The Global Congress World's Religions Proceedings 1980-1982 Edited by Henry O. Thompson
DAVID KALUPAHANA: Thank you Professor Hwang for a very thoughtful presentation. We will devote twenty minutes to discussion. If anyone has any questions or wants to make some comments on the presentation, please come up to the microphone, identify yourself and ask. Please make it brief.
SPEAKER: I am not a theologian. However I have a few questions. When I see an ecumenical movement like the Global Congress of the World's Religions, I see a problem. It is a serious problem. I come from South Africa. I grew up under the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa whose basis is Afrikaner Fundamentalist Calvinism. It says that there is absolutely nothing in common between whites and blacks. Now this last speaker was saying that we should be so liberal as not to condemn some of the religions. I am wondering in the case of some sectors of the Christian religion, such as the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa, which denies divine dispensation for blacks, what should be the position of this Congress of the World's Religions? Are we to regard that kind of a church as part and parcel of the universal divine church?
Yesterday morning I was listening to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. He pointed out that we have some responsibility. We are to unite the white, the yellow, the black, and the brown, the upper classes, the middle classes, and the lower classes. So my point is how can we in a Congress such as this unite the religions, some of which are fundamentally incompatible with the basic absolute value of Divine Justice, Divine Dispensation? Is this not a contradiction in terms? Thank you.
DR. HWANG: Is your question directed to my paper or the Global Congress of the World's Religions?
SPEAKER: Some aspects you did mention. For example, we should not be judgmental about some religions and we should be...
DR. HWANG: I am not in a position to defend or criticize the GCWR, so I have nothing to say about it. As far as my personal opinions are concerned, I take it to be a very unfortunate thing if the fact you discuss is in fact true in Africa. Why such a thing happens I really do not know. I am not familiar with that area and frankly I am not in a position to make any comment about it. If you care about the position of this Congress, you are welcome to ask.
SPEAKER: No -- that is for me a theoretical premise. You mentioned Christianity and Buddhism and Islam. In a general sense I am saying that there are particular species under the genus of World Religions. Some of these species are highly incompatible with the basic values of what we know religion to be.
DR. HWANG: Are you saying that one of those species has nothing in common with any other religion in the whole world? Is that what you are saying?
SPEAKER: Yes! I am absolutely saying that. If we understand religion and hear the point of religion as an issue of taking care of human problems -- if we understand religion to mean that -- I am saying that there is a particular species of religion which denies that. Certain people who have been created by God...
DR. HWANG: Due to my ignorance of the particular religion to which you refer, I cannot say anything about it. I have studied Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and others. I found many similarities as well as differences.
JOHN MEAGHER: This point relates to the last speaker's point as well. My name is John Meagher. I'm from Toronto, Canada. In what is generally I thought a very thoughtful and often wise paper, there are a few things to which I would take exception. I would like to suggest simply one on this occasion. You say that no religion can remain at its early stages -- it must mature and meet other religions in a dynamic fashion.
With respect to both the time span and the sense of growth, I have some difficulty. This statement suggests that in a rather unoriental way you are thinking like a Westerner when you talk about early stages. All the religions we know are in their early stages. I take it that your "must" is a moral injunction rather than a definition of inescapable process. I would like to suggest that all the religions we know are not only in their early stages, but that it is not requisite for them to mature and that one of the great difficulties is precisely that out of loyalty to what they have been they often arrest their own progress and remain in a state of early adolescence. I am not sure that it is really sound if we are going to enter into religious dialogue to think in any other way than that we don't know what religious maturity is, we have no model of religious maturity in the history of the world, and the dialogue will be most fruitful if we understand that the process of becoming mature or at least more mature is not from a basic stage of maturity but from an early adolescence or at best perhaps a childhood stage. The process itself will take place only if we recognize that we are probably in still rather primitive conditions and need the insight, criticism help, and example of one another in order to get out of our early stages bit by bit and gather the maturity that does not yet exist and can be avoided as things now proceed.
DR. HWANG: I think your question is well taken. Perhaps I should not use the words maturity, progress and so forth. I mentioned in passing that I am not an Hegelian. I do not believe in inevitable progress or development of any religion. The words I was using were probably unfortunate. I wanted to emphasize the fact that religion must change one way or another to the state of maturity from immaturity.
