The International Conference of Religious Leaders, held at the Sunway Resort Hotel in Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, brought together over 2,000 religious leaders and intellectual scholars from 60 countries. Swami Brahmaviharidas of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha represented Santana Hindu Dharma, and both India and the UAE at the conference, which aimed to foster ‘Unity Within Diversity’ and the engagement of cultures and civilizations for global harmony. The conference served as a platform to advocate for a world where religious teachings translate into actions that promote peace and understanding.
Under the auspices of the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) in collaboration with the Prime Minister's Office and the Muslim World League, the conference was co-organized by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, HE Datuk Anwar Ibrahim and the Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL) and Chairman of the Organization of Muslim Scholars, HE Sheikh Dr. Mohammed Abdulkarim Al-Issa.
In his inaugural address, Malaysia's Prime Minister stressed the need for religious leaders to come forward and play active and courageous roles in bridging societal divides through universal values, "It is the duty of religious leaders to ensure that governance is guided by strong moral and ethical values.”
HE Sheikh Dr. Al-Issa, delivered a heartfelt and inspiring keynote speech describing the conference as “vital” in addressing the clash of cultures and civilizations. He emphasized the role and need for religious leaders to have a “tangible impact” on promoting peace and harmony in our diverse world. He stressed that religion is only represented by those who adhere to its teachings, and not by misguided individuals or groups.
Speaking on behalf of BAPS Swaminarayan Santsha, Swami Brahmaviharidas’s 12-minute address delivered a poignant message emphasizing the “sacred duty” of religious leaders to “bridge divides” and foster harmony among different religions and cultures. He stated that harmony is not just an aspiration or a “‘noun’ but a ‘verb’ – a force for universal peace.” He added that religious leaders should reflect on whether their teachings align with their actions and the values they hold in their hearts, underscoring the necessity of “unity, harmony, and diversity.” Since all religions, cultures, and civilizations share common values that sustain humanity, he outlined, “This conference is not path-breaking; it is path-making! Anybody can break a path, but to make a path we need to offer our life… As religious leaders if we choose to lead with our lives, and not just by our words, this day will rewrite the conscience of humanity… God Almighty is smiling upon all of us because he did not create the world so that it perishes in disharmony. He created all of us, so that we flourish in harmony.
“In the Hindu faith, the ancient ideals of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – the whole world is one family; ‘Yatra Vishwam Bhavati Eka Needam’ – the whole world is one nest…. have us taught to welcome all peoples and all ideals: ‘Ano Bhadraha Kratavo Yantu Vishwataha’.
“True religious leaders are the bridges that unite us all. They teach us not just to celebrate our similarities, but also to celebrate our dissimilarities… to accept and respect others, protect one another and value unity in diversity.
“The BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi is living proof of how unity and harmony happens. At a time when our world is polarizing… imagine a Muslim Ruler donating land for a Hindu temple wherein experts of all major religions have contributed in charity to make it happen. True harmony lies in cooperation and coexistence.”
He also posed a thought-provoking question: “Can we not together as religious leaders, through our actions and attitude, create a little bit of heaven – the one that we promise up there – here on earth?”
At the end, on greeting Swami Brahmaviharidas, the Malaysian Prime Minister revealed that he had watched the inauguration of the BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi, while the Minister for Religious Affairs, Datuk Mohd Na’im Mokhtar, commented, “Incredible speech… the need of the hour, so eloquently expressed and courageously conveyed.”
The conference concluded with the Kuala Lumpur Resolution, which is expected to be a significant document outlining the commitments and recommendations made during the event.
HE Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim announced that the ‘International Conference of Religious Leaders’ would be an annual feature in Malaysia, reinforcing the country's commitment to promoting interfaith dialogue and understanding.
Also present at the event were Deputy Prime Ministers Datuk Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof; Timor-Leste Deputy Prime Minister Mariano Assanami Sabino Lopes; and Muslim World League Secretary-General and Organization of Muslim Scholars Chairman Sheikh Dr. Mohammed Abdulkarim Al-Issa.
Also in attendance were Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil, Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Zambry Abdul Kadir, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Dr Mohd Na'im Mokhtar and Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Zuki Ali.
Religious leaders present at the conference included Philip Thomas Cor Episcopa from the Christian Federation of Malaysia, Dr. Kittiphan Chaidee, Advisor Namdhari Sangat of Thailand Sikh Association, Professor Dr. Abu Reza Muhammad Nezamuddin, Chairman Board of Trustees Bangladesh, Syaikh Abdul Quddoos, Grand Mufti of Australia, Mohammed Ibrahim Rizwe, Mufti of Sri Lanka, Bhai Satpal Singh Khalsa, Ambassador of Sikhism in the USA, Swamiji Brahmeshanand Acharya, India.
On 8 May, at 3 p.m. at Hotel Mandirin, HE Sheikh Dr. Al-Issa specially invited Swami Brahmaviharidas and Chairman Ashok Kotecha for a special meeting of friendship and appreciation. Swami Brahmavharidas conveyed the innermost prayers of HH Mahant Swami Maharaj and thanked HE Sheikh Dr. Al-Issa for being a visionary leader, whose genuine, incredible and tireless efforts for global harmony are helping transform the world. HE Sheikh Dr. Al-Issa expressed his inner appreciation, “You and your organization are full of love, peace and harmony. The world needs more and more such religious leaders and organizations.” He also expressed his desire to one day meet and welcome HH Mahant Swami Maharaj.

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