Atisha Dipankar Peace Gold Award
February 18-24th, 2019
Venerable Sanghanayaka Suddhananda Mahathero from Bangladesh invited Vassula to the Atisha Dipankar Peace Gold Award and the Visuddhananda Peace Gold Ceremony which was scheduled for February 23rd, 2019 in Bangladesh.
Once again the Venerable Sanghanayaka Suddhananda Mahathero from Bangladesh invited Vassula, Theodora, and Heidi, as the representatives of the True Life in God Associations, to award the Associations of TLIG with the Peace Gold Award for promoting peace, harmony and reconciliation globally. It is also implied, without say that the Bangladesh authorities appreciated the help given to them from the Beth Myriam mission for the ongoing upkeep of their orphanage.
On February 18th Vassula and Theodora departed for Bangladesh and arrived there early morning at 1:30 am on February 19th. Upon their arrival, they faced an unexpected surprise. A plane had just come-in before theirs carrying around one-hundred Chinese people who needed an entry visa and were lined-up in endless rows. They had to wait, standing patiently for three and a half hours, to finally obtain their entry visa. Vassula reported that it was the first time she ever had to wait so long to get a visa. To top this ordeal, the shuttle that was supposed to transport them to their hotel had disappeared. As a final resort, they took a taxi, but the chauffeur had no knowledge of their hotel’s location and they were driven around in-circles for an hour or more. Finally, they arrived at the hotel half-an-hour before breakfast time. The receptionist was kind enough to allow them to have their breakfast even before the hotel employees opened its restaurant.
Later in the afternoon they met-up with Heidi who had arrived the day before, and Mr. Sujit Barua welcomed and briefed them about the scheduled program for the duration of their stay in Bangladesh.
The following morning Imam Mohammed Mazharul Islam also came to the hotel to warmly welcome them. He offered to chauffer and to be at their disposal for their entire visit. It was touching to see his dedication, and how, in spite of needing to be present at the mosque for the prayer hours, (they noticed how he would run to the mosque for prayer; then rush back to be with them,) he continually invited them for lunch and dinner.
As they looked around, they noticed that Dhaka’s construction has changed. From its formally nice, tropical villas with gardens, there are now huge, tall buildings, some of which are luxurious hotels or offices. The Imam Mohammed informed Vassula that the house she used to live-in, the place where the True Life in God revelation started in the 1980’s, was demolished, and the plot is now government property under contract.
Later that afternoon they met with Mr. Hadler, a TLIG friend who is assisting them with the logistics of the teachers’ salary at the Kulun School. Vassula and Heidi wanted to meet with him to clarify an issue, as the teachers had not received their salary for six months! Mr. Hadler explained that the bank did not give him permission to withdraw the money he had received from the BM Account in Switzerland. Since the teachers were not paid since January 2019, Vassula decided to give the money she had for her various trip expenses to the teachers. That amount covered exactly two months of salaries. Heidi also withdrew some money from her personal account to pay for the teachers’ two additional months of salary. Moreover, Vassula decided to augment their salaries as well as Sujit’s. Nonetheless, as this report was being written, Mr. Hadler fortunately managed to withdraw part of the owed money and paid the teachers, but not yet in-full.
The next day, February 21st, the salary holders were scheduled to drive over to Kulun village, so as to visit the True Life in God School, pay the teachers, and greet the villagers. The Imam Mohammed kindly offered to drive Vassula, Theodora and Heidi with Sujit to the village. To their good fortune, that day was a national holiday; therefore, the traffic was not so chaotic. They drove through rough, dusty roads to reach the villagers who were fervently waiting for them.
When they reached the village, they firstly spotted some of the children running towards them. Then, a band of musicians with drums along with Xavier Pereire, and women dressed in their best garments came forward to meet and warmly welcome them with yellow-flowered wreaths that they hung around their necks. Vassula and her companions were escorted with music and songs into the center of the village where the meeting place was set-up. On the way, Xavier showed Vassula the Catholic Church’s renovation; the church was built next to the school. When they reached the church’s outdoor yard, they noticed that it was decorated, and a tent, set above them, indicated where they would be sitting. Children and women offered Vassula, Heidi and Theodora flower bouquets as a welcome and appreciation gesture. It was indeed noticeable how warmly committed the teachers were towards their work, even though they had not received their salary. It was for them, somehow, a small relief that they received part of their salary that day.
Statue of our Lady - Beth Myriam Sign Kulun Village
Our arrival in Kulun village.
