BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha joined more than 50 Hindu and Christian organisations from across Europe for a meeting in Vatican City on 2 May 2023.
The meeting was organised by the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, a department of the Roman Catholic Church, in collaboration with the Hindu Forum of Europe, the Italian Hindu Union, and the World Council of Churches.
Other Hindu organisations from across Europe who participated in the meeting included, amongst others, Chinmay Mission, Ramakrishna Mission, ISKCON, Omkarananda Ashram, Matha Gitananda Ashram, Hindu Federation of Spain, Swiss Federation of Hinduism, and Hindu Forum of Luxembourg.
This was the first meeting of its kind in which representatives of faith groups discussed how the relationship between Hindus and Christians in Europe has evolved over time. They talked about ways to work together on important issues that promote human well-being, drawing upon the Vedic wisdom of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (the whole world is one family) and Pope Francis’s letter, ‘Fratelli Tutti’ (all brothers and sisters), to guide Hindus and Christians toward a more inclusive and collaborative approach in Europe.
Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot (Prefect, Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue) delivered the inaugural address, followed by insightful speeches by Dr Lakshmi Vyas (President, Hindu Forum of Europe), Paramhansa Yoganand Giri (President, Italian Hindu Union) and Professor Jerry Pillay (Secretary General, World Council of Churches).
Other presenters included leaders, representatives and scholars from both Sanatan Hindu Dharma and Christianity (Catholic as well as Protestant), speaking either in English or Italian, exploring deeper insights from their respective faith communities.
Paramtattvadas Swami, a learned BAPS swami serving in the UK and Europe, was invited to speak on the topic of “Diversity of Religions and Cultures: A Gift and a Richness – A Hindu Perspective” in an online presentation. He drew from the teachings of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, the Vedas, Upanishads, Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Purva Mimamsa and Vaisheshika Darshan, as well as Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Mahant Swami Maharaj.
Nitin Palan, BAPS lead for interfaith relations in Europe, attended the meeting in person. Sharing his reflections, he said, “It was a pleasure to join our friends from Hindu and Christian organisations to discuss and further the noble vision of interfaith harmony. His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj has encouraged, ‘In the spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, let us reach out and expand the circle of global harmony.’ This was a useful platform to explore and celebrate the spiritual thread of unity that connects us all.”