(UN Headquarters, New York): On the occasion of India’s Presidency of the UN Security Council, the Permanent Mission of India to United Nations hosted a special celebration on November 26, 2012 at the UN that combined inspiration with substance. Using music, uplifting speeches, and poetry, the celebration centered on the theme of the living message, “Love Towards All, Malice Towards None,” a motto of the renowned Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishty of Ajmer, Rajasthan.
An evening centered on such a theme anywhere would be wonderful; at the UN it was profoundly meaningful.
The evening highlighted the Shahi Qawwals, ecstatic Sufi singers from the Holy Shrine in Ajmer. In addition, beautiful presentations were heard from the Alleluia Choir, led by Carman Moore, featuring Senegalese singer Mor Dior Bamba, and the United Nations Symphony Orchestra‘s Wind Quintet.
The packed audience of over 500 included more than fifty Permanent Representatives of UN Member States, as well as members of the media and other notable dignitaries including Ambassador Vijay Nambiar, Special Adviser to UN Secretary-General, and other senior UN officials.
Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, Permanent Representative of India to the UN, welcomed the distinguished gathering, emphasizing that the message of “Love Towards All, Malice Towards None” was also a message that “1.2 billion Indians believe in, and hope that rest of the world would also, soon, abide by.”
The ambassador reflected on the weighty responsibilities of the Security Council and the importance of celebrating and conveying values of love, tolerance, pluralism, and peace. He explained that a purpose of the evening was to share “an unforgettable experience of music at its purest” and quoted Victor Hugo, “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.”
With Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon out of the country, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson gave an inspiring presentation in his stead, emphasizing the importance of the UN and the requirement that it exemplify humanity’s highest values.
The event received extensive news coverage in India and its bridge-building message was not ignored by the many diplomats in attendance, especially those in areas of tension or conflict. GSI President Jonathan Granoff served as the Master of Ceremonies of the evening event, where he shared some poems, including the following by Muhaiyaddeen Ibn Arabi, from “Interpreter of Longings”:
There was a time when I discriminated against my neighbor because of ethnicity or religion.
That time is so long ago.
My heart is open to all forms;
it is a pasturage for gazelles and a monastery for Christian monks
a temple for idols and the
Kabah of the pilgrim
the scrolls of the Torah
and the book of the Koran
Mine is the religion of Love
Wherever His caravans turn,
the religion of Love shall be my religion and
» Turn up your speakers or put on headphones to allow the energetic and beautiful music and message of the evening to come through
If you cannot see the embedded video below, please click here to watch.
Earlier during the day, the Permanent Mission of India, along with the UN Department of Public Information, organized a symposium as part of the UN Academic Impact Series featuring a panel discussion on “Unlearning Intolerance: Dialogue, Faith and Integration”, which included eminent speakers such as Dr. Deepak Chopra, Dr. Neal King, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, and Jonathan Granoff.
At the symposium, Mr. Granoff’s presented a proposal to create UN Centers for Sustainable Global Peace, which was well received. The Department of Public Information published on its website his extensive article on creating centers for interfaith dialogue and conflict prevention, “Unity or Division? Reflections and Policies on Human Unity.”
The session began with remarks by H.E. Mr. Hardeep Singh Puri, UN Security Council President and Permanent Representative of India at UN. He said, “Misguided ideologies and fault lines have caused devastations. The need is to learn tolerance by imbibing teachings of Sufis and saints.” He expressed his profound concern that there is that “an unusually high degree of increasing intolerance” and “ill-bred hatred and fanaticism are rearing their ugly head, feeding on and sustained by misguided ideologies and creating strong sectarian fault lines across the globe…Could anyone ever have imagined that an absurd and totally irrational video, shot in one part of the world, finding its way to YouTube would then have bizarre consequences and lead to large scale violence in other parts of the world?” he said, referring to the controversial anti-Islam video that had sparked outrage and deadly protests across the world.”Neither the religion that the misguided originator believed in, nor the religion that took him on, or for that matter any other religion in the world, ever espouses violence and intolerance as a means of collective redressal. And yet, this is a major challenge that we confront.” With the rise of pluralistic societies around the world, people of all faiths should join hands in promoting fairness and justice and be a force for world peace, he added.
Another speaker, noted writer and physician Deepak Chopra shared his connection with Sufism. He said, “I was born and brought up in Delhi. My father’s keen interest in Urdu drew me into the alleys of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s shrine.” He gave a mantra to curb intolerance and said, “Improve the capacity of your enemies to be happy by giving them attention and appreciation.” Dr. Chopra emphasized the scientifically verifiable fact that one’s personal happiness is amplified by enhancing the well-being of others, stating that, “The fastest way to get rid of an enemy is to improve their capacity for happiness and well being.” He highlighted how this principle has general application, and ended with a visionary love poem by Rumi.
Syed Salman Chishty, a founder of the Chishty Foundation threw light on the teachings of Khwaja Gharib Nawaz and said, “The best people are those who are useful to others.” He explained how the Shrine of the Sufi Saint in Ajmer serves as an inspiration of love to people of all faiths.
Additionally, Mr. Granoff’s comments on nuclear weapons appeared in a syndicated news feed from IPS.
» The “Unlearning Intolerance” symposium was also webcast by the UN. Watch it in its entirety.
If you cannot see the embedded video, please click here.
We would like to thank Mr. Prakash Gupta, First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of India to the UN, whose tireless work ensured the success of the above events. Thanks go also to renowned artist Michael Green who donated his artisitc services for the event, including its poster, program, and slide show.
Saadi 1184-1292 A renowned Persian Sufi Poet from The Bodings of Spring
The human family is one body with many parts
Creations arising from one unseen essence
Any harm to any part summons an awakening
a disease and a healing response from all parts
You who fail to feel the pain of others cannot be called truly human.
Separate from yourself that which separates you from other lives. Anger, jealousy, pride, arrogance, falsehood, intolerance separate us. Love, compassion, patience, peacefulness, and justice bring us together, not only with our fellow human beings but also with God.
Jalaluddeen Rumi (d. 1273) said:
What was said to the rose to make it open, let that be said to us in our chests.
I am not of the East, nor of the West, not of the land, nor of the sea,
I am not of Nature’s mint, nor of the circling heavens.
I am not of earth, nor of water, nor of air, nor of fire:
I am not of the empyrean, nor of the dust, nor of existence, nor of entity.
I am not of India, nor of China, nor of Bulgaria, nor of Saqsin;
I am not of the Kingdom of Iraq, nor of the country of Khorasan.
I am not of this world, nor of the next, nor of Paradise nor of Hell;
I am not of Adam, nor of Eve, nor of Eden and Rizwan,
My place is the Placeless, my trace is the Traceless;
It is neither body nor soul, for I belong to the soul of the Beloved.
I have put duality away, I have seen that the two worlds are one;
One I seek, One I know, One I see, One I call.
He is the First, He is the Last, He is the Outward, He is the Inward.
designed by Michael Green
click on the image to download a high resolution version
Jonathan Granoff is the President of the Global Security Institute, a representative to United Nations of the World Summits of Nobel Peace Laureates, a former Adjunct Professor of International Law at Widener University School of Law, and Senior Advisor to the Committee on National Security American Bar Association International Law Section.