Xavier opened the meeting by saying a few kind words to Vassula. Here is what he said: Heartfelt Welcome to Vassula and her Company
Oh Special Lady:On the occasion of your arrival to Kulun, we, thevillagers, are very happy to say to you, “welcome”. Today all of God’s creation is glorifying with us for your glorious presence. Being a spiritual lady, you have come to a poor village. So take our love and warm welcome.
Preacher of God: Jesus said, “Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all mankind.” You are the real preacher because from a long distance you have come to Bangladesh to preach and help the poor people. We support your service and wish you the best for your mission.
O Great Lady: At present, you are not a member of a small family. You have become a member of all families because of your service. We strongly believe that many people will receive a new life through your activities. We appreciate your gratefulness.
Lover of humans:You have the greatest sympathy for poor people. Jesus came to serve, and not to be served. You are also doing the same. So, we are also happy to see your model. It will help us to serve the people. You are the best friend of the poor. God bless you.
Holy Lady:You are a holy lady because Jesus sends messages through you for us so that we may have holy lives. Your life is a dedicated life now. Many people are going to become holy by seeing your holiness; we believe and respect you.
Helpful lady and Friend of the poor: You are very generous. Many people are being offered good and delicious food through your kindness. You are the main disciple to complete the incomplete work of your beloved Jesus. You are a witness of God.
Through your hard labor and love, you are going from one country to another country to serve your love for education, food, and other charitable work to the most abandoned and poor people. Really you are a great person. For your great work may the Almighty God bless you and give you good health.
Dear Madam: We have learned many things from the Beth Myriam mission, especially how to help poor people with their education and charitable work. If you want, you can renew this charitable work in our country again. From your love, our teachers receive good salaries and bonuses; therefore, all of them are very happy. They have given heartfelt thanks.
Finally, we ask God to shower blessings on you so that you may preach the good news to the people more and more. May you and your company have a good and happy journey.
Best regards, Xavier Pereira
(On behalf of the villagers of Kulun)
Vassula with Heidi, Imam Mohammed and Sujit at Kulun
Vassula then was given the floor and mentioned that she was happy to be there again with them, but they should not forget one important thing: that all honor and thanks should be given to our Blessed Mother, and not to her, as this project is Our Blessed Mother’s project. Vassula also said that we must not forget to pray and thank our Blessed Mother for bringing this help to them. When we pray to Her, She hears us. She protects us. We are only an instrument. When we say “yes” to our Lady, She assists us. Vassula said “Let us give a big applause to our Lady as She is the One who Helps us”. Vassula also referred to the problem with paying the teachers on time and informed everyone present that some money will be handed to them today. From now on, beginning in January 2019, they will all receive a retrospective raise in their salary.
She then introduced Heidi Kyhl as the person responsible for all the Beth Myriams around the world. Heidi thanked them for their welcome. She mentioned that she was delighted to be there, as it was her first time in Kulun. She stated that it is a gift from above for her to see the school and in-person meet the people with whom she corresponds. She also informed everyone present that the teachers will now receive a two-month salary; and she then personally gave it to them. She furthermore promised that a solution will be found for the teachers to receive their entire salary on time. After this presentation, Xavier briefly summarized the improvements that have taken place at the school over the years. It now hosts about seventy-five students. Electricity is now available, and the children are provided food, pens and paper.
Two young girls at Kulun school with their traditional outfits.
The celebratory musicians then sang some remarkable songs and the young children, dressed in their beautiful and colorful traditional clothes, danced. At this point, Sujit asked Theodora and Heidi to offer the children some candy. As the performance drew to a close, the respective guests, as well as Vassula, Heidi and Theodora, were escorted to a veranda to enjoy an offered lunch.
After this memorable experience at Kulun School, they departed for a visit to the Dhamarajika Buddhist Monastery. Venerable Sudhananda had just returned from Philadelphia-USA, but in spite of his tremendous fatigue, he absolutely wanted to meet Vassula personally. He knew that he otherwise may not have the opportunity to privately meet with her at the awards event the following day due to the crowds. His health, too, has been giving him many problems; so with the fear of never again seeing Vassula, he insisted that she meet him for perhaps the last time.
As they arrived at the monastery’s yard, they saw the Venerable lying on a sofa at the monastery’s porch. As soon as he saw them coming from afar, he struggled to get up, and with tears in his eyes welcomed Vassula. Both fell in each other’s arms affectionately. He offered her a bouquet of flowers, expressing his joy.
