Conference in Cochin

Kochi (Malayalam: കൊച്ചി, Kocci ? formerly Cochin, is a major port city on the west coast of India by theArabian Sea. Kochi is part of the district of Ernakulam in the state of Kerala. Kochi is often called by the name Ernakulam, which refers to the western part of the mainland Kochi.
The city of Kochi (pop. 601,574) is Kerala’s second largest city and is part of an extended metropolitan region (pop. 2.1 million), which is the largest urban agglomeration in Kerala.
The city lies south of Kozhikode, the third largest city in Kerala. In 1102 AD, Kochi became the seat of the Kingdom of Cochin, which traced its lineage to the Kulasekhara Empire. Heralded as the Queen of Arabian Sea, Kochi was an important spice trading centre on theArabian Sea coast from the 14th century. Occupied by the Portuguese Empire in 1503, Kochi was the first of the European colonies in India. It remained the main seat of Portuguese India until 1530, when Goa was chosen instead. The city was later occupied by the Dutch and the British, with the Kingdom of Cochin becoming a princely state.In as much as it was so difficult reading the notes taken at the conference because the ink on the pages of my journal were water-logged, I did some research and came upon these interesting statements which I think may be of service for anyone interested. Also, it was my first real Inter-religious conference. It was one week of sleeping and eating under the same roof of so many brothers and sisters of the human race. Our ways of prayers and rituals differed in many ways. I loved the morning meditations as we had the chance to chose one of a different religion or Tradition each day. I loved the moments of silence the most for its there where I felt we were deeply connected. Below (1) is an article about the Conference which was published on the web. And below that (2) is an article of Professor Cousins who was one of the speakers.

91) Inter-religious Assembly calls for peace and harmony

Saturday, 23 September 2006 17:00
KOCHI (ICNS) — An international assembly of leaders belonging to Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jain, Jewish, Sikh and Zoroastrian religious faiths gathered in the southern Indian state of Kerala last week to debate the need for inter-religious dialogue globally.
Hailing from different parts of the world including Austria, Bangladesh India, Indionesia, Italy, and Spain, the religious leaders lived together as fellow pilgrims at the Renewal Centre in Kochi from September 14 to 17.

The Assembly also marked the Silver Jubilee of the very first World Conference of Religions that was organized in Kochi, in November 1981.

The theme for the Assembly was “Harmony and Peace with Justice.”

Following is the statement that the Assembly issued after the inter-religious dialogue.

We are convinced that while all are called upon to actively work for peace and harmony, we the members of the inter-religious groups, societies and movements should consider it our distinctive privilege and sacred duty.

Peace and harmony – within oneself, with nature, with fellow human beings and with the Supreme Spirit – are the goal of every religion, but they cannot be achieved without justice at every level and in all spheres of life.

We are, nevertheless, painfully aware that numerous wars and conflicts, disputes and violence, destruction of life and property, have been perpetrated in the name of religion, and as a consequence the term “religious terrorism” does not appear to be a contradiction in terms any more. Tensions, conflicts and violence between religious groups pose a threat to peace and harmony in some parts of the world whereas agnosticism, atheism and indifferentism give rise to suspicion, hatred and violence in others.

We perceive the causes of tension, disharmony and violence to be (a) discrimination based on religion, language and caste, (b) economic and social exploitation of the marginalized, (c) gender discrimination, (d) lack of equitable distribution of natural resources, wealth and employment opportunities, (e) unemployment and disillusionment among youth, (f) irresponsible use of the print and electronic media, (g) partisan approach of political leaders, (h) unscrupulous expressions of religious fanaticism .

It is our conviction that in the multi-cultural and multi-religious context of our country, we must draw on the rich spiritual heritage – not only of our own particular religious tradition but from other religious traditions as well. For this purpose, we highly recommend to our religious leaders a study of the essentials of the basic tenets and practices of different religious systems.

We believe that the Gandhian vision of a harmonious and just society, with the lofty ideals of Sarvodaya, Satyagraha, Sarvadharma Samabhavana, and Ahimsa, is relevant in today’s Indian context.

We acknowledge the fact that while all religions are sincerely yearning for peace, and harmony, every religion is unique in its beliefs and practices, and progressively tend to perfection in its approach. Consequently, perfect religious harmony will always remain a dream, but we can come closer to realizing that dream if we concentrate on justice and integral development of all peoples, especially of the rural population in our country.

We call upon leaders of all religious persuasions to individually and collectively stand for peace and harmony with justice in society by adopting, proclaiming and effecting universal values of love, forgiveness and reconciliation. We earnestly plead with leaders of all religious communities to initiate and maintain cordial interaction and dialogue with one another at all levels – academic, social, and interpersonal.

Each one of us must cultivate and also encourage others to cultivate a genuine interest in and respect for every other person and help him/her to lead a life with dignity, justice and peace.

Parents should, both by word and example, inculcate in their children a genuine respect for other religions. They can also foster friendships between their children and those belonging to other religious traditions, and entertain such friends in the homes.

