On the International Day of Conscience, Bodhi Trail Founder Riaan Kumar organized a “National Conference on Faith and Policy” at the India Habitat Center. With keynote
speakers Dr. Kiran Bedi and UNESCO MGIEP Director Dr. Anantha Duraiappah, strived to alleviate communal disharmony and improve public policy, by kick-starting a discussion on the impact of faith on policy making.
The first session discussed the theological foundations of communal relations in India. With Riaan as moderator, the diverse panel—Maulvi Dr. Rizvi, Buddhist Leader Geshe La, Reverend. Roby K and ISKCON’s Prabhuji Dasa – quoted various scriptures, pointing out how all religions are united in their quest for peace and fraternity. However, as Dr. Rizvi pointed out communal disharmony is born when people practice faith in selfish and inauthentic ways and that needs to be addressed.
The second session explored how communal relations bear upon policy formulation, ultimately affecting the economic and political well-being of citizens. Shedding light on this relation was philosophy Professor Dr. Rosenhagen, OP Jindal’s Dr. Pankaj Gupta, Economist Prof. Santosh Mehrotra and SP Spokesperson Mr. Tiwari. They elaborated how communal disharmony has negatively impacted investor confidence in the Indian market, and inattention to inter-faith harmony has tangible consequences on our country’s GDP. For example, according to research by the Institute for Economics and Peace, violence cost the country nearly $1.2 trillion (₹80.1 trillion), or 9% of its GDP in 2017.
Both Prof Dr. Rosenhagen and Dr Pankaj Gupta reiterated that our task really is to calibrate these (economic, religious and political) pressures in a consultative and participatory way.
The event’s audience consisted of students from Delhi-NCR who were specially invited by organizer Riaan, a senior at The Shri Ram School, Aravali. A keen scholar of Buddhist scripture for four years, his passion for religion and policy inspired him to recently present his research paper on “Reflections of Buddhism on Modern Democracy”, at the International Society for Research, Malaysia. BodhiTrail
organization through its workshops, podcasts, blogs, visits, and conferences, has spread the message of communal harmony to over 15,000 students.
As Dr. Kiran Bedi rightly summarized at the end of the conference, “If youngsters like this (Riaan) start on Bodhi Trail at this age, along with good quality education, we are in very safe hands. They will make better leaders.” BodhiTrail team is currently working to synthesize the conference’s insights into policy briefs by working in tandem with academic experts and Think Tanks.