I might feel that God has spoken to me. But, this does not imply that God has not spoken to you. -
Rev. Fr Michael Amaladoss is a Jesuit Priest in Tamil Nadu. He hails from Dindigul and pursued his graduation at St Joseph’s College, Trichy. He has done his Bachelors in Latin and has won the title ‘Sangeetha Vidhwan’ from the Tamil Nadu College of Music in Chennai, which is now become a university..
Fr. Michael joined the Society of Jesus in 1953 and was ordained a Priest in 1968. He did his doctorate in Theology in Paris and on return taught at St. Paul’s Seminary at Trichy and then at Vidya Jyoti College of Theology, a Jesuit institution in New Delhi. He has served as Principal and Rector for this College and was also in-charge of the formation of Jesuits in the whole country. He was elected as one of the assistants ofthe Superior General of the Jesuits in 1983 and lived in Rome for 12 years.
A professional Theologian, he is also a writer and editor. He has written several books some of which have been translated into other languages—French, German, Spanish, Italian Portuguese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Indonesian.
Fr. Michael is the Director of the Institute of Dialogue With Cultures And Religions. The Institute involves itself in research activities on conflicts between religions and cultures and on the ways of evolving conflict resolutions through dialogue and understanding.
Fr. Michael Amaldoss shares with Marie Banu the need for acceptance of other religions amongst youth.
What is the purpose of launching IDCR?
I had a Guru —Fr. Ignatius Irudayam— whom I used to admire while I was studying. He was an expert in ShaivaSidhantha. He established a Christian Ashram in Chennai and conducted regular morning and evening prayers and courses in Indian Christian spirituality. After his lifetime, I was transferred to Chennai to take over this institution. I converted this into a research Centre, affiliated to the Madras University in 2004, offering a PhD in multi-cultural and religious studies. The students can choose any theme in a culturally and religiously pluralistic contexts. So far 4 have got their PhD and 2 more will be submitting their thesis shortly.
We moved into the Loyola College Campus in 2005 to be near other educational and research institutions offering us a chance to interact with the staff and the students.
Can you tell us about the research projects coordinated by IDCR?
As a research institute we have our own research projects. The first was oninter-religious violence.We chose Coimbatore for the study as there was a Hindu-Muslim conflict some 15 years ago. We interviewed peoplefrom the different communities who were affected by this violence and enquired aboutthe causes and the possibilities of peace making. A second topic for research was on inter-caste violence, choosing three villages in the districts of Villupuram and Tirunelveli. We recently completed a third project on inter-religious marriages. We had four research scholars working from Hyderabad, Chennai,Trichy, and Tiruppatur.
In our country, there is not much that we can do with regard to promote peace among religions. Some countries have had Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. One in South Africa was presided over by Bisho p Desmond Tutu, who won the Nobel prize for peace. They havethe support of the government, the police and the churches and could confront the people and promote forgiveness and reconciliation. The political situation in India would not permit this. We are also a small institute with limited resources. So we focus on research and on training students to live in harmony, respecting and accepting people of other religions and cultures.
What has IDCR done to reach out to the youth in this way?
We have a regular department for Value Education in all our colleges. Students learn about different religions. Texts from various religious traditions are also used during morning prayers. WE are trying to make it more experiential and also reach out to school children. So, helped by the initiative of Arun Fernandes, who was still a student in Loyola College, we launched the “Peace Rangers”. It brought together40 to 50 students belonging to different religionsfrom various collegesfor three months during weekends. They talk to and discover each other as different but friendly, listen to lectures on different religions from experts and interact with them. They also visit together the holy places of the different religions. Such interaction dispels prejudice, promotes true knowledge and encourages the acceptance of the religious others leading to harmonious living.
What is the BLINK Foundation, housed here and supported by you? What is its focus?
Inspired by the programme of “Peace Rangers”, Blink Foundation seeks to educate the school children for inter-religious harmonious living. Specially chosen and trained Student volunteers from the different colleges will go to various schools to train the children of classes 6, 7. 8, 9 and 11. Understanding, accepting and collaborating with the religious and cultural others, as people with human dignity and freedom, will be the focus.
I might feel that God has spoken to me. But, this does not imply that God has not spoken to you.I must listen to you. All religions believe in One God, though they may have various names for God: Brahman, Yahweh, Allah, etc. This is the dialogue that we are facilitating through the Blink Foundation. All religions also support common human and social values like love, trust, justice, and equality.
Blink is also launching a web-portal in which the young people can ask any question dealing with problems and values of life. They will be answered on line by a group of Knowledge Patrons whose help Blink has managed to secure. In this way, our outreach will transcend space and time!