muslim World" at the India International Centre in New Delhi, India on June 15, 2019. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at the conference on "Celebrating Diversity in the Muslim World" at the India International Centre in New Delhi, India on June 15, 2019. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
A member of the audience listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama answering his question during the conference on "Celebrating Diversity in the Muslim World" at the India International Centre in New Delhi, India on June 15, 2019. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
A teacher wanted to know how teach schoolchildren about love and compassion. His Holiness suggested pointing out that genuine friendship is not based on money and power, but on trust, which in turn develops as a result of showing concern for other people’s well-being. In other words, explain to schoolchildren that friendship is founded on warm-heartedness. His Holiness acknowledged that we have a natural sense of self-interest, but made clear that there is a difference between pursuing it wisely and foolishly.

Invited to suggest how to reconcile differences between Shias and Sunnis, or between Iran and Saudi Arabia, His Holiness pointed out that politicians make assertions in the name of religion which tend to provoke an emotional response. He remarked that some people view Iran with suspicion, which he doesn’t, describing it as a democratic country that follows a Shia tradition. On the other hand, he remarked, Bin Laden came from the Sunni side. He declared that we can’t generalize about Shias as a whole, nor about Sunnis as a whole. It’s not possible to generalize about a whole community on the basis of the misbehaviour of a few individuals.

A member of the audience listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama answering her question during the conference on "Celebrating Diversity in the Muslim World" at the India International Centre in New Delhi, India on June 15, 2019. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
Finally, His Holiness answered an enquiry about meditation by making clear that there is a difference between mental consciousness and sensory awareness. He pointed out that we have clearer access to mental consciousness when we dream because at that time our sensory consciousnesses are dormant. Training the mind, cultivating compassion and an understanding of reality, all involve mental consciousness. Success in developing a calmly abiding mind and analysis depend on how much effort you exert and how well you understand the workings of the mind and emotions.

There followed contributions from representative Muslim clerics. Maulana Abdul Qadir Noorudin from the Bohra tradition in Mumbai spoke of the diversity that is India, but also of the harmony that prevails here. He mentioned that the Holy Quran encourages the finding of shared values with others, which serve as confidence building measures. The people of India, he suggested, are bound by a shared life-style. Nevertheless, people of ill-intent try to promote division, whereas those of good heart foster friendship. He concluded that all human beings need tolerance and forgiveness.

Maulana Syed Kalbi Jawad Naqavi, a Shia teacher from Lucknow, speaking at the conference on "Celebrating Diversity in the Muslim World" at the India International Centre in New Delhi, India on June 15, 2019. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
Maulana Mahmud Madani addressing the conference on "Celebrating Diversity in the Muslim World" at the India International Centre in New Delhi, India on June 15, 2019. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
Dr Mohammed Husain Mokhtari, Chancellor of University of Islamic Denomination or Madhaheb University in Tehran, Iran speaking at the conference on "Celebrating Diversity in the Muslim World" at the India International Centre in New Delhi, India on June 15, 2019. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
Former Vice President of India, Hamid Ansar speaking on the concept of diversity at the conference on "Celebrating Diversity in the Muslim World" at the India International Centre in New Delhi, India on June 15, 2019. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
Members of the audience listening to the speakers during the conference on "Celebrating Diversity in the Muslim World" at the India International Centre in New Delhi, India on June 15, 2019. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
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