Interfaith Youth Summer Institute (IYSI) 16 June 2009
The Interfaith Youth Summer Institute began with fifty youth representing Bahai,
Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Buddhist faiths at the Pilar Retreat Center in Goa.
The programme began with interfaith worship prepared by the delegates from
various religious backgrounds. It was refreshing to see representatives of
different religions and places unite their focus to interlink their faiths.
The Interfaith Summer Institute was inaugurated by Packiam Samuel (ICP) and
Bishop D K Sahu (NCCI) by giving lighted lamps to the participants. Mr. Suman
Biswas welcomed the gathering, Mr. Angelios Michael and Mr. Samuel Jayakumar
gave words of greetings.
Vineeth Koshy in the introductory speech said that living together as religious
communities has become a dream of the distant past, due to the turbulent
situations created by terrorism, communalism, nationalism, casteism, economic
stratification etc that are adding hostility and enmity among communities and
individuals. He added that living together in this summer institute will not
only focus on the humans living together but also looking into the possibilities
of living in harmony with nature and also the cricual challenges of electronic
communities created in internet.
Dealing with Differences and Conflict Transformation: David Selvraj
Dr. David started up the next session beginning by giving the various components
of one’s identity. These include –
• Religious ~ Cultural traits
• National ~ Regional
• Educational ~ Educated/Semi literate/ illiterate
• Professional ~ Class
• Sexual Orientation ~ Heterosexual/Bisexual/Homosexual
• Physical ability
• Linguistic ~ Language
• Caste ~ Ethnic/Race
• Political Ideology
He said that ones values are shaped by these elements. One does not have to
accept ones identity differences but, one can always try and acknowledge it.
Dealing with differences
Accept, Tolerate, Explore or Ignore
C’s of religion ~ Cult, Creed and Community
David explained the delegates the different C’s to bring rhythm of living
At the end, participants reflected on whether they succeeded to establish a
rhythm and what would’ve make the process more efficient. They came up with –
• Commitment and Responsibility
• Capacity building
Vision for a Just and Inclusive Community: Interfaith Response – Raj Bharath
He first asked the participants to define justice and then gave newspaper
clippings about injustice against Dalits and the oppressed classes. Participants
were asked to reflect and consult about unjust situations that they had seen. He
gave four Fs about the basis on injustice – Fractions, Factions, Friction, and
“Justice is not charity.”
“We should educate, agitate and organize for creating a just community.
Summer Institute (IYSI) 17 June 2009
The second day of the IYSI started with prayers and readings from the different
Celebrating Differences and Building Communities: Packiam Samuel
Packiam Samuel started his session with a pertinent story from the Panchtantra
about a monkey killing a fish in his efforts to save it from the flood. The
story exemplified clearly how each of us are different and have different needs
and set the session off on the topic of celebrating each of our uniqueness. We
must avoid ego and superiority if we are to avoid this monkey and fish
situation. This is especially true for religion, where people find it hardest to
accept differences (as opposed to, say, food or living habits).
further talked about the history of religion in terms of philology (study of
language), sociology (study of society), anthropology (study of humans) and
psychology (study of human behavior). He elaborated on each of these: in
philology, Durkein had the view that religion is nothing but a symbol of a group
believing in a particular god. He said that god exists because society exists.
In anthropology, Dr. Samuel talked about the progressive growth of human beings
from uncivilized humans to civilization to the spiritual aspect of man. In
psychology, William James was of the opinion that religious people are
sick-minded for needing to rely on an external power like God. He further
compared the human psyche to an iceberg where the ego or conscious mind forms
the tip and the unconscious forms the bulk of the iceberg.
He called up a list
of characteristics common to all religions. This list includes God, prayer,
scripture, festivals, commandments, fasting and pilgrimage. This emphasized how
religions really seem to have a common Source.
Further, an analysis
of religiousness in a person brought up Otto who asserted that there are two
reasons anyone is religions – 1. Mysterium tremendum (Fear) 2. Mysterium
He ended his session with five critical questions relating to understanding
different religions. These questions ask us to relate
1. Scripture of one religion among other scripture.
2. God among other “gods”.
3. Saviour among other saviours.
4. Church/mosque/temple among other places of worship.
5. Kingdom of god among other kingdoms.
Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation: Ivan Almeida
Ivan gave a talk about the main issue at hand starting with the desire for
harmony. Everyone desires this harmony amongst people while they themselves are
the cause of disunity because of their egos or selfish desires. Ivan explained
the stages of religious experience being faith, belief, dogma and then practice
of religious customs. He said that faith is the experience while belief is
articulation of that faith. Dogmas are definitions of faith and religious
practices are a celebration of faith. Rituals and customs further help to
Next, he talked of dialogue in relation to religion, culture or work. He
emphasized that the most important consideration for dialogue is to take the
other very seriously. This includes experiencing the other, celebrating
differences, being sensitive to others and rising beyond boundaries.