Your advice is well taken. I furthermore believe that if anyone claims that this is the mature state of his religion, that I think he is under an illusion. Thank you.
DR. GOPAL S. PURL Sisters and brothers, this is the message of my religion -- the Sikh religion -- the youngest of all the world religions, only 500 years old. It began in India and believes in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. To my mind that religion is in itself a dialogue between Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other Eastern and Western religions. It has brought out the glowing facts -- God is truth, God is light, God is love, God is a lover of mankind. I have yet to find any religion which does not emphasize in these words that God is truth, God is love. God is light. Therefore we start the dialogue where we are all similar. We start from the similarities which we all agree. Is there any religion here which does not believe that God is love, then probably we exclude that religion. From this bridge of understanding we go on developing further similarities. In gathering wheat, you take the grains -- you don't want all the chaff. My prayer for you, sisters and brothers, is that we start with the assumption that we are all children of one God. That light shines in every one of us. The only question is how we can keep it aloft so that everybody else can see it. Thank you very much.
DR. HWANG: Thank you very much. I would like to make a few comments. First, we should be very careful in using the word "God." Second, you may recall, I rejected general parallelisms. I am not saying that it is a bad method, but that this method is not the most desirable one. Third, your religion is definitely not the youngest. There are religions which are much younger than yours.
ALI SHARMAR: I am Ali Sharmar from Benares, India. I would first of all like to express my appreciation for your wonderful paper. This expresses the true spirit of religion. I have a small doubt that has been created by the last comment in your conclusion. You said that the statement of Christ that I am the truth, I am the light, has been inserted by some later Christians. Now this raises some confusion in my mind because this is the main -- the central spirit of any religion -- even a religion which is more tolerant than many religions like Hinduism.
Unless the guru -- the leader or the divine incarnation gives this kind of assurance, that he will lead you to the true part -- the final goal -- the average man will not follow him. The goals will always be in doubt or uncertainty and varying, unless the religious leader assures the followers that his is the final truth. That does not mean exclusivism but unless there were a different kind of attitude, a different kind of temperament, why would they follow different religions? But my religion, my leader says -- and that is final for me. So I think your statement that this has been inserted later on -- that is not correct -- it must be the real thing or Christ himself in that context.
DR. HWANG: I am not a biblical scholar. I do not know the authenticity of the claim Jaspers made. The reason I quoted that passage is to show with some sort of force that even if, as you just mentioned, there must be an absolute truth, this does not necessarily lead to the exclusion of any other religion. That is why I quoted that passage. Whether the passage is authentic, I frankly do not know. But your comment is well taken.
PETER WILHELM BOCKMAN: I am Professor Bock-man, Professor of Religion at the University of Trondheim, Norway. I would like first of all to thank the speaker for his very well written paper. I am glad to hear that my old teacher Paul Tillich is still alive in some quarters. I find in your paper two assumptions which you have not clearly mentioned. However, they run throughout all of your paper. They are brought out but without proper foundation. They are in the concluding part. Those two assumptions for your presentation seem to be:
All religions are in short an activity for the benefit of human beings.
No one religion can claim to possess all the truth.
What are your reasons for these two assumptions? I can't say that I see that you have validated those two assumptions. Do they have any foundation or are they assumptions in an axiomatic fashion in which case they are just another belief -- the belief to end all beliefs.
DR. HWANG: I definitely do not want to be axiomatic or to claim that it is true by definition. You are right about the first assumption you mentioned. I did not elaborate and I did not state any reasons. I just mentioned it in passing. But I think it is common sense. Christians believe that Jesus is the son of God. But suppose that he is only up in heaven, and he has nothing to do with human beings. What are you going to say about him? Why should we talk about him? Or take Buddha as the enlightened one. As you may know, when Buddha was enlightened, he hesitated on whether he would come back to the world or not. He was afraid that people would not understand him. He hesitated for a long period of time, but out of compassion he decided he had to come back. Now, this is what I call the origins of religion for the benefit of human beings. For the second assumption, you mention, that no one religion can claim to possess all the truth, I would like to say a few words. The fact is that there are many religions. We have all sorts of religions. We cannot ignore this simple fact. This is why, I think, William James argues for the multiplicity of religions and the varieties of religious experiences even within one religious system. My overall paper sufficiently shows that no one religion can possess all the truth. However we can discuss it later.
