The Boxing Day Tsunami ripped through the lives of thousands, leaving death and destruction in its path. With more than 150,000 confirmed dead and 3.5 million people displaced, it is one of the worst disasters of our times.
However, through the dark clouds of death, disease and human suffering, a ray of sunshine has broken through. In this time of pain and sorrow the world has united like never before. The people of the world have been shaken by the suffering of their brethren, and acted.
Once again, the dedicated volunteers of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (“BAPS”) under the guidance of HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj are at the forefront of relief activities.
With experience of organizing relief activities in over 30 major disasters worldwide, the emergency response team of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha was at the disaster scene within hours, helping people to get to safer places.
On Sunday January 16, BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Sydney had organized prayers for victims of Tsunami. Apart from more than 800 people, the prayer service was attended by many distinguished personalities of Australia. The Prime Minister of Australia Hon. John Howard, the Consular General of India Mr. M. Ganapathi, the Deputy State Director of New South Wales Immigration department Mr. Glenn Smith, and many leaders from the Indian and Australian community were amongst them.
The Prime Minister was given a traditional welcome at the Mandir gate by the priest. A nadachadi was tied on his wrist and a chandlo applied to his forehead. As he was taken to the main stage devotees applauded his arrival and cheering children stood on either side of his walkway waving Australian, Indian and BAPS flags.
Once on the stage he was garlanded by Bramhadarshan Swami. The Prime Minister joined along with other dignitaries and sadhus in lighting candles representing the countries affected directly by the tsunami.
The relief work of BAPS volunteers for tsunami victims was highlighted by a short presentation.
Impressed by the presentation, the Prime Minister in his speech congratulated the community in their contribution and timely aid to the worst affected areas. He said the barriers of religion, race, nationality and political beliefs have dissolved.
He further said "We have seen over the last three weeks a spontaneous coming forward of that great common humanity that we all share. And it is an occasion like this that serves to remind all the peoples of the world of what they have in common ... and the things that unite them are always stronger and more important than the things that divide us."
Mr. Howard said there were strong bonds between Australia and India - history, sporting and language.
"As part of an expression of those bonds I was able to speak within two nights of the disaster to the prime minister of India," he said. "He was one of the very first leaders of the affected nations that I spoke to and he expressed to me his gratitude for the instantaneous character of the Australian response."
After the assembly the Prime Minister and his aides were taken for refreshments. He praised the organizational capabilities of BAPS which was evident not only by the relief activities, but also this efficiently managed large prayer service. Jnanpurush Swami briefed him about the Mystic India film to be released shortly in large format theatres all around the world, and talked about Delhi Akshardham. He was also invited to attend the opening ceremony for Delhi Akshardham.
He also saw the BAPS ‘Sanskar Sinchan’ video which left him with a lasting impression and he commented that these were very good global values which were taught to children.
He was at the Mandir for 75 minutes.