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Global PeaceWorks - People of Many Faiths Serving Together

Global PeaceWorks is an organization that arranges for people of many faiths to live and work together for two weeks, creating a model of peace. In December they sojourned together in East Delhi, India, joining together for talks from dignataries such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Honorable President of India, volunteered in direct service to local communities; visited temples from several different faith traditions, and joined together in prayer and reflection. Thirty volunteers from nine different countries participated in the event.

By Eric Wenzell

When Hindus and Muslims faced each other in a communally charged neighborhood in East Delhi in December, they looked at each other and… smiled. Then they said prayers in Hindi and Arabic and went to work with Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, and Bahá'ís as volunteers in service to a community in need.

The volunteers were invited by Global PeaceWorks - an organization that arranges for people of many faiths to live and work together for two weeks, creating a model of peace.

In the evenings, they heard religious leaders and statesmen like His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Honorable President of India Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at the Delhi Peace Summit, but in the mornings, this group was off to Janta Colony in Jaffarabad to serve the local people by building a community center.

This diverse group of thirty volunteers from nine nations lived together as an international family. They supported the Delhi Peace Summit interfaith conference by presenting prayers of six traditions at the opening session on Youth and the Culture of Peace, then, following Dr. Jerry Chang of Humanity United Globally, the group facilitated discussions on interfaith cooperation.

The core work of Global PeaceWorks is to provide “cooperative interfaith service to people in need” — a task that program director Eric Wenzel says is needed to complement traditional interfaith dialogue meetings. In this case, Janta Colony, Jaffarabad which had a history of problems between Muslims and Hindus, was selected. There the group worked with Chetanalaya, the social action NGO of the Catholic Diocese of New Delhi, and its representative Anthony David, a tireless man devoted to serving people and uplifting the community.

The volunteers supported the Muslim and Hindu families in Janta colony. Together representatives of each religion laid the foundation stones for a new community center and worked with a shared vision of peaceful cooperation and community improvements. Additionally, Global PeaceWorks interfaith volunteer teams of Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Sikh visited homes to listen to concerns and share a vision of peace. “There is no outer peace without inner peace, so we need to work with people of faith” remarked project coordinator Khorrum Omer, a Muslim from New Delhi.

To complement the charity work, the volunteers visited religious sites including the famous Sis Ganj Gurudwara, the Jama Masjid and Shahi Masjid, Mother Theresa's Sisters of Charity, the Laxmi Narayan Hindu Temple and The Bahá'í House of Worship.

The experience was enhanced by visits with Dr. Mufti Mukarram Ahmed, Imam of the Shahi Masjid, India's second largest mosque; Dharma Master Hsin Tao of the Museum of World Religions; peace activist Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi; Dilip Kolhatkar of the Everest Peace Project; Baba Virsa Singh Ji of Gobind Sadan; devotees from Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living Foundation; the Central Baptist Church and a community Gurudwara.

A day of reflection at a beautiful religious retreat south of Delhi concluded this first Global PeaceWorks project which, in addition to Chetanalaya, was supported by the Tribal Welfare Society, the Bahá'í House of Worship, Gobind Sadan and the Religious Youth Service.

When the project started, there were Hindu and Muslim volunteers feeling uncomfortable in each other's presence. When the project ended, they were embracing, crying and professing their love and respect for each other. Volunteer Harkirat Singh of New Delhi summed up the experience saying “I never thought the day will come when I will meet so many people from different religions and countries and we all will work together to have peace in the world. Global PeaceWorks has totally changed my life.”

The success of this inaugural event paved the way for a second Global PeaceWorks project in New Delhi to be held from Dec 30, 2004 to January 7, 2005.

See www.globalpeaceworks.org for more information including ways you can be involved. Submitted by Eric Wenzel, Director of Global PeaceWorks.

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