What interreligious dialogue is not is a defense mechanism and neither is it a
strategy to achieve our goals or profession. “Let us not specialize it but
personalize it.” We must keep in mind three extremes to avoid:
a) To advocate that all religions are the same.
b) To uphold that one’s own religion is the norm for others.
c) To say that my religion is just one among many.
‘It is injustice against God to have everything the same because God intends
The need for dialogue in society arises from the diversity present amongst us
and our desire for harmony and unity. It is important to realize that our belief
in our respective religions has to be a bridge to people of other faiths rather
than a boundary. Respect and humility are essential components of healthy
dialogue and consultation.
“Becoming Spec Actors” – Theatre Exercises: David Selvraj
David Selveraj held one of the most interactive sessions in all the week. He got
everyone to get the chairs out of the way and just walk around and explore the
room. He asked everyone to discover part of the room they hadn’t explored
before, walk around until they were completely comfortable with the space and
other participants around. Once this was done, he divided everyone into two
groups. One acted as predators and the other as the hunted. Then everyone
reflected on how it felt to be a victim or an oppressor. With everyone sitting
on the floor, Selveraj then introduced three forms of theatre: Image, Forum and
Image theatre is when one “sculptor” forms an image of a conflict using the
actors. The end result is a live image formed of still actors representing a
conflict situation. The audience is then asked what they see and how it might be
rectified by “sculpting” just one actor. This type of theatre was developed by
Augusta Boal from Brazil and is called the “Theatre of the Oppressed”. Boal used
this technique with masses of people to raise awareness and find solutions
irrespective of economic background or education.
Forum theatre was briefly introduced due to lack of time. This form involves
acting out a conflict situation. Anyone from the audience can come and become
part of the play to find a way to solve the problem.
Both these forms of theatre involve really getting into the situation to see
what it feels like for each actor whether he is acting as a victim, an oppressor
or a passerby.
The underlined statement throughout the session was that we need to step from
being spectators to becoming “Spec Actors” – individuals who take action in
moments of injustice and conflict. Theatre of the Oppressed puts the audience in
such positions where they have the choice to change the situation by conforming,
reforming or transforming.
Celebrating Diversity: Culture, Identity and Human Rights: Bobby Kunhu
“The strategic adversary is fascism. The fascism in us all, in our heads and in
our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power to desire the
very thing that dominates and exploits us” – Michael Foco
Documentary Screening - India Untouched
The documentary “India Untouched” was screened after dinner. It is a very
well-made presentation on how Dalits (the untouchable caste) are still
maltreated all over India. The stark contrast between the daily lives of Dalits
and the opinions of upper caste urban people served well to show the reality of
the situation. The aim of showing the documentary was to make aware and inspire
people to arise and take action to stop the injustice that is happening all
around us starting with removing prejudice from their own selves.
Interfaith Youth Summer Institute (IYSI) 18 June 2009
The Interfaith Youth Summer Institute reaches its fourth day as the participants
wake up in the morning and many of them take a walk through the hills of Pilar
The fourth morning prayer and devotion led by Kanhaiya Lal (Hindu),
Talha(Islam), Nandita & Anupriya(Baha’i), Sourabh(Christian). Verses from
different Holy Scriptures were read out that followed with an interfaith song
and word of prayer.
Issues of Patriarchy and Gender: Rifat Mumtaz
Rifat insisted to learn what is good? But, in the meanwhile unlearn the bad
things. The discussion started with the biological similarities and differences
between a male and female.
The session began with few clippings related to the day to day problems faced by
a girl child. The participants shared their views on about the clips.
Details about the following topics were discussed.
What is Patriarchy and Gender?
Rule of a Patriarch-father-A system of power relationships subordinating women
by men through control of women’s productive and reproductive labor, sexuality,
mobility properly and economic resources and use of violence.
- Eco-pol-soc and cultural institutions of society family, religion, media, law,
market and state.
- Religious and cultural traditions that define and justify distinct roles and
expected behaviors of males and females strongly cherished and socially
- Class, caste, race are other socially constructed structures.
Gender refers to the socially constructed differences in roles and
responsibilities assigned to women and men in a given culture or location.
In English speaking countries by 1960’s the movement started called feminism or
women’s liberation. Proponents of feminist movement wanted the same pay as men,
equal rights in the law and the freedom to plan their families or not have
children at all.
In Search of Vision for Environment Justice: Rifat Mumtaz
Environmental Justice has been viewed as the convergence point of social and
environmental movements. In conceptual terms, environmental justice deals with
the inequitable environmental burden born by the marginalized groups such as
Dalits, Adivasis and Women, in specific and rural-urban poor and laborers in
general. She spoke of globalization, liberalization and certain issues related
The four official groups names after famous Goa beaches were asked to discuss
and deliberate upon the question “How socio-economic-political differences in
the society makes living together impossible?”
The participants were asked to discuss different dimensions and causes and come
up with possible suggestions.
