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Identifying a common spirituality

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David A. Hart
David A. Hart

Sangeeth Kurian

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: What strikes you most about David A. Hart’s book ‘The Unification of World Faith’ is its rather unusual cover. It depicts Ganesha and Jesus engaged in a conversation.

The picture, notwithstanding its element of religious novelty, aptly brings out the message of the book — the need for discovering a common spirituality in the modern world.

“Just like the way English has become the lingua franca of the world, the modern world is also in the process of identifying a common spirituality,” said Mr. Hart, an Anglican priest and an executive committee member of the World Congress of Faiths based in the United Kingdom.

“By bringing Ganesha and Jesus together on a common platform, I am trying to anticipate what their conversation would have been had they met,” said Mr. Hart who had served as Chaplain at Loughborough and Derby Universities in the U.K.

“For instance did both of them know that they would have millions of followers one day or that they would become symbols of their respective religions some day?” he said. “The probability of a discussion between them itself is quite fascinating,” he said.

A convert to Hinduism and an advocate of inter-faith dialogue, Mr. Hart describes himself as a ‘religious pluralist.’ “God is the same irrespective of whether you pray to him in a temple, church or a mosque,” he had explained in an earlier interview to The Hindu.

In fact his celebration of Vinayaka Chathurthi by consecrating an idol of Ganesha in front of his rented house on the outskirts of the city last year had triggered a controversial debate on religious conversions in the U.K and the United States.

“But today many church people in Britain have offered me their support in my spiritual pilgrimage in Kerala,” said Mr. Hart who currently works as a lecturer at the Centre for American Studies in the city.

Drawing inspiration from the unification movement of Sun Myung Moon, the South Korean religious leader who talked about the desirability of unifying Christianity, Mr. Hart’s 112-page book proposes ‘religious unification’ as a panacea for evils such as communalism and terrorism affecting the contemporary world.

“The world today is like a flecked carpet, wherever you live you are influenced by the contributions of five major religions — Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism,” he said.

The desire to identify and promote a common spirituality is growing especially in new towns and cities. “Protestants and Catholics have built a common church at Milton Keynes in South England. The church also has space for the Jews to offer prayers.” According to him, Kerala with its multi-religious population is “ideally placed” than any other country for an inter-faith dialogue.

The book, sixth in his series will be released by Minister for Education M.A. Baby here on Sunday. His ‘Introduction to Hinduism’ published by the Continuum Press will be released as a part of a new series for A-level students (Higher Secondary students) in leading universities in the U.K. and the U.S., next year.

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