World Hindu Congress 2018
Swami Vigyananda, the brain child of the event, blew his conch, a mantra called for unity, a lamp was lit to remove darkness, there was a moment of silence in memory of Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee and V.S. Naipaul, and for the next 3 days leaders in different professions from around the world enlightened and inspired the 2500 delegates at the 2nd World Hindu Congress in Chicago on September 7. The event commemorated the 125 year since Swami Vivekananda brought the philosophy of the East to the West.
Positive vibrations commenced with messages from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, His Holiness Dalai Lama, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and other spiritual leaders.
Chairperson Professor S.P. Kothari stated that Hindus must be in the forefront in eliminating social and economic inequality while fostering cooperation among those with ideas and resources for a better world.
The indefatigable coordinator, Dr. Abhaya Asthana, who with humble volunteers worked on the project for years, stated that the Congress reaffirms the message of diversity and universal acceptance; a community event that should move individual success to collective success in order to have a global impact. This can be achieved by creating wealth, promote quality affordable education, have a robust presence in mass media, cultivate future leaders, tap the unique strengths of Hindu women and encourage organisations to work together.
Bollywood's famous Anupam Kher shared his childhood and lauded the event that gave a poor Kasmiri Hindu boy a chance to remind the audience that Tolerance was the centerpiece of Vivekananda message, a quality demonstrated by Kashmiri Pandits who lived in tents as refugees in their own country for 28 years. It pained him to see how ignorance was attempting to destroy one of the world oldest and peaceful religions but he will not allow himself to be defined by the fear of others.
Iskon, Baps, Geeta Press, and Chinmaya Mission were recognised for their long outstanding contribution not to a religion but a civilization-a samskriti.
The parallel conferences that followed the plenary session covered Economics, Women, Education, Youth, Media, Politics, and Organisation.
This global event of world leaders still left adequate space to those who held political office in the Caribbean.
Ashwin Adhin, Vice President of the Republic of Suriname, insisted that much change is needed and recalled the words "Arise, awake, and stop not until the goal is reached”.
Ravi Dev from Guyana Roared “Sisters and Brothers of America and 59 other nations'. He conceded that the Caribbean Hindus faced challenges but these can be opportunities for positive change. Democracy was a Christian notion that came out of European Enlightenment and that notion is now being threatened even in America by Dharma which is more comprehensive than religion.
Dr. Vindhya Persaud, MP and President of the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha, spoke passionately about preserving Hindu identity in a multicultural society in the Hindu Women in Education and empowering the next Generation of Political Leaders conferences. Her eloquence and plea led many women to plan to see her country.
Shri Chandresh Sharma, former Minister and MP from Trinidad and Tobago shared his thoughts on how he campaigned and eventually won several elections for the UNC and served in several Ministries.
The Congress ended on a historical note as the Governor of Illinois signed a Declaration, read in full to an appreciative audience, recognising September 11 as Swami Vivekananda Day. To crown it all the Vice President, Venkaiah Naidu, arrived under heavy security to conclude a remarkable day that no one wanted to end. As he entered everyone stood and sang the national anthem of India so loudly the walls the Ashok Singal hall reverberated.
If like Arjuna you do not recall whether you were in the hall on September 11, 1893 the indelible images of 2018 WHC should persuade you to attend the next conference scheduled for the first week of November 2022 in Bangkok, Thailand.