A Unique Contribution to Inter-faith Dialogue: Vassula in Dhaka
On the 23rd Feb 2009 after speaking about the True Life in God Messsages to an Inter-religious Meeting, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Vassula was presented with Gold Award by the Buddhist community for propagating peace and inter-faith harmony
Bouddha Kristi Prachar Sangha
After a six weeks' mission in the USA and South America and having only five days of rest in Athens, Vassula and myself left for Dhaka in Bangladesh. Vassula was invited by the Most Ven. Suddhananda Mahathero, President of the Bangladesh Bouddha Kristi Prachar Sangha, to join the seminar for "Inter-faith harmony and peaceful co-existence" which took place in the Dharmarajika Buddhist Monastery in Dhaka.
Vassula, of whom they referred to her as Divine Messenger of God, True Life in God, was asked to be this time the key note speaker in that seminar. She has had several opportunities in the past, now and again, to speak at various inter-faith meetings. It is obvious that our Lord is not only calling the Christians to a True Life in Him, but our Lord is calling all His creation to live in peace. Our Lord prepared her as well in her mission to be among every race and every creed who do not share the same faith as ours. Her ability and her knowledge of languages is an asset for such meetings and it is not a coincidence that God gave her the knowledge of different languages for His Glory. Her knowledge of the Arabic language at which one time she read out from the Koran a prayer that gives glory to God praising Him was appreciated by our Moslem brothers in one of her meetings where many Moslems were present. She had shared then in that meeting with them, the Beatitudes from the Scriptures in (Mt. 5, 1-12) said by Jesus and her messages were most warmly welcomed by the crowd. It happened that in that meeting some Buddhist monks were present who then after her meeting invited her over to meet their Venerable. This is the way our Lord led her among them as well.
We know that great efforts are being done by the Secretary of the Pontifical Council of Culture, Father Bernard Ardura in Rome for inter-faith dialogue. In one of his statements he said that "The inter-faith dialogue is the best way to discern the "other", to try to understand him and to give him a testimony of our faith" and he invites all the people of good will, "implies," - as Father Bernard Ardura says - "to assume deeply the sense of the human being and the human fraternity in the respect of the sacralite de la vie, to recognize the solidarity of all human beings with the created world, with the other human beings and with God". It is in those terms that Vassula's dialogue is based.
As we approached the Temple, the orphan boys who were waiting in line on both sides of the path that led all the way to the Temple started to applaud. Ven. Suddhananda was in the centre waiting for Vassula and when he saw her, he walked forward and embraced her. Vassula took his arm around her arm and walked together as old and intimate friends. Their intimacy and their friendship towards each other touched me very much. She was greeted with a bouquet of flowers as well as to all of us.
Dr. Tony Mansour and Mr Paul Lauer who is from Motive Entertainment in Los Angeles arrived that same day and managed to be heroically present in this seminar after having travelled over 22 hours, with change of time. We had with us Mr. and Mrs Gay from Switzerland as well as Mr. Albert Muller from England. Last but not least, we had the whole time the presence of Mr. Duleep Gunesekere who was of great help to all of us.
As people were pouring in and together with the Buddhist monks, the seminar started by a thorough presentation. The participants were Most Ven. Dr. T. Dhammaratana, Consultant to UNESCO, & WFB Vice-President in France. The second one was from Pakistan, Advocate Mir Nawaz Khan Marwat, Honorary President, Asian Conference of Religion for Peace. The seminar was inaugurated by Mr. Dilip Barua, Hon'ble Minister for Industries, Govt. of Bangladesh. The Chief guest was Dr. Md. Afsarul Ameen, M.P. Hon'ble Minister for Shipping, Gov. of Bangladesh.
Among the special guests were the Roman Catholic Archbishop Most Rev. Poulinis Costa (who could not attend due to poor health), Mr. Saber Hossain Chowdhury, Hon' M.P. Mr Mayeedul Islam, Hon'ble M.P. Mr. Shamsul Haque Chowdhury, Hon'ble M.P. and the guest in honor, Most Ven. Chao Chu, Hon'ble President, from Los Angeles' Buddhist Union, U.S.A. And last but not least, Vassula, as the Key Note Speaker. So here is how she addressed the people:
"It is again a pleasure to address you and be present to share my small contribution to world peace. I wish to convey my sincere thanks to all of you and to the whole honorable delegation team for inviting me to be among you. Also, on behalf of the promoters for peace, reconciliation and unity, the followers of the mission of "True Life in God" and myself, wish to convey our warmest greetings in this meeting.