The Venerable with the assistance of two monks gets up to welcome Vassula
The Venerable then offered coffee and spent some time with them. The group was joined by the Venerable’s companions and friends: Dr. Pranab Kumar Baruya, Mr. Mr. Ranjit Kumar Barua, Vice-President; Bangladesh Buddha Kristi Sangha, and Mr. Prakrita Ranjan Barua. The Venerable had previously briefed Vassula about the other guests who would subsequently be present at the Atisha Dipankar and Visuddhananda Peace Gold Award event.
Venerable Suddhananda with Vassula and friends at the Buddhist Monastery
Along with these honored guests, he had moreover invited other distinguished guests from Italy, Nepal, India, China, Netherlands, Chilly, Spain and other countries to attend the Peace Gold Award event. That afternoon, Vassula, Heidi, and Theodora met some of his guest speakers, such as Most Venerable Lama Lobzang from India. The Venerable’s companions said to Vassula: “Venerable always speaks highly about you when he goes abroad, to everyone he meets, and we here in the monastery hear your name every day from Venerable.” May God bless his genuine heart. Vassula, Theodora, and Heidi were touched by the way the Venerable showed his love, and thanked him for his hospitality.
The next day Sujit informed them that a Jesuit priest from India who heard about Vassula’s visit in Bangladesh wanted to meet with her. They scheduled an appointment to meet him at 7:00 that afternoon. Fr. Srijon SJ-Jesuit priest, Brother James Gomes, and Mr. Mintu Jachim Gomes came to our hotel at exactly 7:00 pm. Brother James informed Vassula that some years ago he had bought all the TLIG books that were printed in Bengali and has given them all away. The books’ publishers are hoping to be able to print the books again. Fr. Srijon seemed very happy to meet Vassula and was eager to learn as much as he could about her life and her experience with Jesus. Vassula, Theodora and Heidi promised Fr. Srijon that they will send him the TLIG Messages- One Book in English as he wants to read all the messages that have been printed. The messages are still not translated in Bengali, and so far there is no volunteer to do this work.
On February 23th, after breakfast, Imam Mohammed and Sujit came and picked them up from the hotel to go to the Dharmarajika Buddhist Monastery and attend Sanghadana (offerings to the Sangha). Sangha is a Sanskrit word that means ‘assembly,’ or ‘community’. Before making the offerings to the Buddhist VIPs, the donors (from Italy, India, Spain and other countries) who were present meditated on the nine virtues of the Sangha. Vassula, Heidi, and Theodora were asked to meet Mr. Anupar Barua, headmaster of the monastery’s high school. After this meeting, at around 2:15 pm, they were escorted to the conference hall for the Awards Ceremony.
Mr. Anupar Barua, Headmaster of the High School of the Monastery with other professors and their wifes.
Vassula has already been awarded four times as a ‘Divine Messenger for Peace and Reconciliation’ by the Venerable, and at this time the fifth medal was awarded to the TLIG Associations.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
The first time Vassula was invited to this same temple was back in 2003, when she was honored to receive the Gold Medal for her efforts to promote peace in the world. In 2009, she was offered, along with four other honorable leaders of different faiths, the Gold Medal for her efforts towards propagating “Interfaith Harmony and Peaceful co-existing.” In 2011, Vassula was invited again by the Venerable and was offered the Peace Gold Award Medal for Inter-Religious Harmony and Peace. In 2015, she received the Buddha Kristi Prachar Sangha Peace Gold Award for the same reasons.
This year, the Venerable chose to honor the True Life in God Associations, through Vassula, for their benevolent contribution toward their monastery’s orphans and destitute children and given the Atisha Dipankar Peace Gold Award. Enclosed in this report is the article that Vassula was asked to write, under the topic: “What work do the True Life in God Associations’ members do?” It was printed in a special issue of the “Kristi” Magazine, which was published for the conference.
The article about the True Life in God Associations - Kristi Magazine
When people started to get to know that Jesus had called Vassula Ryden to become his instrument to receive and write down His Divine Messages in 1985 while she was living in Dhaka, many people were eager to read these divine messages. Later, Jesus asked her to create prayer groups around the world under the name that He Himself gave, which is: True Life in God. These prayer groups pray for peace and harmony in the world, for a change of heart, and for unity in diversity.
Vassula has travelled to more than eighty-six countries, delivering these divine messages, and so, by the grace of God, many prayer groups developed, as well as associations, in order to print the divine messages in books, and to have a legal base for their distribution. However, at the same time, Jesus was asking these members of the associations to become apostles of these end of times: to evangelize God’s Word to the world, encouraging everyone to repent and pray. Their task was to make the divine messages known to the world through whatever talent they were given by God.
