“Celebrating the Unity of All Faiths” on October 24th, 2009
Folks came from near and far to the beautiful Sant Nirankari Mission in Tracy, California, to join together to celebrate unity in diversity. We began with a delicious breakfast blending East and West—including muffins and samosas, bagels and chana masala, Starbucks and chai tea—while basking in the glow of pleasant conversation and classical guitar music offered by Mark Denni.
We all took off our shoes to enter the sanctuary for the main program, which was introduced with a beautiful candle ceremony and welcoming speech by the wife of Dr. I.S. Rai, the U.S. president of the Sant Nirankari Mission. Just as the candles, each of a different color and fragrance, all give the same light, the faiths of the world manifest the same divine love of God. Mrs. Rai shared moving quotes from Babaji, including, "To be truly religious, we have to be true human beings," and "If you cease to love, you cease to live."
Bryan, Anmol (Andy), Rev. Anderson Pamilton, Rev. Ben Venkatesh, Rev. Hanif Koya, Mark Denni, Rev. Narinder Pal Singh (Pali Noor) , Harinder Sidhu.
Rev. Pamilton, Pastor of Corinthian Baptist Church of Stockton, exclaimed "There is only one race; that's the human race." He explained that when the disciples faced division, they worked it out. He said that there is only one heaven, and if we can't get it together down here, we won't enjoy heaven in the afterlife. He likened the religions to players on a sports team: It doesn't matter who makes the goal because we are all in it together, we are all on the same team.
Ben Vektash shared a beautiful Hindu prayer. He explained that he grew up attending Christian schools and had always been fascinated by the commonalities between Hindu beliefs and Judeo-Christian beliefs. He shared a quotation from Albert Einstein "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." He then went on to say, "Today is a miracle for me. I am in communication with all the enlightened souls here." He connected the idea of creation beginning as light in the Hebrew Bible with the primal sound of Om, which marks the creation in Hindu scriptures.
After hearing selected quotes from the world's scriptures, we were ready for the highlight of the morning, the table discussions. A hallmark of the Interfaith Community Breakfast program, these discussions use carefully selected questions to bring out the heartfelt insights of each person, elevating everyone from mere spectators to valued participants. Perhaps the most memorable moment was when Nitpreet, who must have been all of twelve years old, ably summarized the discussion at his table.
Dr. Hanif Koya, cofounder of Interfaith America, gave closing remarks and a prayer. After the end of the program, the hosts showed a video that brought out the breadth and depth of the ministries of the Sant Nirankari Mission. We all look forward to the next event in January 2010. For more information, please visit the Interfaith America website, the Sant Nirankari Mission website and blog, and the Interfaith America facebook group.
Story by Rev. Mark Denni, Interfaith Facilitator for the Bay Area Family Church. Photos courtesy of Sant Nirankari Mission.