I am sure that all of us are concerned about the present worldwide moral crisis and this is why we should not abandon our efforts but keep appealing insistently for reconciliation, peace and love. I am speaking simply as a human being, as a mother, as a sister who was born Christian. However, in all religions there is always a good Law to follow based on our religious Books. This Law is meant to lead us all into better beings, into divine beings and become worthy one day in front of God's eyes.
It is important not just to hear, read the Law and know it, but to follow it and live it and transmit it to others as reminders. In that way we can be the example of our Law and show to the world that on earth we are but one big family because we are all equal before God's eyes.
While I'm speaking about our Holy Laws, I am not speaking of a 'world religion'. We should only make the world understand that it should open its spiritual ear and know that without love and compassion carried in our heart there will be no peace; without love for one another, we shall never be able to hear the cry of the needy, or understand the injustice being done to the weak and the orphan and the sufferings they are bearing. To love is to know God.
The origin of any sort of conflict is usually located deep in our heart. As I said in the last meeting, our heart is like a mirror of our soul because it reflects on us what we carry within it. Jesus Christ said to us the following: "A man's words flow out of what fills his heart. A good man draws good things from his store of goodness; a bad man draws bad things from his store of badness." (Mt 12:34-35)
Jesus also gave us a golden rule. He said: "Always treat others as you would like them to treat you." When someone is not at peace with God, how could he be at peace with himself and neighbor? In our Christian religion, we believe that our actions if they are good they are influenced from above, that is from God, because He dwells in us and His Spirit guides us, but if our actions are bad, we cannot blame God, we must blame it on our personal evil intentions and our passionate desires. These desires are attachments on earthly substances that wear away and are of no use to us eternally because on earth nothing lasts forever. Aggressive moral attachments such as greed and hatred, and revenge towards others are acts against the Divine Law of God and against nature and the cosmic law of love. These evil acts will only deteriorate the cosmic law of peace and make nature rebel against us. We should then aim to change the people's heart and for this, one has to become the living example of Reconciliation, Peace and Love.
In a Message I received from the Virgin Mary, She said:
"God is calling everyone to Himself. Try to understand God's Call of Peace. I exhort you to pray for peace. The world is dead to love. It lies in deep obscurity because hatred, greed and selfishness dominate the entire earth all the way to its core. The disasters, famines, afflictions, wars and plague, all these are drawn by the world. The earth is self-destroying itself and it is not God who gives you all these disasters as many of you tend to believe. God is Just and all Merciful, but evil draws evil."
Our motto therefore, in True Life in God is, 'repay evil with love.' St. Paul in our Scriptures said: "When we are cursed, we answer with a blessing; when we are hounded, we put up with it; we are insulted and we answer politely. We are treated as the offal of the world, still to this day, the scum of the earth."
According to our Scriptures it is written that anyone who hits us on the right cheek, we should offer him the other as well. And if a man takes us to law and would have our tunic, we should let him have our cloak as well. We are asked to give to anyone who asks, because God causes His sun to rise on bad men as well as good and His rain to fall on honest men and dishonest men alike. Of course all of these words of Wisdom need to be put into practice through humility and self sacrifice.
Don't we all feel happier in giving rather than receiving? Unfortunately, very few follow the words of Wisdom that can bring peace and love on earth. But we put up with it for the sake of peace.
Everyone good or evil, with religion or no religion, appreciates love and compassion when it is given to him. Why then during the course of our limited lifetime we do not share this kindness and love with one another? Therefore, the remedy to save this world from violence and hatred is to open their heart and their spiritual ear and teach them about Forgiveness, Tolerance and about Affection and Respect for all human beings; that dictatorial leaderships, that are the causes of extreme violence and sufferings in our world, will lead us nowhere but only to a more violent world filled with poverty suffering, misery and injustice.
Forgiveness is vital. In our Scriptures Jesus says: "If you forgive others their failings, your Heavenly Father will forgive you yours. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either. It is someone who is forgiven little who shows little love."
