Twelve Gates Foundation President Speaks at World Interfaith Harmony Week
On February 1, 2022, Twelve Gates Foundation President, Dr. Frank Kaufmann spoke at the opening ceremony of World Interfaith Harmony Week. Dr. Kaufmann offered a message on patience and forgiveness to kick off the week of celebrations.
This weeklong commemoration was first adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2010. The annual celebration promotes peace and harmony through events held by various interfaith groups.
The World Interfaith Festival was organized by H.H. Guru Dileepji Maharaj, the Global Chairman of the World Yoga Community, and NGO Affiliated with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
The World Interfaith Harmony Week:
Watch Dr. Kaufmann's speech here:
Host, World Yoga Community Founder, Dileepkumar Thankappan:
I'd like to invite Reverend Dr. Frank Kaufmann, Founder and executive director of the Twelve Gates Foundation and a person of great value to our community. Longtime friend. I will say in our circle, Dr. Kaufmann will be the long lasting religious leader and interreligious educator. Dr. Frank Kaufmann, the floor is for you:
Dr. Frank Kaufmann, President Twelve Gates Foundation:
Thank you very much Guruji. I'm honored by your invitation. Surprisingly, I am more delighted to be here than I expected, honestly speaking. I have gained a tremendous amount from everyone who has spoken. It has been not only an education for me, but also a spiritual upliftment. This is a meeting of professionals, but I felt the Spirit of God present in all who've spoken. I am grateful for this opportunity.
I would like to thank you in particular Guruji. I was thinking about the impact and trajectory of your life. I came up with a phrase: You increasingly awaken spiritual life in more and more people, growing outward from a personal Zen that harmonizes humility, intimate knowledge of oneness, and always acting fully. Yours is an incremental, steady and true expansion of spirituality. It is not jumping in at some place and taking command. All of us gathered here are an extension of your tireless effort and commitment to a world that transcends religious distinction, but does not violate or deny particular religious commitment. It is a great work that is manifest here today.
Initially I included in my comments to congratulate Bawa Jain because we're celebrating World Interfaith Harmony Week. But we know that that came ten years after his monumental achievement at the Millennial World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual leaders. This was ten years ahead of time. But as I listened, I heard from so many others, like Monika [Willard] and others who held the ground for such a long time, before this special era came upon us.
I also had some words to thank the Jordanian leadership King Abdullah, and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, whose words and insights fueled and infused the king's proposal to the General Assembly, that eventually was accepted. But we've heard a lot about this from other speakers.
In my thoughts today I'd like to introduce just two words for consideration, and at the end, I'll add a third. The two words are patience and forgiveness, patience and forgiveness. By way of patience, let me ask, when was the United Nations founded? I am sure many on this call can answer this question. It was founded in 1945?
And what is the mission of the United Nations? Again I am sure many can answer that. The very first words of the preamble to the UN Charter are: “We the peoples of the United Nations are determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” The very first words.
Bawa Jain’s fantastic Millennium Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders happened in 2000. That's 55 years later! 55 years. And, if people are honest in the room today, we all know that the mere thought of religion was all but verboten in the United Nations. Yet how can anyone imagine, let alone spend decades presuming to work toward the “end of the scourge of war” and not involve history's greatest resource for the end of war, namely the great spiritual traditions? That's where we learn about self control, forgiveness, kindness and love. We don't learn such things from economics. We don't learn them from political science. Those fields have different concerns, important concerns.
But the reason for this is in part due to the behavior of the religious community itself, that allowed the secular community of the UN to keep us at bay. They were afraid that we religious believers were the single most divisive and conflicted community on earth, and they didn't want us around. They were trying to make peace, and they didn't want to invite religious people around.
But things happen, and sooner or later this eventually changed.
I myself went to the United Nations School [UNIS] starting at four years old. I graduated from there at the end of secondary school. I've been involved with the UN all my life. For decades you could not mention religion in that community. The closest the little bridge you could say was the word “values.” The word values was a little kind of porous bridge to suggest the possibility of spiritual reality. And even then, if you mentioned values, the ambassador's faces would grow ashen. They would look left and right to make sure nobody saw you walk into their office.
But look at us today. The United Nations has become a great champion of interreligious affairs, a great home of interfaith. And this is what I mean when I said the first word of my thoughts today is patience. Have patience. Be patient.
On the word forgiveness. Do you hear people at the United Nations saying, “You know, I finally got it. Thanks to people like Bawa Jain and Monica, at last I have woken up. We were wrong. We should have worked harder to understand the importance of religion.”
You'll never hear that. Never. You just won't. And this is what I'm talking about with the idea of forgiveness. We don't have to press. We don't have to press our colleagues and friends to admit they were wrong. Or why did you do or didn’t do something?
When we've arrived, we've arrived.
The New York Times was a great champion of Stalin, a huge champion of Stalin and Communism. Their Moscow office guy who wrote all the glowing reports of Stalin and Communist was recommended by the New York Times to receive a Pulitzer Prize. How about today’s New York Times? Do you think they are going to write glowing reports about the greatest mass murder in the history of humankind. The greatest, I hope not.
But do we find the New York Times writing, “We were wrong. We got it wrong.” No, we do not. We never will. And this is what I mean by forgiveness. We don't have to press our friends and colleagues. We have to encourage and support them. Allow them to become what they’ve become. I'm sure I have my mistakes and wrong views that I should confess to and repent for.
I am asking that we think of this as we begin this week of seeking genuine interreligious relations, patience and forgiveness. These patient people like Bawa and Monica, and you Guruji, working with one person at a time. Working on the street, one person at a time. Now you have people of great magnitude singing your praises, having been uplifted and spiritually educated by you. With such patience allow each of us to become what we've become. We don't have to press.
The final thing I'll say, and this is the third word I promised, that I did not mention at the outset. Repentance and honesty. We do not have to press others. But it wouldn't hurt if we ourselves have been wrong, to say we've been wrong. That means we trust God. Repent, trust God. This is the way for each one of us to become free. This is how we become free. This is how we step into our new shoes and our new clothes, our new knowledge and our new enlightenment. We don't need to be afraid to have been wrong. This is our path. It is the path of free people. Honestly, if I may say, only truly free people will be the engines of peace. But it takes the courage to be honest in front of the God of all, and then to be born new.
Guruji I'd like to thank everyone for your time and attention, and for allowing me to be part of this incredible and wonderful event.
Guru Dileepji: Thank you Dr. Frank Kaufmann. That was a beautiful message. I love it. This evening, we will have a wonderful event in Flushing.
Frank: Yes. Thank you.
Yes. We will offer our prayers for our fallen brothers.