Makati (Philippines): Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center Celebrates World Interfaith Harmony Week 2019
Is harmony among different beliefs and faiths possible? And can one enter into dialogue with others without compromising one’s own religious tenets?
An inter-faith dialogue initiated by the Brahma Kumaris and Uni Harmony Partners in line with the World Interfaith Harmony Week 2019 at the BK Meditation Center in Makati focused on these questions as four guests shared personal narratives of how they have experienced harmony in their lives.
Emily and Raj Hayudini, both lawyers and parents of two sons, shared how being in a marital inter-faith dialogue for the past 44 years has led them to rediscover the beauty of their own faiths. Facing opposition from their own families whose Muslim and Protestant backgrounds stirred some biases, they set out to raise a family that was respectful and open to diverse beliefs.
Trying to replicate the exposure they gained from their liberal education, their children grew up openly discussing different religions at the dinner table. And unlike the way they were reared back in their hometowns, Emily and Raj allowed their children to choose their own faith as they capitalized on the commonalities of their religions. With the firm belief that God is love and that in love there is unity, the Hayudini family has proved that harmony can be attained. For them, shared values is much more important than a formal religion.
What is it that sustains us? Of course, love and respect. This goes beyond religion because there we have shared values which we want to impart to our children and grandchildren. Are you a good person, trying to help the needy? Are you somebody who acts the same whether in a public forum and when you are alone without anyone to see you? In Tagalog, we say ‘mabait’ and ‘mabuti’. Of course you can be both.
Community Harmony Amidst Disasters
Bong Grajo left the seminary three years into his ordination believing that the God which sent him to the seminary was the same God compelling him to work for the church in a different way. He branched out to information technology which, through his organization ERIC (Emergency Response Integration Center), has been put to full use in preparing communities for disasters that has now become the “new normal”.
As he worked mainly with communities in Mindanao, he has seen the need for harmony in disaster situations. This highly stressful environment for him is also a blessing because this is where he has witnessed the best in people.
In all disasters all over the world, it is so gruesome. But it is in the darkest of night that the best candles shine. It is in disasters when I have seen the best of humankind. In spite of differences, people come to help.
Having a father who inspired service as a primary value amidst the typhoons and disasters they themselves were going through in Bicol, it was not difficult for Bong to find the blessing in each situation of “dialectics” as he calls it. He recounted his experience of ‘kanduri’, a community ritual of eating together among the Maguindanaos, when he brought food and the people viewed that sharing as a blessing. A community which was destroyed by war was rebuilt by the community. A neighbor saw him entering the churchyard and as a guest was immediately offered food which was usually given to the priest. These firsthand experiences has made his faith in peace and harmony stronger in spite of the negative images which are normally painted about the conflict in areas where he had worked.
Harmony Begins with Me
As a meditation practitioner for the past 40 years, BK Sister Rajni’s service has brought her to several countries all over the world where she had to work with different cultures. And yet she feels at home wherever she goes. Her story is really a story of knowing the self and with that she is able to know who the others are. She chooses not to focus on differences whether in religion or lifestyle. Her practice is not to connect to anything outside but just see the soul. And that has lifted her vision and allowed harmonious communication with everyone she meets as a spiritual being.
The ability to connect with love and respect stems from the awareness that we are children of God no matter where the body is made, according to BK Sister Rajni, and then the soul can express the best qualities while living in this body.
I respect everyone because each one is a beautiful soul. Like a tree which comes from the same seed although there are different branches. So whatever background I come from I contribute peace, love, service and beauty for this human world tree. When I think that I have come to this world to give then I automatically receive but if I think that I have to receive then I always take.
The seed of harmony is first, to know the self as a soul, continued BK Sister Rajni. “When I know that I am not the body — I am a being of light, happiness, and peace — this makes me a dignified being. I radiate this energy of peace, too, and so that allows me to express respect to others. I do not focus on difference and I am able to connect with every religion.”
Towards the end of the meeting, the other participants joined in the dialogue with their own insights and reflections. The group affirmed the need to go back to the essence of each religion as peace, whether in Islam, Christianity or any other faith. As Atty. Raj Hayudini emphasized, all religions speak of the same thing – love and peace. So Muslims say ‘Assalam Walaikum’ and here we greet each other ‘Om Shanti’ while Christians say ‘Shalom’.
By way of summarizing the ideas raised during the dialogue, BK Sister Becky focused on how we always seek unity and how all the things which divide us bring trouble. The examples we heard today are those where they looked at the commonalities in spite of the differences. Because that is what unites us. If we look at ourselves as children of the same God then our genes as children of God comes forth — love, respect, service. When we go beyond differences our ability to do service is strengthened. And that means the ability to create what is similar among us beyond the physical aspects of gender, religion, etc. We express our commonality by creating service.
To anchor the ideas, insights and feelings of harmony and peace in the mind, a meditation was led by BK Sister Rajni who also shared sweets (toli) and blessings with the participants.
The four conversationalists really enriched the session with their practical experiences coming from having open-minded and generous hearts, a strong learning attitude, boundless faith in the true nature of everyone and love for God!