DR. GORDON MELTON: I think we left too quickly the concern raised by the brother at the beginning of the discussion period. What he raises for us as people who are involved in the Global Congress is a very vital question as to how we shall approach religious groups that one or the other of us might consider as having a wrong idea and a wrong position. That is not just a religious difference but a matter of morality. It is not a unique position. The Dutch Church in South Africa has been rightly condemned for their stand on racial issues. This is not unique by any means. I know some Roman Catholic theologians for example who have the same opinion about half the human race as the Dutch Church has about Blacks. They are not really happy that women exist and would rather that they all be men. One prominent Roman Catholic theologian would be very thankful if those women who believe in Christ would at least have their sex changed so that they can go to heaven when they die as a part of the salvation process.
The problem I think is one that we are all somewhat imperfect, more or less. It is not that we should exclude one group because we feel their position on any one issue is abhorrent and wrong. We should invite them all into dialogue because when we are in dialogue as you mentioned we stand a chance of conversion. We risk ourselves. I think it would be much better to have them in dialogue with the hope of transformation than to exclude them to begin with and push them out of the realms of change.
DR. HWANG: I take that as a comment to the previous comment.
SPEAKER: Only a short comment. I thank you for your answer which one certainly could also gather from your paper. However, you must be aware that those two assumptions of yours are not uncontested, and not absolutely delivered to you from common sense.
For instance, John Calvin -- as you certainly know -- would vehemently contest that religion is an activity for the benefit of human beings. He would say that religion is an activity of the glory of God. And certainly Karl Barth would agree with him very vehemently on that point.
DR. HWANG: Particularly the early part of Karl Barth.
SPEAKER: Your other assumption is that no one religion can claim to possess all the truth. There is the possibility, possibility, of course, despite the empirical test of a number of religions in the world -- this does not prove that there is no one religion which has the truth.
DR. HWANG: I know these two assumptions are contested. There are many people who say the opposite of what I said. I know that.
JOHN MEAGHER: Just for the sake of a balanced understanding I would like to add briefly with respect to the speaker before last that there are several Roman Catholic theologians who are utterly delighted about the existence of women. Some of them are women but not all of them are women.
DR. KALUPAHANA: Thank you very much Professor Hwang. I want to leave a few minutes for one of the members of the board of trustees who has expressed an interest in saying something about, or answering the question, that was raised at the very beginning as to what the Global Congress can do or wishes to do about what is going on in South Africa.
DR. SESHAGIRI RAO: I think the question that was raised is quite in order and raised in a very articulate way. I also think that the GCWR's attitude to that question should be, in respect to the treatment of Blacks in South Africa, if that is the position of the Dutch Church, in that respect it is wrong -- 100% wrong. But I am not going to say that is all that that church teaches. There might be many other things. There are certainly some distortions in the history of different religious traditions. Religion is exploited for political purpose. We should certainly condemn those exploitations, the misuses and abuses of religion. But we should not throw away the baby along with the bath water. We should try to keep the baby and only straighten out those discussions. In that sense I do not think we can say Marxism or Hitler was the product of Christianity. There are discussions in history like that. What I am trying to say is the institution -- the GCWR -- should take the position, and I think it takes the position, that if this is the attitude and we know at least by the papers that that is the attitude, that is to be condemned. Thank you.
DR. KALUPAHANA: We come now to the next item of the business for today. We have during the last couple of months had two meetings which we call Regional Consultations. We hold these in order to consult with people in the different parts of the world regarding the ideals set up by the Global Congress. One of the meetings was held in Africa. This was the Inauguration of the African Institute.
The other was held in Sri Lanka. We thought it our duty to inform the members of the Global Congress and also those who are interested in the Global Congress what took place at these two meetings. So now I will call upon Professor John Sodipo, Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Ife in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, to give us a presentation about the inauguration of the African Institute.
