Millennium World Peace Summit
28 August to 31 August 2000, New York
The much-awaited 4-day Millennium World Peace Summit at the United Nations
in New York commenced on 28 August 2000. Over 1800 spiritual leaders,
scholars and delegates representing more than 12 major religions of
mankind like Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Shintoism,
Taoism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, etc. hailing from all over the world,
namely, North America, Latin America, Europe, Balkans, China, India,
Russia, Africa, Middle East, Far East
, gathered to share and
focus on how to resolve the conflicts that divide countries and establish
peace. The event is the first ever Spiritual Summit encouraged by the
United Nations Organization at its General Assembly Hall since it was
founded 54 years ago. The United Nations has recognized the need for
a spiritual dimension to help alleviate poverty, defuse conflict and
Of the 300 Hindu delegates, 108 were prominent religious leaders and
profound scholars including HH Swami Dayananda Saraswati, HH Swami Satyamitranandji,
HH Acharya Dharmendraji, Dr. L M Singhvi, Dr. Karan Singh, Shri Ashok
Singhal, Shri B K Modi and others.
The opening ceremony session on 28th afternoon
and the inaugural session on 29th morning was held at the United Nation's
General Assembly Hall. The subsequent sessions for the remaining two
days were held at The Waldorf - Astoria Hotel.
On 28th afternoon, fifty children from the Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar
Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) welcomed the delegates with
flower petals and a traditional Indian dance in colorful costumes at
the United Nations. The opening ceremony which included prayers from
all religions, commenced with Vedic Prayers for Peace - The Shanti Paath,
sung in Sanskrit by learned sadhus of BAPS. The musical notes of the
tanpura and beats of tabla captivated the listeners and the Vedic Prayers
were deeply appreciated and applauded by one and all. HH Swami Dayananda
Saraswati, echoed the feelings of many, saying, "Nothing could
have been better. It was the best part of all the prayers."
On 29th morning, as the main voice of Hinduism, HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj,
the Spiritual Leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, addressed the inaugural
session. Amongst prominent speakers like H.E. Kofi Annan (Secretary
General, UN), H.E. Francis Cardinal Arinze (Vatican, Christianity),
H.E. Abdullah al-Obaid (World Muslim League, Islam), Chief Rabbi Israel
Meir Lau, (Ashkenazi, Judaism), Dr. Ted Turner (CNN), Swamishri highlighted
in his address, 'A Call to Dialogue - Our Collective Responsibility':
"Just as the unity of our followers
makes our religion strong and protected, the unity of all faiths will
make our common future strong and protected
True progress of any
religion lies not in growth by numbers but by the quality of life and
purity and the spiritual awakening in the adherents. Thus every Hindu
should become a better Hindu, every Jew a better Jew, every Christian
a better Christian and every Muslim a better Muslim and every follower
should become a better follower
Religious leaders should not dream
of establishing their religion as the one religion of the world, but
dream of a world where all religions are united. Unity in diversity
is the first lesson of life. Flourishing together by working together
is the secret behind peace. From Rigvedic times, the Hindus have professed
this global broadmindedness of a Beautiful Borderless World."
In conclusion, Swamishri stressed that,
"We must not progress at the cost of others, but sacrifice a part
of ourselves for the good of others. For true religion is that which
inspires love for one another."
Deeply impressed and touched by Swamishri's direct and universal appeal
many delegates and even fellow speakers rushed to express their gratitude.
Interestingly and historically, this was the first time a speech in
Gujarati was delivered at the United Nations and directly translated
into international languages. In his keynote address, Dr. Ted Turner
of CNN and Vice Chair of Time Warner Inc., the Chairperson of the Session
and Sponsor of the Summit, remarked: "It is not necessary to believe
that Christ alone is the savior. Every religion should welcome goodness
from every other religion with an open heart." Later, during his
personal meeting with HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj, he appreciated the
ideals of universal harmony displayed in the exhibition - Beautiful
Borderless World, arranged by the BAPS.
with the UN Secretary General H.E. Kofi Annan
On the afternoon of 29 August, at 4.00 p.m. the UN Secretary General,
H.E. Kofi Annan, personally greeted HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj in the
traditional Hindu way with pranams and discussed about global peace
at his office in the United Nations. While Swamishri appreciated Mr.
Annan's initiatives and efforts for harmony, the Secretary General showed
immense respect for Swamishri's work and message of de-addiction, family
harmony, nurturing the youths, etc., by saying: "We are honored
that you have blessed the Summit by your message of love and peace."
He also expressed a desire to visit the famous Swaminarayan Hindu Mandir
in London in the near future. At the conclusion, Swamishri presented
a traditionally crafted silver 'Purna Kumbha' to Mr. Kofi Annan as a
memento of auspiciousness and a flower sanctified by Lord Harikrishna
Maharaj on behalf of the Hindu Religion.
At the special request of the Peace Summit Committee, over 150 volunteers
of BAPS helped the delegates in the registration formalities, transportation,
greeting, ushering and in catering to the special needs of eminent speakers
and religious heads.
The General Secretary of The World Peace
Summit, Mr. Bawa Jain repeatedly and wholeheartedly thanked the volunteers
of BAPS for their service, while many Hindu leaders like Acharya Dharmendraji
opined: "Swamishri you have glorified the honor of Hinduism."