Peace Through Dialog 2007 - Father Valles : Peace Through Friendship

Published: 30.12.2007
Updated: 09.01.2009

Jaina Convention
Federation of Jain Associations In North America

Peace Through Friendship

Father Valles


www.carlosvalles.com

Father Valles came to India from Spain in 1949 as a missionary to start a new St. Xavier's College in Ahmedabad. He represented Gujarat University at the International Mathematical Congress in Moscow, Niece and Exeter. He has published more than 40 books in Gujarati, and received several literary awards. He is a citizen of India and popularly known as 'Honorary Jain’.

Chesterton tells the story of a Catholic family that came to live in a Protestant neighborhood. The Protestant neighbors frowned when passing in front of their house and said under their breath, "God knows what they must be eating in there!" One morning a Protestant boy had to knock at their door to retrieve a ball that had strayed inside. He saw the family at the breakfast table eating, came out clutching the ball and shouting through the street, "They are eating porridge! They are eating porridge!" He was excited and happy that just like any other British family they too were eating porridge.

Prejudices grow through lack of contact. We may live in the same neighborhood, but if we don't mingle we don't know each other, and we nurse all kinds of fantasies and falsities and distortions of reality about each other. In India I heard this phrase from Hindu friends referring to some fine Muslim acquaintance of theirs: "He is such a good person that he couldn't possibly be a Muslim!" That is a compliment for that Muslim person, and a slur on their religion. I also remember what was lovingly said to me in playful jest: "You are such a nice person that you couldn't possibly be a Christian!" I had smiled. I knew that it is only when we meet face to face that prejudices can be dissolved and friendship born.

I count myself fortunate that, my first Indian friend in Vallabh Vidyanagar University (Anand) where I went to learn the Gujarati language was a Jain. A fellow student and fellow boarder in the hostel, he was Harkishan Becharlal Shah from Khambhat. Thus my first contact with Jainism was through a person, not through a book. That made all the difference. Harkishanbhai brought to me the living practice of Jainism from the direct, simple, devout, standpoint of a Jain lay person. He didn't prefer go to the cinema. I asked him why. He answered, giving me his life principle I have remembered to this day: "If I can do without something, I don't go for it." Jain wisdom in a nutshell. He explained to me the idea of Paryushan, as he was observing fast those holy days. At that time I had no idea I would be giving talks to Jains at the Paryushan in Mumbai in the years to come. My first talk in Mumbai was presided over by the then member of the Indian delegation to the UN, Chimanbhai Chakubhai Shah. It was later explained to me that he had been chosen for my talk so that with his knowledge, his wisdom, and his diplomacy he could correct any errors I might make being new to Jainism. We became lifelong friends.

Official dialogue between followers of different religions is fundamental for mutual understanding and for world peace it has to flower into personal friendship. That is the message.

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
Mother Theresa

Sources
JAINA
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  1. Ahmedabad
  2. Anand
  3. Federation of Jain Associations in North America
  4. Gujarat
  5. JAINA
  6. JAINA Convention
  7. Jaina
  8. Jainism
  9. Mumbai
  10. Paryushan
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