PROFESSOR JOHN A. SODIPO: Mr. Chairman, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen. I must say that the reason I am making this presentation is that both Francis Botchway, President of the African Institute for the Study of Human Values, and Dr. Kwame Gyekye, the Vice President, are absent from this ICUS meeting. All the officers who know more about the details and the problems of the Institute are also absent and that is the reason why I have been asked to make this presentation.
The Institute was formally inaugurated on August 21, 1981 in Accra, Ghana. The Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, Dr. J.W.D. de Graft-Johnson, presented the inaugural address on behalf of the President of the Republic, Dr. Hills Limann. The choir of the Ghana Radio Corporation made the atmosphere pleasant and melodious by presenting traditional and modern songs of Ghana.
One Ghanaian who has made his mark in public affairs both in Ghana and on the international scene, was chairman. I think he was presenting the sentiments of many of those present when he confessed his own initial skepticism about the Institute. This skepticism was later dissolved when he heard the seriousness of purpose and the realism of the intentions of those who were behind the Institute.
The Vice President of the Republic gave a very very thoughtful and confidence inspiring speech. Some of you would have seen the newsletter of the GCWR of November 1981. In that newsletter, some attention was paid to the inauguration which took place in Ghana.
Personally I think that anybody who has any concern for Africa, whether he is African or not, and for the role Africa can play in world affairs, cannot but be inspired by the sentiments with which the founders of the institute started. I want to quote briefly from that statement.
The crucial responsibility of African scholars is to provide a sound philosophical base for the value that will harness the intellectual and moral resources of the African people for the important task of building renascent Africa.
This is the task and it is to this then that all the African intellectual resources must be summoned to pave the way for a free and unfettered expression of the created genius of the African people.
Out of this creative enterprise will emerge values and norms which are rooted in the experience of the African. It is to this end that the African Institute for the Study of Human Values has been established.
These are very very lofty sentiments and therefore most of those who were present at the inauguration justifiably praised and appreciated the efforts of both Dr. Botchway and Dr. Gyekye. But a more important aspect of the inauguration in my opinion was the symposium that followed the next day. At that symposium, Dr. Kurt Johnson presented what roughly could be entitled the Unification Interpretation of African Religion and the way in which that could contribute to a global religious understanding. One Anglican priest, very charming and very powerful, presented a solemn view of how some missionary churches have misrepresented or misinterpreted African family life, and so on, and made recommendations as to ways in which these missionary activities could be more effective by a deeper understanding of the African way of life. This part concerns the ideals of the Institute.
Now, on the one hand, a statement of ideals is one thing and the efforts toward realization is another thing. I don't know whether this is a proper forum for these observations. As I pointed out, I was in a sense an observer at this inauguration. I wasn't an official. But I do want to make some comments. The comments are these: Since this is called an African Institute, if it is to achieve its end, I think the participation both of the directorate, the management, and the grass root participant level must be more widely African based. For instance, apart from Dr. Nyangoni, who is an officer of the Institute, I was the only African scholar present from outside Ghana itself. I think that was unfortunate. If the Institute is genuinely African, I think its participation should be more widely based. The second point is this -- that although the officials of the International Cultural Foundation kept humbly in the background, it was clear that their monetary resources were indispensable to the success of the inauguration. Now this is all right. But in our opinion the time has passed when projects which could be done, properly, successfully, on the basis of African resources should be instituted without African support. I do not see anything actually in the African Institute which prevents this from being fully supported by African sources. This is not to say that help from outside is not welcome in such institutes like this. But as I pointed out at the inauguration, it is a fact that the world has no respect for beggars. Therefore, while support from outside should be welcomed, I think it would be unfortunate if we see the Institute as just a means of going about the world asking support.
Finally, I want to say that I do not think material wealth or technological power are a justifiable basis for formulating moral categories by which peoples of the world could be pigeonholed into superior, middle, and lower categories. That is why I say in respect to the African Institute that scholars, or leaders, intellectual, cultural and political should devote their energies to maintaining the self-respect, self-esteem, and dignity of African nations and the African continent. Thank you very much.
DR. KALUPUHANA: Thank you Professor Sodipo. Next we present a report on the meetings of the Global Congress held in Colombo and Kandy in Sri Lanka. I was myself present, but I thought it is more appropriate that that report be presented by the person who is really responsible for organizing that meeting -- one of our trustees, Professor Padmasiri de Silva -- from the University of Sri Lanka.