Administrators and teachers in educational institutions must, in addition to conducting inter-faith prayer meetings and organizing celebrations of major festivals of different religions, expose the students to practical experiences such as visiting places of worship of different religions.

In general, educational institutions should impart secular knowledge, universal ethical values and practical skills; and minimize their responsibility for imparting religious instruction that should normally be taken up by the respective religious institutions. The latter must guard against the tendency to glorify one’s own religion and disparage those of others.”

(2) Passage to India……by Prof. Ewart Cousins
“After my talk at UNESCO and my increasing involvement in religious publishing, in the fall of 1981 I began what has been my richest experience of interreligious dialogue. Over an eight year period, I traveled to India more than ten times and plunged ever more deeply into the vast world of Hinduism. Each trip lasted about three weeks, involving travel to the major cities of India: Bombay (Mumbai), Delhi, Calcutta, and Madras. This travel also included two trips to Cochin on the southwest coast and three to Varansi (Banaras) in the north as well as three to Nepal.

My passage to India involved the same approach of “passing over and coming back” that I described in my previous installment on my contact with the Sioux Indians in South Dakota and Muslims in the Middle East: (1) to immerse myself in the total concrete life world of some followers of a religion; (2) with the plan to participate empathetically in that consciousness; (3) to return enriched to my own.

This stage of my journey into interreligious dialogue began with an invitation to participate in a conference in Cochin on “The Religions of India.” The participants included 300 from India and 50 from other countries. The conference was very strategic for me since without it I would have taken years on my own to meet so many participants who reflected the richness and diversity of India.

One of the first things I observed was that Christianity was an ancient religion in India, with roots that go back continuously to the third century if not earlier. Another fact was graphically illustrated at the conference: that Buddhism was originally an ancient religion in India but eventually moved to far East Asia. There were only five Buddhists present: two from Tibet, two from Sri Lanka, and one from Bombay, who was a convert from Hinduism. About eighty percent of the population of India is Hindu, and nearly twelve percent Muslim. Throughout the seven days of the conference, I was able to experience the rich dynamic of the different groups: Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Sikks, Zoroastrians, and Christians, which made me feel at home among the religions of India. Not far from our conference was a small colony of Jews who trace their origin in India back more than two thousand years. Through the papers and discussions, prayers, and rituals, the conference provided concrete experiences of the rich religious diversity of India, and at the same time revealed the pervasive presence of Hinduism.

Throughout I was much involved in the many facets of the conference as a participant in the discussion, presenter of a paper, and as a member of the committee which formulated the joint statement read at the final session. All of this was richly surrounded by a lush tropical setting of palm trees, inhabited by friendly monkeys. Each evening there were cultural events of classical Indian music, and scenes depicted from the great Hindu epics. All in all, the conference provided an ideal introduction to my passage to India. With this introduction I was well equipped to explore the ever unfolding cultural and spiritual richness of India. Before leaving Cochin, I was able to visit the birthplace and shrine of Shankara, considered by many to be the greatest theologian–philosopher of Hinduism.  (My Journey Into Interreligious Dialogue Part 11. Professor Ewert Cousins taken from Bulletins 74 April 2005)”

When I was in Kerala, I had the chance of visiting the Church of St Thomas the Apostle. see info. concerning the apostle and also the foundation of Christianity in India below.

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Malankara Orthodox Church is an ancient Church of India and it traces its origin to as far back as A. D. 52 when St. Thomas one of the Disciples of Jesus Christ came to India and established Christianity in the South Western parts of the sub-continent.


The St. Thomas Christians or the Indian Christians exist at present in different churches and denominations. But a major section of the parent body of St. Thomas Christians which has maintained its independent nature constitutes the Orthodox Church under the Catholicate of the East with Headquarters at Devalokam, Kottayam.

Even from the period of King Solomon (BC 976-937), India had trade relationship with the wide world. The main ports of trade were Ponnani at Muchiri and Alexandria at Africa. Jews were the chief part of this trade and India especially South India was famous all around the world. In AD 45 Hippalus discovered the monsoon wind and the duration of travel was minimized to 45 days. These circumstances helped St. Thomas to arrive in Kodungalloor (Muziris) in Kerala in 52 AD. St. Thomas preached the gospel, established seven churches, and moved on to other kingdom, returning to Madras (Mylapore) in 72 AD where he was martyred that year. Writers of the 4th century, St. Ephrem and St. John Chrysostom knew also about the relics of St. Thomas resting at that time in Edessa, having been brought there from India by West Asian merchants. The seven original churches were located at Malankara (Malayattoor?), Palayur (near Chavakkad), Koovakayal (near North Paravur), Kokkamangalam (South Pallipuram?), Kollam, Niranam and Nilackel (Chayal). Of the same pattern adopted by the other Apostles, each local Church was self-administered, guided by a group of presbyters and presided over by the elder priest or bishop.

St. Thomas is remembered for his incredulity when the other Apostles announced Christ’s Resurrection to him: “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25); but eight days later he made his act of faith, drawing down the rebuke of Jesus: “Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed” (John 20:29).

(Painting by Carravagio)


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