The day came to an end by some games and entertainment.
Summer Institute (IYSI) 19 June, 2009
Participants were divided into two groups to move to North and South Goa to
visit places and organizations engaged in different social empowerment
The North Goa Group went to visit a centre called “Drop in Centre” which is
initiated to address HIV/AIDS. The participants interacted with few to
understand the plight of their lives though none were identified. The group then
moved on to visit the sand mining area. The experience of the participants was
quite overwhelming as many of them got to expose to such reality for the first
time. This experience brings the practical understanding to them as mots of them
are in the colleges and universities.
The South Goa Group visited Swift Wash which is a programme initiated by
ARZ(Anyaya Rahit Zindagi) to rehabilitate the rescued Commercial Sex Worker.
This organization operates in Goa and works towards helping the CWS get justice
and become economically independent. Mr.Arun Pandey, Director of the
organization explained the various challenges they have to face while carrying
out the process of rescuing.
Then the South Goa group went to Stepping Stone, a centre which takes care of
the street children. Mr.David who along with Mr.Stanley leads the organization
supported by several others volunteers, interns and field staff. The youth
enjoyed their time with the children teaching them action songs and also telling
stories. The youth enjoyed the lunch so much that some of them even wanted to
stay back for food sake.
The participants landed in Miramar Beach and enjoyed the evening playing in
water. This was like dream coming true as all desperately waited for the Goa
The day came to an end with dinner in Aluva Open Air Restaurant.
Summer Institute (IYSI) 20 June 21, 2009
The Morning devotion was led by the Worship Team (Akriti, Talha, Vinetha,
Farnoosh & Yuvraj). They read to the participants the different essence of life
the Holy Scriptures had to say. The second part of the morning worship was about
understanding and caring God’s creation and its interconnectedness to human
Role of Youth in Peacemaking and Reconciliation in Communities: Bijesh Philip
Bijesh discussed with the participants some of the important keys for opening
the treasure house of Peace.
1. Commitment to Truth
2. Restorative Justice
3. Focus on commonalities
4. Importance of Forgiveness
He urged the participants to be bridge makers. He said, Peacemaking is a
discovery and not an invention.
Panel Discusion - Interfaith Dialogue: Sinita, Asif, Victor & Ranjan Solomon
Ms.Sunita, one of the panelists shared her own life experience and the current
situation of Goa as how one particular faith community is targeted by few
extremists of other faith for the interest of the few in order to bring control
over the economy. She stressed upon the importance of knowing one’s own
Sunita raised few key questions to challenge the participants
a. Why can’t we preach humanity?
b. Why kind of India we are looking for?
Mr.Asif, the other panelist drew the attention of the participants about the
increasing hate campaign against the Muslim community across the country and
elsewhere in the world.
Fr. Victor mainly dealt on the economic aspect and the accessibility to
Mr.Rajan Solomon then summarized the presentations and moderated an interactive
session in the end.
The afternoon session was spent as the groups split into two namely North Goa
and South Goa to reflect on the exposure they had on the previous day. The
groups were asked to respond to the question of “What is the role of an
individual and group as a whole in networking, peacemaking and reconciliation?”
and come up with possible solutions to the problems they encountered while
visiting various social centers.
Summer Institute (IYSI) 21 June 2009
The day began with the morning walk, followed by prayer and devotion which was
interfaith in nature. Versus from different holy scriptures were pronounced and
chanted giving all participants a meditation of peace, co-existence and harmony.
The participants sang secular songs and word of prayer was offered before the
devotion came to an end.
Alternative Models of Communities: Bobby Kunhu
The session was very practical in nature. The topic of discussion was about
people of alternative models of communities and the level of marginalization of
these communities. These participants were made to realize that we as
individuals can live together with them.
E-Communities, Social Networking and Future Communities: Kuruvilla Pandikattu
It is characterized as facilitating communication, information sharing and
inter-permeability. User centered design and collaboration on the World Wide
Web. It has led to the development and evolution of web based communities,
It is a free service that enables its users to send and read each others
updates, known as tweets.
User can send and receive tweets via the twitter website, SMS or external
The basic points discussed under this heading were:
Easy to forget religion or push it into oblivion
Easy to be enamored by technology
Easy to ignore it unintentionally
Technology is not absolute, but let us also not trivializes it.
Diversity is strength
Know other religion
Appreciate it and critique one’s own religion
Rooted-ness and Openness
Paths Ahead, Interfaith Networking
As part of formulating future strategies and networking, the participants were
asked to share their experiences about the Interfaith Youth Summer Institute.
The participants expressed their gratitude. It was indeed overwhelming for the
organizer of the event to hear to the participants as the programme has inspired
many to realize the basic essence of life and the positive implications of
coming together as one community in spite of being from different faith
backgrounds. The participants have vowed to continue the initiatives of building
communities of peace and reconciliation in their respective religions and
us together go forward
Let us accept others critically
Let us keep in touch
And thus create a new world”