Therefore to be able to resolve aggressive conflicts within and without our communities we have to educate our people and instill in them a divine spirituality based on love, forgiveness and peace to dismantle hatred and revenge. We have to become the image of the Living God who has no trace of darkness or spite, revenge or hatred.
Here I would like to share some spiritual sayings that Jesus Christ gave me during these last years when He appeared to me. He said:
"In the morning sow your seed of Love;
Then go and collect your harvest and offer it to Me, your Father in Heaven and I will tell you: 'In your graciousness My child you have obtained your reward in Heaven.
With this, I sincerely hope that the day will come that through our constant prayer and sacrifices, through our fasting, God will pity our failings and give us the peace we need and bring us together and recognize ourselves as one loving family in Him.
Blessed be our Lord God of Mercy who came to give us Light.
May Your Will be done. Amen.
After Vassula's speech, the two participants gave their comments.
They pointed out how the sentence, "we should repay evil with love" is important for all of us and how the expression of "that we are one big family on earth" is believed as well by them. That "tolerance and compassion" are key note words and that we are all the children of God and that on earth we should love one another. That love is very important to change the world.
After their comments, someone from the crowd came to ask Vassula two questions. The first was:
"How do you see Jesus and how do you hear Him when He talks to you?"
Vassula answered him by explaining to him that she sees Christ with the eyes of the soul and she hears Him within her. As we understand this is called interior visions and locutions.
His next question was, "In America, for example in California, girls go with girls, what do you think of this action?"
Vassula answered that this is a perverted action and that according to the Scriptures this act is considered an abomination in God's Eyes. We know that these words are written in the Scriptures, especially if one reads Romans chapter one. God cannot be clearer in what He says there. It is a shame that some of our own theologians and clergy today deform the Scriptures and misinterpret them differently from what they say for their own perverted convenience and for their own interests. Vassula ended up saying that God did not create "Adam and Steve" but Adam and Eve.
After her answer there was an uproar of applaud. One of the Moslem leaders who was sitting on the podium with her, came over to her with delight and showed how much he appreciated her answer, saying to her that she spoke very well.
The first time Vassula was invited in that same Temple was back in 2003 where she was honoured to receive the gold medal for her efforts to promote Peace in the world. This time she was offered among four other honourable leaders of different faiths the gold medal for her efforts of propagating "Inter-faith Harmony and Peaceful co-existence." Those that received the gold medals with Vassula were Most Ven. Dr. T. Dhammaratana, France, Advocate Mir Nawaz Kan Marwat, Pakistan, Most Ven. Phra-kru Sangaruk Boonsong Upasamoo, Thailand, and Ven. Achariya Bhikkhu Karuna Shastri, India.
It was amazing to see how all these people actually respected other faiths and how their spirit is open to the messages of God that He gives to Vassula whom He chose as His instrument of Peace, Love and Unity. I was witnessing how she was performing what God had given her as mission. What left me speechless was to notice their openness but most of all their respect they had for her and us, how respectful they were to hear Vassula quoting God's words either from Scriptures or from the messages she receives. The honour they give Vassula and their appreciation is noticeable, many times more than I have ever seen among any of our Christian people. They are the only ones together with the Moslems that gave her the name 'Divine Messenger of God!' They refer to her with that name as well as calling her, sister, nothing to do with the word sister as nun, but sister, as of the same blood, as of one family, as of real friendship. This term means a lot, it means, acceptance as part of one family loved and without any discrimination . This reminds us of a message that Christ gave back in 1990 on 20th October where the Lord said to her, "And those who have never been told about Me will see Me, and those who never heard about Me, will listen and understand. I shall be found by those that did not seek Me. (..) I shall reveal Myself likewise to those who did not consult Me.(...) so that when it does happen You may believe that I Am who I Am". This prophecy was being accomplished now in front of my very eyes!
One of the Buddhist leaders remarked that, when Vassula speaks, she speaks with simplicity but with great authority at the same time and always straight to the point. Later on after the seminar ended, many of the invited guests were invited by the Managing Director of Purbasa Group of Company, Mr. Bikash Kusum Barua to a great buffet dinner in a hotel.
