11/15/2010, 00.00
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In Kerala, a Catholic centre promotes inter-religious harmony

by Santosh Digal
Founded in 1987 by Jesuit Father Sebastian Painadath sj, the center of Indian spirituality Sameeksha organizes seminars open to the faithful of every religion and caste. Here, people meet, as companions on a spiritual pilgrimage that crosses the boundaries of the individual to cultivate shared dialogue.

Kaladi (AsiaNews) - "Seeing the same in all, seeing God in all, looking at all with respect " is the motto of the Sameeksha centre of Indian spirituality, which for over 13 years has promoted a culture of religious harmony, and brings the faithful of different religions together in a common platform. Founded in 1987, Sameeksha is a Catholic Ashram - a secluded place for meditation. Here people belonging to different religions meet, as companions on a spiritual pilgrimage that crosses the boundaries of individual religions, beyond distinctions of social castes.

For Father Sebastian Painadath SJ, the founder of the centre, " it was my dream to have a place where followers of different religions could assemble with joy and not with fear, with openness and not with suspicion". Sameeksha promotes a simple life, vegetarian food, closeness to ordinary people, harmony with nature, openness to other religions, above all, a genuine hospitality and contemplative atmosphere.

Each year the centre offers a series of programs: withdrawals based on Hindu scriptures, the gospels and texts of the Christian mystics, theology seminars on interfaith dialogue, social ethics and ecology, an introduction to prayer in the name of Jesus; courses of Indian spirituality and Christian spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Recently, a series of seminars were held on weekends, to allow the faithful to attend.

Fr. Painadath sj states: "We do not ask what we have achieved, but what we have learned. Respect the diversity of religions and recognize the unity in spirituality—this is the theological perspective with which Sameeksha has been functioning all these years. Over the years the Centre has become a place where Hindus and Muslims feel accepted and respected by us Christians. This is given rise to genuine friendship with them. Thus  - he continues - we have learned that dialogue consists primarily not in talking, but in cultivating a genuine inter-religious relationship. When we, as believers of different religions, we meet as friends, we realize that the different spirit binds our hearts and transforms our lives. In this process of transformation we are all co-pilgrims".

Youth formation in ethical values and spirituality has always been a major concern of the centre. The Jesuit seminarians conduct seminars on values and orientation programs for life in various schools in the region. These are frequented by young people from different religions and castes, as co-founder of the centre, Jesuit brother Varkey Mampily, specifies.

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