PADMASIRI de SILVA: Mr. Chairman, Venerable Sirs, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my pleasant duty to report to you or present to you an account of the two regional meetings we had in Sri Lanka. I think one year back when we met, we organized this GCWR under the title, "Towards a Global Congress of World Religions." Today we meet under the title "The Global Congress of the World's Religions," which means it has ceased to be a vision. It is now a reality. This makes it very necessary that apart from the grand design of the Global Congress of the World Religions, we have a more solid base in the way of regional meetings. In this way. I think organizing regional meetings at what might be called grass roots levels, is extremely important. Professor Hwang in his analysis of the functions of religious dialogue, used a phrase, "Religion without Experience." If dialogue becomes just an academic exercise then it becomes "religion without experience." It is very necessary that we bring in data of actual living traditions. We need to know what really takes place in real dialogue. It is only when we have these basic data that we can talk realistically. Without the data, our conversation becomes a kind of abstract discussion about religious dialogue. I am not commenting here on the logical dialogue. I am presenting to you a descriptive report of what really happened at an experimental inter-religious dialogue in Sri Lanka.
Regional meetings have several important functions:
1. They provide a very good base or basis for organizing a GCWR.
2. They provide examples of what kinds of things can be done.
3. They furnish us with real data as to what happens in inter-religious dialogue.
4. They help us discover talent, people who will join us in time to come.
In these and other ways, I think regional meetings have very important functions in themselves as well as supporting the grand design of a GCWR. This is my introduction to this report.
In the first part of this report an attempt will be made to give a brief descriptive account of the two meetings we had -- one in Colombo and the other in Kandy In the second part of this account, some attempt will be made to briefly sum up the findings of these two meetings and to consider any insights we can gain from the results of these experiments. The meetings were in fact a miniature expression of the art of multi-religious interaction. Sri Lanka offers a significant context where adherents of Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Bahai and Buddhism live together.
The first meeting of the GCWR in Sri Lanka was held on the 14th of August 1981 in Colombo at the Hotel Lanka Oberoi. We were a small group of twenty to twenty-five participants mainly from the Colombo area. We represented diverse professional and academic interests as well as various religions. This was a one-day conference which started about 9 am with registration and informal introductions. We finished about 2 pm with lunch. This was the ceremonial inauguration of the GCWR in Sri Lanka. David Kalupahana, President of Communications, represented this parent organization. The session was begun by Dr. de Silva who welcomed the participants. Dr. Kalupahana outlined the goals and objectives of the GCWR. This was followed by a discussion seeking points of clarification. He presented the history of the GCWR as well as its ideas. He emphasized the fact that the GCWR was not a new religion but an association of religiously motivated persons. There was a short discussion of the facets of multi-religious interaction. After a short break for tea there was a special session on "Professional Ethics in a Changing World." This was a kind of experiment to use the great potential of inter-religious dialogue to discuss issues of significance in the contemporary world. In fact, both meetings in Colombo and Kandy were designed to bring together people interested in inter-religious understanding and a major profession concerned for a code of ethics. Padmasiri de Silva, as convener, opened the session with a paper on "Professional Ethics in a Changing World." He contended that we need to make a response to this change, from a value oriented basis which should be both religious and professional. He outlined a number of levels at which professional ethics may be discussed. There is a provisional ethic which may be applied in broad outline to all professions. There is a professional ethics peculiar to each profession. In establishing principles of conduct we move in two directions. One of these is the routine question of the dynamics of decision making. There is also the more philosophical value oriented basis of large co-values. These give us the criteria which are necessary for the process of decision making. It is at the latter level that religious or humanistic values become important. Medical ethics is one example of professional ethics. Medical ethics, compared with other areas of professional ethics, have developed at crisis points where problems of value come in and people find it extremely difficult to make decisions. It is at this point that a blank, empty vacuous code of science does not help us. It is at this point that sometimes as a scientist and as a person belonging to a particular religion, a person can have conflicts.
There was a panel discussion with medical ethics presented by Dr. Felix Fernando, physician. Facets of commercial law were presented by Mr. K. Selvaratman. The Association of Professional Associates were represented by an engineer, Mr. W.B.A. Jayasekera. Dr. Jotiya Dhirasekera functioned as the moderator. There was a stimulating discussion where the relevant religious perspectives were presented by participants.
