Mumbai: Coalition of love & peace

One of Mumbai’s most visited, and equally revered, shrines has begun building a coalition of peace and harmony with other places of worship across the city. Mahim Dargah has opened talks with temples, churches, gurdwaras and Buddhist shrines to bring together moderate voices as a buffer against the cacophony of hate and divisiveness. A proposal to form this alliance --which will not only be activated in a crisis, but will work all year long to build inter-religious tolerance -- will reach all big and small places of worship in Mumbai tomorrow. The trouble in France and the reactions to it all over the world – posters of President Macron stuck to the ground on Mohammed Ali Road had to be removed by the police – has added a new sense of urgency to the initiative.

Managing Trustee, Pir Makhdum Saheb Charitable Trust, Suhail Khandwani said the idea is to create a platform for like-minded people across all religions. “We have to explain and counsel people about the paramount importance of human life. In peace and harmony, we can all prosper and in strife we all suffer,” he said.

Khandwani said that almost 80 per cent of dargahs and masjids in Mumbai and the rest of the state are connected to Mahim dargah through sub-committees on education, medical health, security and maintenance. “I have had initial discussions with people who head temples and churches and Buddhist institutions and the response has been encouraging,” he said.

Sabir Sayed, Director, Information Technology at Mahim Dargah, said that the focus is to create a ready mechanism to push for peace and harmony whenever there is trouble. “And at the same time work all year round to bring people of different faiths together. We have proposed a course in religious studies. We will also curate a tour of all places of worship. People must interact and understand each other,” he said.

Father Nigel Barett, Spokesperson, Archdiocese of Bombay, said coalition of peace is a noble idea and should be endorsed. “I have yet to see the text of the proposal, but it is a welcome step because it is an attempt to unite people all around and anything that brings around the common good of humanity and blocks hatred is always welcome,” he said.

Aadesh Bandekar, Managing Trustee, Siddhi Vinayak Temple in Prabhadevi, said that he is yet to receive a copy of the proposal and would not comment before seeing it.

Rev. Ajahn Prashil Ratna Gautam, president, Sanghakaya Foundation, a leading Buddhist organisation in India, confirmed there have been talks with Mahim Dargah. “Across religions, there is no attempt to understand each other. We will conduct study programmes called peace education to know about each other’s religions. There will be exchange programmes where tours will be conducted to visit Buddhist monasteries, dargahs, temples, churches and learn about their rites and rituals. We will design a three-month syllabus for this,” he said.

There are also plans to install 20-feet tall, 4,000-kilo statue of peace. “After Corona, we will now focus on karuna (compassion) and when it comes to compassion, there is no religion,” he said.

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