Not long after this development, Jesus asked Vassula to start programming retreats, ecumenical pilgrimages and interfaith pilgrimages. With the help of TLIG associations’ members, all of whom are blessed as all were formed according to God's Will, the pilgrimages are greatly successful, and thus glorify God. At these pilgrimages, the TLIG associations invite Christian clergy, Moslem imams, rabbis, Buddhists monks and Hindus to gather together and pray for peace, reconciliation, and unity in diversity.
Simultaneously, Vassula had a vision of the Holy Virgin Mary, who asked her to create the Beth Myriam houses where the poor are fed, and many are provided as well with other necessities. The TLIG associations' work has been a blessing, taking care of these houses, which, in obeying the Holy Virgin Mary’s request, the houses have received God’s blessing and are under the Holy Virgin Mary’s leadership. We are told in the TLIG divine Messages that we must not make distinction of race or religion, but treat everyone who is in need equally, and love each of them equally. Today there are twenty-seven Beth Myriams in the world (including two we call ‘acts of love’ projects: the TLIG School in Kulun, and here, at this place, the Dharmarajika Orphanage. Both ‘acts of love’ projects are run by volunteers from the True Life in God Associations. The volunteers, who are apostles of True Life in God, work untiringly to serve humanity with love: to spread peace where there is war, love where there is hatred, hope where there is despair, consolation where there is pain. These are the emblems of the True Life in God Associations’ members.
Even though the members of the True Life in God Associations are located in different nations, they all work together as one group and in harmony, with a common purpose and a common mind, and that is to help humanity live in peace and harmony, and to transmit God’s love to everyone. They learned to know that where there is unity there is no competition and no conceit. They understand that they were called by God together to be as parts of one body. And, I would add, these associations are multiplying their good fruits; we can always tell the tree from its fruit.
We need to understand that no one in the TLIG prayer groups or in the True Life in God Associations is taking personal leadership or obtaining any salary, but all work as in one unit, and as volunteers. These members never forget that Jesus Christ selected them to work for Him as apostles, generously pouring over them His Knowledge and His Wisdom, so that they should be justified by His Grace and accomplish His Work in a spirit of gentleness.
The names of the other guests who also received the Atisha Dipankar Peace Gold Award were: The Most Venerable Lama Gangchen, The World Peace Foundation from Italy, The Most Venerable Lama Lobzang from India, Professor Dr. Shiv Kumar Sarin from India, and Mr. Zhuang Lifeng from China. The guests who were given the Visuddhananda Peace Gold Award, which is given to personalities who are dedicated to the service of humanity or for best efforts in establishing inter-religious harmony, were: The Norwegian Bangladesh Association, Norway; Mr. Pijush Bandopadhya from Bangladesh, and Engineer Pulak Kanti Barua from Bangladesh.
The names of the Awardees.
Vassula Ryden, along with the other awardees, was escorted to the stage. The ceremony’s Chief Guest was the Most Honorable Md. Tazul Islam M.P., Minister for Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operative, Government of Bangladesh. Honorable Inaugurator Mr. Saber Hossain Chowdhury, Member of the Parliament, was also invited as a special guest. Once the minister arrived, the program began with songs and a Bangladesh dance. Some welcome speeches opened the ceremony, and immediately following the gold medals distribution ensued.
Vassula was the first to be called to get the Atisha Dipankar Peace Gold Award Medal. Minister Md. Tazul Islam M.P presented it to her. He first gave her a large plaque, and then placed the gold award medal and a shawl around her neck. In accordance with their culture, it is a great honor for a person to receive this shawl. After all the recipients were awarded, Venerable Suddhananda gave his speech, in which he thanked the distinguished guests and congratulated the recipients. Vassula’s name was mentioned more than one time in his speech, which shows the extent of love and appreciation he has for her.
Receiving the Peace Gold Award Plaque
Vassula receiving the Peace Gold Award rom them Minister Md. Tazul Islam M.P
Minister Md. Tazul Islam M.P putting the shawl around Vassula's neck.
The Venerable with Vassula at the Award Ceremony
All fine Peace Gold Award Medals
Peace Award Medal 2019.
Vassula was then called to say a few words. Below is Vassula’s speech:
Vassula giving her speech at the 2019 Award Ceremony.
“I wish to convey my sincere thanks to all of you and in particular to the Most Venerable Suddhananda and his team who invited me here with my friends. The True Life in God Associations and I wish to convey our warmest greetings to all of you at this meeting.