The Award Ceremony
On the second day of the meeting, on February 23rd, which was the day of the distribution of the Gold Award Medal 2009 we all returned to the Temple. Some speeches opened this ceremony and immediately after that was the distribution of the gold medals. Vassula was asked once more to give them a few words. At this point she reminded them that she and the people of True Life in God, do not differentiate anyone of their faith when it comes to help the needy. She mentioned that we have houses of charity, called Beth Miriam in which we offer food to the poor. We don't see whether they are Christians or not, we just give our help to prove our solidarity and our love to human beings, of whatever creed they may be, whatever shape they would have, whatever colour they may have, our love reaches to them all. Vassula ended up to say that it would be a pity if such a meeting would remain just here and among us and not go out. She said that such a meeting and our dialogues should bear fruit and go further out and be put into action so that when we meet next time, we would feel that there is a difference in this world. Each of the speakers were asked as well to say a few words.
We were then surprised when the Most Ven. Suddhananda Mahathero called all of our True Life in God that were present (including me) to receive a golden plaque with our names inscribed on it in remembrance of this important seminar.
Invited to Speak at Hindu Temple
The Hindus, being there and having heard of Vassula's speech and how gracious she is towards all people without making any discrimination, they asked her to go over to them the next day. Their Temple is called Sree Sree Dhakeswari National Temple. So, the following day, we all went there and met them. As I was watching her speak and seeing what my eyes were seeing, and what my ears were hearing, I was thinking, 'this is a historical event that is passing in front of our very eyes, and I wonder why we cannot see the Hand of God in what He is doing! Why was it that so many people do not see nor understand God's Mercy? How so few appreciate these instances, where this being in front of my eyes, is sent by God, simple and common instrument of God, reachable, and a close friend of ours, and yet, no one, I believe, has ever reached to fully understand God's immeasurable Love and Mercy for all of His creation. How blind we are not to see the fathomless Grace of God among us! and how prejudices and discrimination hold us back to understand God's Love that He has for all His creatures and how Christ died for all of us to redeem all His creation without any exception.
The Hindus greeted her most graciously and with great delight just as the Buddhists did. We were led by Mr. President Kajal Debnath who was our guide. He introduced her to his fellow Hindus and invited us to visit their Temple describing its history. He told us how much persecuted the Hindus are in this country from some fundamentalist Moslems who once, not long ago had burnt down their Temple and all their premises.
We were then led in an upper room where around fifty university students were waiting patiently to listen to Vassula. Vassula after being introduced addressed them as she had addressed in the same way the Buddhists the day before. She ended with the golden motto ... evil should be repaid with love.
The Visit to Kulun
The next day we visited the village called Kulun. Driving there was not easy as roads were under reparation. The event was organized by Mr. Xavier Pereira a TLIG person who comes from this village and who works for Duleep. In Kulun village there is a church dedicated to St. Joseph and a school that is named True Life in God. Two hundred children attend this school all of whom are under 8 years old. The school was built in 2006 by a donation from a Mexican lady Mrs. Martha by name. The rest of the school's construction was given by Duleep.
On arrival the whole village dressed in their best garments and came to meet us by song and dance. They gave each one of us a wreath of flowers that they hung around our neck. Xavier opened the event with a speech in which he declared that Vassula is a good disciple of Christ and that she is preaching Good News to people so that they may not commit sin. We were offered breakfast then lunch. Following that they took us to visit all the classrooms.
Beth Miriam Dhaka
We had time the following day during lunch time to visit the BM of Dhaka where Duleep was that day distributing lunch to children mostly who looked rather emaciated but happy. It was amazing to see the speed they were eating the rice and vegetables with their bare hands. Others, also grown ups were sitting on benches waiting patiently for their turn.
Visiting the house where True Life in God started
We must not forget that the True Life in God messages started in Dhaka. The street named 'Banani' was not only where the Ryden family lived in but the Catholic Church happened to be just a few meters away from their house. That day we went to the Church and had Mass, but we were also keen in going to Vassula's ex-house. We were not sure if we would have been able to visit the house inside. However, when we went there just as the sun set, the owner's son opened the door and Duleep explained who we were. Then they called the owner, Mr. Khan by phone and talked to him to allow us to enter his house. Mrs Khan was inside and was very happy to greet Vassula and us. Very courteously she offered us tea and cakes. We have recorded by video all the premises and especially where it all began.
I am grateful to God that I was able to attend and live this mission and it will remain with me, unforgettable.