Bush gets a taste of India's religious diversity
US President George W Bush will carry home memories of an inter-faith meeting in Hyderabad.Updated: Mar 03, 2006 13:15 IST
US President George W Bush will carry home memories of an inter-faith meeting in Hyderabad as nine spiritual leaders revealed to him the religious diversity of this "amazing" country.
"The world can have peace only if people of religion live together in peace, and India is a good example of that," Bush told religious leaders at a closed-door meeting at the Maurya Sheraton's Sky Lounge on Thursday afternoon.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and US Ambassador David C Mulford looked on as Bush charmed his audience by declaring that he is a firm believer and a Methodist and "I believe in the Almighty God".
"One of the things that struck me during the conversation is -- it's a country that recognises the importance of religion and welcomes interfaith dialogue," Bush was quoted as saying in a White House press release.
"(India) understands the importance of faith, discussing thoughts and views that are deep in their hearts," Bush added.
Present at the meeting were Tarlochan Singh, former chairperson of the National Commission on Minorities, Rajya Sabha MP LM Singhvi, Shia leader Mohammad Rizvi, Zafar Mahmood (member of the committee examining the socio-economic status of Muslims), James Massey of the Church of North India, Dominic Emmanuel of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, Acharya Srivatsa Goswami of the Sri Chaitanya Sansthan, Swami Agnivesh, and Tibetan scholar Doboom Tulku.
Describing the meeting as a unique experience, Tarlochan Singh said, "This was the first-ever inter-faith meeting with a visiting foreign head of state in India.
"It showed the unity of all religions in India to Bush. It also helped clear the misconception in some parts of India that minorities are persecuted in this country."
Singh recalled Bush as saying: "I was aware of this multi-religious society of India, but my views have been strengthened."
Guru and activist Swami Agnivesh told Bush, perhaps in an oblique reference to American troops in Iraq: "It is now for you to apply godliness in governance."
He alluded to Emperor Asoka's spiritual conversion to the Buddhist faith after the massacre in the Kalinga war.
First Published: Mar 03, 2006 13:15 IST