KAICIID Global Forum – Vienna, Austria
In November, Pujya Swamiji, President of Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh, Founder of Ganga Action Parivar and Co-Founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, played an important role in the Global Forum of KAICIID (King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue) in Vienna, Austria.
The Centre was officially inaugurated in November 2012 in Vienna and the 18th – 19th November, 2013 saw its first Global Forum of more than 600 religious leaders, policy makers, and social leaders from all the world’s major religions.
A project of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, joined by the Governments of Spain and Austria, and of which the Holy See (the Vatican) is the Founding Observer, the KAICIID centre is bringing religious heads together for dialogue leading to positive, constructive action and implementation.
The Forum focused on the theme of “The Image of the Other,” how different religions view each other, and how these images lead to prejudice and violence. Therefore, the focus is on shifting our image of each other to one that focuses on the similarities and fundamental unity between faiths.
Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji shared the concepts from a Hindu perspective of “Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam,” the world is one family, and the principle of the Divine pervading all aspects of the universe. “We worship the Creator,” He said, “But then we harm and kill the Creation. The Creator whom we worship is present in the Creation — in humans, animals and all beings — and therefore if we truly revere the Creator we will live peacefully with all aspects of Creation.”
Leaders of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism as well as Hinduism came together from 92 countries across the world including the Vatican, USA, UK, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, China, Australia, Israel, Thailand, India, France, Germany and Austria, under the leadership of KAICIID’s Secretary General Faisal Bin Abdulrahman Bin Muaammar, Secretary-General of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) and Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
Pujya Swamiji invited the leaders of the different religions from the different countries to join together in the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, an alliance of which he is the co-founder (an alliance of international interfaith leaders working for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)), which was launched at UNICEF headquarters in New York City on September 25, 2013. As Pujya Swamiji explains: “Our education initiatives are wonderful, and it is so beautiful to see the initiatives being carried out by policy makers in so many countries, to bring greater religious understanding and acceptance in our education. However, these initiatives are only useful and effective if children actually attend school and stay in school. One of the greatest obstacles to attending school for particularly girls in developing nations is the lack of proper toilet facilities. In addition to focusing on these educational initiatives we need to allocate a certain amount of energy and resources to ensure that children actually attend and stay in school rather than being deterred due to absence of sanitary facilities.”