I’ve now known Venerable Suddhananda for many years, and I must say that he leaves us with a great impression of his kindness, his hospitality, and the good works he accomplishes helping the youth through school and university. He is like a loving father to all of these children. These good works will be highly seen in Heaven by the Almighty God and he will be richly recompensed.
Together with my friends we organize pilgrimages to assemble people, clergy and clerics from around the world in a big pilgrimage that we do every second year. We invite different people of different religions, whether they are Christians, Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and we have this pilgrimage together so that we can understand, during its course, that we are not so different from one another; we have the same needs and desires.
In our life span, that is not long, we must work for reconciliation, peace and unity. If the world continues to govern itself in the way we know it today, it leads itself to destruction. Through signs, we can see how nature is reacting and rebelling against us, becoming more fierce. We see bigger catastrophes, larger earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis etc., bigger attacks from individuals.
We must be an example to everyone, showing others that humans can live in peace and harmony, and can reconcile with each other. We must learn to forgive. The answer to the question that is so often asked: “What are the actions that make it possible to live together and build a city of peace under the eyes of the Creator?” The answer is the following:
If all the religions of the world repented and reconciled, all men and women would recognize each other as brothers and sisters descending from one Source. If people faced the reality of the divine, they would be led to love God and one another. If people answered the request for prayer for peace, the cry of our prayer would spread throughout the world. If one accepted that there must be reconciliation and unity in diversity between all of us, there would be a triumphant achievement to peace. If people seriously considered the warnings and signs that come from above, showing what the evil can do to humanity, this poison that is in men’s hearts will be cast out and they will be healed. If people heeded our call to peace, all men and women would already be saints. If everyone shared in our efforts for peace and reconciliation, the personal history of each one, and consequently the history of all humankind, would be a Song of Love.
The question now is: can we truly reconcile with one another?
Yes! Yes, we can unite, so long as we learn to love, by reminding ourselves of our divine origin and moral values. We must remind ourselves to become the image of the living God, or of our saints who have no trace of impurity, no trace of prejudice, no trace of vengeance, no trace of hatred.
I sincerely hope that the day will come, when, through our efforts and our sacrifices, we will bring the peace, harmony and unity that are so desired by all of us, but above all, desired by the Almighty God. ”
Vassula returned to her seat and the minister, who was sitting next to her, congratulated her for her speech. He told her that he liked what she said. The other awardees also gave their speeches, which were based on the necessity for peace and human rights. After the program ended, Vassula, Theodora and Heidi attended a special dinner at the Hotel Dubani together with the other guests and award recipients.
It is worth mentioning that about one thousand people attended this awards event. It was also telecast by two national tv channels, BTV and ATN Bangla, and a report of the event was published in a local newspaper.
"Bless the LORD, O my soul; and forget none of His benefits."
"Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise Thee."
"I will give thanks to Thee, O LORD my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Thy name forever."
"Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!"
--Psalm 103:2, 63:3, 86:12, 150:6 NASB
The next day the Venerable Suddhananda invited Vassula, Heidi and Theodora to visit the National Museum in Shahbag, and then reconvene at the monastery; however, since they were scheduled to depart for their home countries that night, Vassula thanked him for his kind invitation, and informed him that they needed to rest during the day, since they would be traveling the whole night.
The Venerable waves goodbye when Vassula departs from the Monastery
Needless to say, their return back to Greece was a bit tragic, for as just a few hours before their plane departed, a Biman airline leaving from the airport for Dubai was hijacked. A twenty-five year- old young man tried to storm the cockpit and had a gun. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing at Shah Amanat International Airport in Chittagong. Thank God all one hundred forty two passengers were allowed to leave the plane. The police and the army surrounded the aircraft, managed to capture the hijacker, and were unfortunately forced to kill him, as he got aggressive towards them. May our sweet Lord show mercy to his soul.
Consequently, their airplane from Dhaka to Doha had a one hour delay, so they lost their connecting flight from Doha to Athens. They were obliged to take the next flight for Athens, which took-off quite late in the afternoon.
What can one say? Working as an apostle for Jesus is an honor, but it has its adventures as well. Serving the Lord in all humility, with all its trials, and some pitfalls from the evil one, has never affected Vassula in her call. Nor has it affected her companions who travel with her. When going on a mission, no one has any idea what will happen. All we know is that the Holy Spirit has fully clarified that fruits will multiply in spite of the difficulties. To bear witness on good works is giving witness to God’s Love, and the whole of God’s purpose. To exert assistance for the weak and needy and to support them reminds us of the words of the Lord Jesus, who Himself said, “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.”