Exactly 125 years after Swami Vivekananda spoke at the Chicago World Parliament of Religions, former President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday attended a commemorative gathering of representatives of nine religions and delivered a message for interfaith harmony.
The religions were Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Jainism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism and the Baha'i faith, a statement from the organiser, the Ramakrishna Mission, said.
The inter-faith meet happened at the Mission premises here, and Mukherjee spelt out the significance of Vivekananda's speech in establishing "India as the world leader in matters of spirituality", the statement said.
The spiritual leader, who was representing India and Hinduism at Chicago in 1893, had said that he is "proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth".
"Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair.
"Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now," Vivekananda had said.
The sentiment of acceptance, and not mere tolerance, of religious diversity, was reiterated in the speeches made by representatives of each religion.
The speech by Sri Ramakrishna's chief disciple is still held as a landmark one by people across faiths.
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