Archbishop launches Hindu Christian Forum – an opportunity for ‘dialogue and depth’
The Archbishop of Canterbury and Sri Shruti Dharma Das Ji launched the Hindu Christian Forum at Lambeth Palace yesterday evening, at an event which featured addresses from Andrew Stunell MP, Baroness Richardson and Lord Popat.
In an address at yesterday’s launch, the Archbishop said “The conversation of interfaith dialogue is always one where we look eagerly and expectantly for enrichment. We’re not playing for victory, we’re seeking understanding from one another… by learning the depth of one another’s commitment and vision – dialogue and depth is what we all hope for.”
He praised the launch of the Hindu Christian Forum and the role it will play in facilitating dialogue: “I believe that a dialogue is about work, real labour, but also about surprise and excitement, and it is with that vision in mind that I commend this forum to you, thank you for your support of it, and ask for your continuing prayers and solidarity with the work it will do in the future.”
Dr Williams also spoke about his own early encounters with the Hindu faith. He described reading a children’s version of the Ramayana in the school library when aged 12, and recalled the beauty, complexity and depth which captivated him at that early age. He went on to say how later in life, while contemplating his own spiritual identity during a visit to India, he realised that “the historic Christian identity is something that constantly needs to be opened and enlarged, challenged and enriched in conversation”.
Speaking of a recent visit to Bangalore, he described a day of dialogue with religious leaders from a variety of Hindu traditions: “a deeply enriching experience – a day in which we were able to speak simply and directly about our traditions. We were able to say together at the end of that conversation a number of things about our mutual respect and the understanding that we sought.”
The Hindu Christian Forum has been formed by a group of Hindus and Christians who have been meeting together since 2001. It has become a national forum partly in response to the findings of the ‘Bridges and Barriers to Hindu Christian Relations’ Report which was carried out by Dr Jessica Frazier of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government. In his address, the Archbishop described the report as a “very creative and stimulating piece of work, which provides an enormous resource for reflecting on how dialogue can be pursued, and how at the grassroots level it is to be understood and worked with.”