The final phase of the meeting was devoted to questions about where do we go from here. Here again, Dr. Kalupahana presented some possibilities for the future. We decided to wait for this meeting in Seoul to plan the future organization for our group. Though it was the ceremonial inauguration of the GCWR in Sri Lanka, it was a lively productive meeting in which very cordial and warm sentiments were expressed by the participants. David will agree with me that we certainly made a very good start.
The second part of my report is on the Kandy meeting. This followed the Colombo meeting. It did not have the ceremonial glamour and color of the first meeting, but was rather a workshop. It coincided with the visit of Queen Elizabeth of England too so it is a day we cannot forget.
The meeting in Kandy: The second meeting of the GCWR was in Kandy on Saturday, October 24, 1981. The conference was inaugurated by the lighting of the lamps by four representatives of four major religions. The Kandy meeting had two main sessions. The first session was on types of contexts in which the fact of religious plurality becomes important. This session was chaired by Dr. E.P Fernando of the Peradeniya University dental faculty. A guiding paper was presented by de Silva as the convener of the GCWR. The second session was on medical ethics. It was chaired by Professor Samuel of the Engineering Faculty. The main paper was presented by Dr. Philip Fernando who incidentally is here attending this conference in Korea.
What are the types of contexts in which the factor of religious plurality becomes important?
1. We have to live with and respect people of other religions.
2. We have to study and understand the teachings of other religions.
3. Each of us has a deep commitment to search for truth and happiness unfettered by neighbors.
4. We have to work together in common frontiers, like problems of discrimination, poverty, social injustice, immorality, etc.
How can religions pool resources together to solve these problems?
We searched also for the validity which each religion accords to other religions. The continuing discussion was polarized in an interesting search for some co-values on whether they are co-values which are common to all the religions. It appears that two interesting co-values emerged out of the discussion:
1. Compassion or love and
Now these are not merely co-values but together they offer a broad base for dealing with the turmoils of a changing world and the conflicts of our time. They also offer a vital base for the development of a viable professional ethics, one of the main subjects of discussion.
Out of the diverse methodologies cited by Dr. de Silva, the participants, especially the Christians, thought that to get a feel for the other person's religion was an important component in multi-religious communication. It is then that a greater degree of refinement and a greater degree of sensitivity in the art of living together is possible.
The forum on medical ethics was a good example of a very focused discussion. Sometimes inter-religious discussions can be diffused in a loosely structured inquiry. Problem-oriented discussion is a good corrective to this. Dr. Fernando, in introducing the subject, commented that a veritable avalanche of new discoveries and highly defined techniques in medicine has made both medical care and research enormously sophisticated areas of activity. Here ethical choices of many kinds are coming to the forefront. He presented an example of the issues in taking up the question of abortion. He outlined theories on abortion, such as abortion on demand, therapeutic abortion and anti-abortionist views. He discussed the Christian point of view and also the response from Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim viewpoints.
After a short discussion of plans and themes for the future, the chairman of the session thanked the GCWR and the Unification Theological Seminary on behalf of the participants. The convener thanked the participants and promised to present a summary of this discussion at the general meeting. I shall conclude by drawing a few lessons or insights from this kind of experiment. It is very necessary that we have some real data on what is really going on at the local level in inter-religious dialogue.
From this small experiment that we had, I draw two or three insights.
1. The meeting conveyed to us the importance of a solid regional base for the GCWR, before the grand design of the Global Congress emerges.
2. We need to sharpen our methods of communication in multi-religious discussion in order to create a greater base for the communication of ideas. We can even use poetry and music. When we want to communicate religious ideas we are not limited to statements or logic. There are various forms of communication. I think it is an important problem in inter-religious dialogue.
3. The value of problem-oriented discussion is definitely shown in this discussion that we had.
In fact, the first and the third points came out as well in the report of the meeting of Board members which was held on the third, seventh, and tenth of August in 1981. Ninian Smart said, "Developing the GCWR in a catalytic role may be realistic. We might function better in this way with various regional and specialized programs than with a grand design that requires massive institutionalizing." Anne Bancroft spoke of a topical approach as a model for inter-religious discussion with a focus on special problems. Thus at the regional level, if we set some target to achieve, some problem to discuss, etc., we can perform a useful function. In addition, it helps us to get a few more people from the local scene to the main GCWR meeting.
