Thanksgiving report for India’s engaged pluralism with Latter-Day Saints
By Brian Grim
I’ve just landed in New York after meetings and encounters in India that have given me so much to be thankful for. Research I did more than seven years ago for the World Economic Forum documented the socio-economic rise of India and the growing global impact of it’s Hindu majority. This can be a boon for the world, especially if it is accompanied by engaged and respectful interfaith relations, what we call covenantal pluralism.
At a meeting on Tuesday in the World Peace Dome (the world’s largest free-standing dome, pictured above and below), I had the opportunity as a Catholic to watch such engaged pluralism unfold in an historic interfaith event.
Looking up at the top of the dome from inside tells the story of their aim to “promote peace through the union of spirituality (of all faiths) and science.”
At the World Interfaith Harmony Conference, with thousands in attendance, the Hindu founder of the MIT World Peace University Dr. Vishwanath D. Karad, together with leaders and members other faiths ranging from Bahai and Buddhists to Muslims and Sikhs gathered for the installation of the 50th 12-foot bronze statue under the massive dome dedicated to peace.
The conference is the outgrowth of the amazing relationship between Dr. Karad and his university classmate, Dr. Ashok Joshi. Dr. Joshi, a renowned entrepreneur and holder of the first patent for a lithium battery, moved to Utah decades ago and became a friend to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Though not a member of the church himself, Dr. Joshi introduced the Latter-day Saints to Dr. Karad a few years ago (Karad and Joshi pictured from yesterday).
On Dr. Karad’s first visit to Utah at a reception held by BYU President Kevin J Worthen, he was feeling tired and asked for a cup of coffee, not knowing that members of the church don’t drink coffee. When he heard the explanation, that led him on a deeper exploration of what the church was all about, culminating in his deciding to install a statue of their founding prophet Joseph Smith under the dome along with the 49 other statues of religious leaders (from multiple faiths) as well as statues of philosophers and scientists already commemorated beneath the dome.
On hand to celebrate the unveiling of the statue in addition to Pres. Worthen (pictured above), was Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his wife, Sister Katherine Jacob Christofferson, along with King Husein, Chairman and CEO of Span Construction and Engineering, and Ron Gunnell, global envoy for the Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square and Global Chairman of Truth Alone Triumphs LLC.
And back to Thanksgiving. This amazing interfaith conference gives reason to be thankful that the communalism that often makes news is not the deeper and more nuanced news of an India where great institutions like the MIT World Peace University (with more than 50,000 students) are promoting engaged and respectful interfaith relations and thereby working for peace.
This is good news – not only for those represented at the conference – but for everyone in India and the world. Indeed, this will be India’s century if such engaged pluralism continues and grows.
With thanksgiving and hope – Happy (US) Thanksgiving Day!