By Justin Lee —
On April 30th, 2016, five influential religious figures discussed some of religion’s toughest and most debated questions at the politically-prestigious American University. Held by nonprofit organization Heavenly Culture, World Peace, and Restoration of Light (HWPL), among the religions represented were Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Audience members in attendance included all aspects of the local community, ranging from local American University students to working professionals, and even senior representatives.
“We want the listeners to listen to the different faiths, to help understand the different faiths” stated Dr. Stovan Tun, president of the Cambodian Buddhist Society. “By understanding, we can achieve peace within each other.”
Religious representatives included Dr. Tun, Rameez Abid, president for the Islamic Circle of North America, Jafar Singh, representative of Singh Sabha of Virginia, Dileep Thatte head of the Seven Stars Foundation, and Dr. Sushil Jain, former president of the Federation of Jain Associations in North America. Each leader was given 10 minutes to answer a series of questions often discussed in faith and religious studies, ranging from the origin of life and creation, the role of the creator, the significance of prophetic elements in faith, and apocalyptic aspects. All religious leaders were asked to reference the respective holy scripture when answering the questions.
As expected, answers to the above questions ranged per religion. For example, each religious leader’s explanation of the story of creation spanned across different tales, yet all pointed back to the same creator. Significance of prophecy and apocalypse varied as well, with some beliefs focusing on the present, with others placing an importance on the future to come. However, the program proved to be an earnest environment in which discussion regarding common yet frank questions of faith were able to flourish.
“Each religion has their own rituals, clothing, symbols beliefs” explained Dr. Tun. “So you have to understand what each belief holds. Of course sometimes there may be things you don’t like to see, but you have to go along with their faith.”
HWPL is currently one of the largest non-profit peace organizations, internationally spreading across all major continents in dozens of countries. HWPL’s vision is to pursue active ways to advocate world peace and the cessation of war. Previous major events held by HWPL include the World Alliance of Religions: Peace Summit 2014 held in Seoul, Republic of Korea, involving former heads of state, internationally-recognized religious figures, and major non-profit ambassadors.
HWPL’s latest project is the Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War, which is an international law document developed and curated through the collaboration of various prestigious international law professionals and HWPL’s Chairman Man Hee Lee. The project’s goal is to be incorporated into various national laws and eventually into international law. In order to be implemented, the declaration is currently under the process of gaining support from national and international judicial representatives and community members.
In the midst of HWPL’s international work, the Alliance of Religions event held in the nation’s capitol served as a refreshing moment for the community to be involved in discussing faith and life with various leaders of religion.
“I really applaud the effort that the organizers (HWPL) have made, and with the number of the participants, very interactive, very inquisitive about learning our faiths” expressed Dr. Jain. “We need to have events like this more often at other universities… so that we can grow, because the message is incredible. It’s what we want in the end, which is peace.”