To sum up: local conferences have their limitations but this was a useful experiment. We are also conscious of the need to break new ground in inter-religious meetings. Though we have tentative plans for the future this would not be the context in which to discuss these issues. I conclude this report by thanking the Unification Theological Seminary as well as the main organization of the GCWR and all the others who helped us. I want to give a special word of thanks to David Kalupahana for steering our way from distant Hawaii. Thank you.
DAVID KALUPAHANA: I am sure some of the members of the Board of Trustees who were not present at those regional conferences and some of the people present here would want to ask additional questions about what went on.
SPEAKER: Why weren't people of different religious backgrounds brought together?
DR. KALUPAHANA: You were probably not listening to him. As he reported at the Sri Lanka meeting we had several major religions represented. We had a number of Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus. I was very happy to see one of the leading Bahai theoreticians accepting our invitation, coming to the meeting, and taking active participation. We had a variety of groups represented at the meetings.
DR. OSBORN SCOTT: May I ask a question? I think at our meeting in Boston we discussed the possibilities of making contact with other religious leaders of major religious organizations. I think at that meeting it was also proposed that that would be considered as a part of the program of the Global Congress of the World's Religions. It is a very formidable task, bringing groups together. It might be that at this early stage we could serve as the catalyst for stimulating the thinking, or the movement of other major religious groups. I am just wondering whether or not some of these findings, some of these discussions, have been circulated say to leaders of major religious groups -- the World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches, the Buddhist Council and so forth. This could be a means of finding an area where we can bring together the various religions of the world. I think we are doing something -- you are saying something but who is hearing it? And are we trying to disseminate this information broadly?
DR. KALUPAHANA: Well, I guess I should pass the mike to the secretary, Dr. Thompson, to answer that question. He is really the one who is at the helm, driving the vehicle.
DR. THOMPSON: I am not sure I can answer it. But I appreciate it, Dr. Scott, that you raise the issue. Many of you have perhaps already seen the newsletter which was printed at the Unification Theological Seminary. It was put together by students there based on reports from the field. Obviously this is one vehicle through which we can communicate what has been going on to a wider audience. Copies of that can be sent to such places as the National Council of Churches in America, the World Council of Churches, and other national groups as well as groups in Buddhism and Islam. Yes, some of this can be communicated. Whether they will read it or not, I honestly do not know. But I think we can all appreciate the reminder that was part of our earlier discussion. We really need to follow through and communicate with others.
As follow-up to my earlier introduction to the Board of Trustees: at that time, Dr. Isma'il al Faruqi was not here. We also have here several people who have been actively involved in the development of the Global Congress over these several years. These include Jim Kodera, Anne Bancroft, President David Kim, President of the Unification Theological Seminary, and Dr. Gordon Melton who spoke a few moments ago, and numbers of others who have attended earlier meetings.
For those of you who are new here, I hope that you understand that we are actively seeking your help and support. If you can help us in any way be sure to contact Dr. Kalupahana, or any member of the Board of Trustees, or any of the others who have been actively involved for several years now. Let us know of your interest so that we can be in touch and receive your help and your support. Part of what the Global Congress is all about is a bringing together of people of varieties of religion. You heard this in terms of the meeting at Sri Lanka. Our concern is dialogue. Our concern is to help study and deal with some of the problems of the world. One of these was raised earlier in terms of the racism with which I myself have a great deal of difficulty. I have difficulty with my own Christian faith for a number of reasons. I myself have not yet come up to the level of the teaching of the Founder of my faith.
We have right here tonight a variety of religions represented in terms of Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, various branches of Christianity, Buddhism, and African traditions. Geographically we are here in terms of North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. So we are here, a mini Global Congress already. That part I appreciate and I invite you all to come back again tomorrow night to hear more of the work of the Global Congress. Dr. Kalupahana will report from the Trustees. Come to hear from our speakers tomorrow -- Representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We will meet here again tomorrow night at 8 pm. Thank you for coming.