IOJ ►Ahimsa Day Celebrations at the House of Commons 2006

Posted: 12.11.2006
Updated on: 02.07.2015

At the

House of Commons

LONDON
Wednesday, 1st November 2006

Ahimsa Day is now recognised and accepted as an annual event in the calendar of the House of Commons. The presence this year, and the speakers summarised below prove the recognition it has gained in the rich tradition of the august edifices of the House which has been witnessing history in the making over several centuries.

To add to its glory, the recitation of the Namokkar Mantra and Mangalit, by Pujya Samanijis in the House, which has now become part of the tradition, is a matter of pride for Jains the world over.

Ahimsa & the Environment” the theme this year proved to be very popular because the subject of global warming is uppermost in the mind of the UK Government.

Members of the InterFaith Network of UK added to the variety in the audience as representatives of Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Jewish faiths, in addition to over 35 MPs (that is over 5% of total UK electoral representation in the House) joined us in the celebration.

Mr Barry Gardiner, MP, Minister for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs had to send a representative due to ill health but Mr Elliot Morley, MP, Special Representative for Global Climate Change Affairs in the office of the PM was most appropriate.

Two external speakers kindly agreed to speak on the subject: Mr Martin Palmer, Secretary-General of Alliance for Religions & Conservation (ARC) and Mr John Vidal, Environment Editor of The Guardian, a prominent daily in the UK.

The charming comp‚re for the celebration, Arshna Sanghrajka, started the proceedings by introducing herself, and then Pujya Samanijis from Jain Vishwa Bharati, London who recited the auspicious prayers. Samani Prasanna Pragya took the opportunity to explain the Jain precept of Ahimsa, how individuals should first understand it clearly and then put it in practice as outlined by Acharya Mahapragya ji.

Mr Nemu Chandaria, OBE, Deputy Chairman of the Institute then welcomed the guests and summarized the activities of the Institute over the past year.

The Catalogue of Jain Manuscripts of The British Library was published in May and the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh launched it in Delhi in the presence of a full house at the Vigyan Bhavan.

The next phase of this project was well under way with over 1800 Jain manuscripts held by The Wellcome Trust being researched and catalogued. Editing was expected to start in 2007 before publication.

Other activities in this area included digitisation of selected folios with contextual database for international access, activity and updating through the net. Collaboration with the National Manuscripts Mission in Delhi was established to help train research scholars in Manuscriptology.

Approval had been received from the QCA for the proposed introduction of Jainism in the National Curriculum for Key Stage I and II. The first text book was in print for delivery before year-end and a special website link was under construction for teachers’ notes and student activities expected to provide knowledge with fun.

Mr Elliot Morley welcomed the opportunity to speak at such an auspicious event. Although not au fait with Jainism, he was well aware of the activities of the Institute. He had worked closely with his counterparts from several countries including India and expounding the Government’s policy on fighting global warming, he expressed confidence in meeting the commitment made in the Kyoto Agreement.

The three co-hosts of the event, Chairmen of Friends of India Societies: Mr Stephen Pound for Labour; Mr Nigel Evans for the Conservative and Lord Dholakia for the Liberal Democrat agreed that the Jain way of life was indeed most supportive for the protection of the environment. Mr Pound was as popular as ever when he admitted that his personal life had changed for the better over the last year only because he started practising some Jain principles.

Mr Dominic Grieve, MP, Shadow Attorney General and Conservative spokesperson on Diversity, requested for an opportunity to express his views and after a warm welcome to the Jain community to the House, reinforced Lord Dholakia’s call for the community to become active in politics and to represent their views in Parliament by becoming its members.

The first formal speaker on the theme, Mr Martin Palmer, gave an introduction to his organisation, ARC, and expressed pleasure for his early association with the Institute. He believed that most faith traditions supported environmental care, but the Jain tradition was a leader due to the clarity of its message. He astounded the audience by presenting statistics on the relatively high power wielded by faith organisations in Europe and hoped that they will utilise it in forcing the issues concerning environmental protection. Mr Palmer was planning to take the opportunity to mention Ahimsa & the Environment in his slot for Thought for the Day on Radio 4 on the next day.

Mr John Vidal, the second speaker, had published several articles and papers on environmental matters and was considering a study on relating this to spiritual beliefs. He impressed the audience with his knowledge on the subject and promised to publish an article based on the event in The Guardian.

Dr Harshad N Sanghrajka, the Institute’s Hon. Secretary and a Trustee presented an academic paper on the subject, quoting directly from Bhagwan Mahavir’s preaching on the subject and relating it to the need of the day as expressed by the modern day scientists. His paper is posted on the website at www.jainology.org.

The Director of Nehru Centre and Minister for Culture in the High Commission of India, represented HE the High Commissioner and summarised the sentiments expressed by all the speakers, echoing his agreement and reinforcing the importance of Ahimsa in the contemporary world, especially in relation to the environment.

Mr Jaysukh Mehta, Trustee, who co-ordinated the event, was thanked by Arshna before he delivered his vote of thanks and closed the meeting with an invitation to all to partake in the refreshments.

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Press Release Jay Metha, London

See also: JVB London - Ahimsa Day Celebrations at the House of Commons 2006 (incl. Photos)