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Jain Diaspora Meet Emphasizes Greater Communication and Collaboration

Published: 11.07.2011
Updated: 29.09.2020

JAINA Convention 2011

The South Asian Times

By Dr. Manish Mehta Chairman, JAINA Diaspora Committee

At the 16th Biennial JAINA Convention in Houston from July 1 to 4, nearly 3,000 Jains from North America, India and other countries availed of many opportunities to learn and reinforce their knowledge of Jain Way of Life by listening to lectures by Jain religious and academic scholars.

The Jain Diaspora Conference is also held at each JAINA Convention since 2007, attracting Jain community leaders from several countries where significant populations of Jains reside. JAINA is leveraging its brand, key UN and NGO relationships and social media technologies to organize and facilitate an intercontinental network of global Jain community leaders committed to a better world. This year, under the Chairmanship of Dr. Manish Mehta (JAINA's VicePresident for Midwest USA), a dozen community and business leaders gathered to identify common needs, share best practices, and synthesize collaborative solutions to address concerns, ranging from instilling common Jain identity in new Diasporic generations, to promoting awareness of nonviolence and interfaith harmony on the world stage, as well as to broaden participation in humanitarian, environmental and disaster relief programs in affected countries including India. The longterm objective is to create an integrated platform to share, celebrate and advance JAINA's vision of The Global Jain an individual committed to making a positive difference in the world.

The 2011 Jain Diaspora Conference was held on July 3, attracting a large audience to hear multimedia presentations and talks by visiting community leaders such as:

  • Dr. Devendra R. Mehta
    (Founder and Chief Patron of Bhagwan Mahavir Viklang Sahayata Samiti, Jaipur): Using a multimedia presentation, he spoke of the tremendous success and potential of a family of lowcost prosthetic limbs and joints promoted worldwide since the 1970s as Jaipur Foot, which has benefitted freeofcost nearly 1.4 million sufferers of polio, landmine explosions, and other amputees by changing their lives for the better and enabling them to perform normal work and household duties. BMVSS is now collaborating with Stanford University to help improve and implement the new Jaipur Knee so as to benefit the masses world over. Dr. Mehta was honored by JAINA.

  • Dr. Natubhai K. Shah
    (Chairman of Jain Network, London), who was the main force in the development of the Jain Center of Leicester in the 1980s, and is now involved in developing a new Jain Center in London for the welfare of UK's Jains while making an impact on the mainstream and politicians in the UK. He shared the plans for establishing a multipurpose Jain temple and community center in London that makes innovative use of social entrepreneurship to become selfsustaining.

  • Nirmal Kumar Sethi Jain
    (President of All India Digambar Jain Mahasabha, New Delhi): In a spirited speech he emphasized five areas where Jains need to be united and work closely with the Indian Government: (a) Preservation of Jain antiquities, artifacts and temples which are in disrepair; (b) Recognition of the distinct religious identify of Jains as separately evolved from Hinduism; (c) Need for greater research in Jain history to create a strong body of religious and cultural texts; (d) Empowerment of women, youth and weaker sections of Jain society through education so as to encourage greater civic engagement; and (e) Making the Jain community strong and influential despite its small numerical strength (there are about 5 million Jains amongst India's 1.2 billion population), by obtaining minority status in more Indian states than the present 11 states.

  • Shantilal G. Muttha
    (Founder and Chairman of Bharatiya Jain Sanghatana, Pune): India is witnessing a quantum jump in issues like decline in values and resultant increase in traits of arrogance, aggression, intolerance and violence among children, as well as declining sex ratio among Indian Jains, problems of matchmaking, divorces, etc, which prevents rural Jains from finding suitable matches given the decrease in number of girls, education, nuclear family etc. He said these problems will increase manifold in the coming decades. BJS has scientifically researched, designed, developed and implemented practical, replicable modules to address these issues for the last 26 years with substantial results following the Jain way of life. Some of these modules are being plugged into government systems on an experimental basis. Muttha and BJS were recognized at the Convention.

  • Mahendra and Asha Mehta
    (Founder of Ratna Nidhi Trust, Mumbai): Shri Mehta was unable to attend the Diaspora Conference, but his contributions to advancing humanitarian projects in India, Africa and some Asian countries through partnership with JAINA and other NGOs were recognized.

  • Kamlesh C. Mehta
    (Founder and publisher of The South Asian Times as well as a serial entrepreneur) challenged North American Jains to more visibly promote and disseminate fundamental Jain teachings and moral/spiritual/ethical values such as Ahimsa, multiplicity of viewpoints and nonattachment to mainstream business and social communities across America and the world. He felt that ancient Jain principles are more relevant today than ever in guiding the world to follow the high moral and ethical road.

  • Stephanie Londono,
    a recent graduate of classes taught by Jain Samanijis at Florida International University (which hosts the US' first Bhagwan Mahavir Endowed Professorship in Jain Studies): Stephanie showed excerpts of a new YouTube documentary she prepared after interviewing over a dozen Jain business and industry leaders about how they incorporate Jain ethics in their business enterprises.

  • Harnish Jani,
    a popular writer and narrator, delivered a talk on behalf of Shri Ratilal K. Chandaria, Chairman of Institute of Jainology, London. He highlighted the visionary contributions of Shri Chandaria, patriarch of a large family scattered in a dozen countries, in developing and deploying the Gujarati Lexicon an online translator, guide and tool for accelerating the learning of 4.5 million Gujarati words. The Lexicon is ideal for diaspora Gujaratis who want to learn their mothertongue in a fun and entertaining manner. IOJ was presented a JAINA Presidential Award at the Convention.

  • Dr. Mukesh Bavishi
    (a leading gynecologist and cancer surgeon from Ahmedabad), described the use of 'stitchless surgeries' pioneered by him and his wife Dr. Vidula Bavishi to resolve critical health and other socially challenging conditions (often arising from crimes committed against mentally handicapped women) pervasive in rural populations of India.

  • Namrata Lisa Abrams and Nirali Becky
    Kleinschmidt, officebearers of Lighthouse Center, Ann Arbor, MI) described the activities of nearly 100 nonJain individuals who have adopted the Jain Way of Life and vegan diets to practice Jain meditation and healing techniques as taught by Jain Acharyas Gurudev Chitrabhanu and Pramoda Chitrabhanu.

  • Dr Mamta Shaha,
    Founder and Chair of JAINA Media Publications Committee: She announced the achievement of a milestone of the first 100 complete Mangalam TV episodes on YouTube and encouraged Jain NGOs and temple congregations to be more proactive in reaching out to help the communities they reside in.
Shanti Muttha, with microphone, and Shri Dilip V. Shah, Past JAINA President, responding to questions from the audience,
Panelists look on (from left): Dr. D.R. Mehta, Dr. Natubhai Shah, Nirmal K. Sethi Jain, and Shri Kamlesh C. Mehta.
Members of the second discussion panel at the Jain Diaspora Conference, (from left):
Harnish Jani, Dr. Mamta Shaha, Lata Champsee (JAINA President), Dr. Manish Mehta (Chair of JAINA Diaspora Committee), Namrata Lisa Abrams, Nirali Becky Kleinschmidt, Dr. Vidula Bavishi and Dr. Mukesh Bavishi.

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