Facets of Faith Promotes Interfaith Leadership in India

Anjali
December 28, 2023

“As the different streams having their sources in different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.’’ —Swami Vivekananda (1893 World’s Parliament of Religion Chicago)

The Facets of Faith project organized by GPF India is a transformative leadership training program to promote interfaith and intercultural understanding, harmony, unity, and a sense of urgency to work together for peace. It aims to help people learn about different faiths and train them to be more compassionate when confronted with various ideas and behaviors. Facets of Faith embodies the principle of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, a phrase meaning “The World Is One Family.” It emphasizes the equality of all faith traditions and cultures.

Facets of Faith promoting interfaith leadership in India, with a group of people standing in front of a Jewish temple.

Participants visit Jewish synagogue.

In this program, GPF India’s approach includes introducing interfaith concepts, visiting religious places, engaging in group discussions, and several other leadership activities. Facets of Faith is designed to educate youth about the values of nine mainstream faiths practiced in India.

Interfaith Leadership promotes the unity of different facets of faith as a group of people light candles in front of a building.

Participants visit Buddhist temple.

Facets of Faith stands out as one of the most loved programs in India, bringing together groups of 10 to 20 participants in each batch. Through this initiative, participants have cultivated empathy, fostered understanding, and expanded their mindsets, all achieved through engaging in activities and interactions with religious leaders. This transformative experience has successfully dispelled numerous misconceptions about different faiths.

During the festive season, GPF India’s recent group of Facets of Faith participated in a program that was themed “Festivals of Faith.” The program employed a pragmatic approach, featuring enlightening lectures by distinguished speakers, including Prof. Swasti Bhattacharyya, Prof. Priyankar Upadhyay, Prof. Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi, Acharya Vivek Muni, and Mr. Percival Holt.

The interior of a church in India with people sitting in the pews.

Participants visit Christian church.

Exploring Delhi’s diverse cultural and religious landmarks, participants immersed themselves in the spiritual essence of locations such as Shri Digamber Jain Temple (Jainism), Lotus Temple (Baha’i), and Gurudwara Mata Sundri (Sikhism). They sought insights into unity, wisdom, and tranquility during visits to the Synagogue (Judaism), Jama Masjid (Islam), Ramakrishna Mission (Hinduism), Sacred Heart Cathedral Church (Christianity), and Mahabodhi Temple (Buddhism). Guiding them through these faith sites were interfaith leaders, including Acharya Deepak Jain, Nilufar Mihrshahi, Granthi Ji, Rabbi Ezekiel Issac Malekar, Swami Sarvalokananda, and Ven. R. Sumiththananda Thero.

By bringing together individuals from varied backgrounds and ethnicities, we aim to facilitate a rich exchange of perspectives and mutual learning among the participants. This batch saw the active participation of seven individuals, each hailing from diverse religious backgrounds representing Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Agnosticism, and Hinduism. They added a rich blend of cultural perspectives to the program, originating from various parts of India, such as Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bengal, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar.

Interfaith Leadership in India promoting collaboration between a man and a woman as they look at a notebook.

Participants discuss interfaith topics and get to know each other during Facets of Faith program.

Yari Nayam, a participant, shared her insightful experience, noting the program’s impact on her understanding of diverse faiths like Baha’i and Zoroastrian. The importance of asking questions during visits became evident, emphasizing the value of learning about other faiths to deepen one’s beliefs. Yari learned the significance of respecting every faith for peaceful coexistence and found beauty in diverse celebrations. A key takeaway was embracing acceptance over mere tolerance.

In the coming programs, we aim to extend our reach through online exchanges, fostering collaboration with other GPF chapters and contributing to strengthening social cohesion and peacebuilding within our community.

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