TOPICS: Lumbini: Interfaith and pilgrimage destination

Interfaith dialogue is one of the most important tools contributing to feelings of peace and tolerance. The interfaith dialogue is the mother of all dialogues, aimed at decreasing differences among diverse communities the world over. The most important task in the times ahead will be acquaintance of members of different religions with each other in order to exchange information, realise common goals and establish peace around the world. There is a saying: Peace will just be a dream unless the peace among religions is established.

Lumbini can provide an ideal environment for such a global dialogue in the 21st century. The gathering of the divine religions in Lumbini may be considered a part of faith tourism initiative. Lumbini has a huge potential as a destination for interfaith dialogue. Our indispensable task should be to respect different faiths and preserve holy places belonging to other communities. Lumbini could be made synonymous with peace. A lot of effort has gone into developing Lumbini as an international pilgrimage destination and a peace destination for all. The 16-member International Committee for the Development of Lumbini unanimously adopted a vision and made it a common agenda to develop Lumbini as World Peace City during the 60th UN Anniversary Summit. Likewise, Second World Buddhist Summit 2004 declared Lumbini as World Peace City.

As it is, Lumbini is an important World Heritage Site. A sense of belongingness is essential for development of the region. Peace, understanding and clear vision transcend national boundaries. Tourism, which brings people living in different geographies together and gives them the opportunity to know each other better, should be promoted, encouraged and used as a means to unite people, whether they travel out of faith or purely to witness the great cultural elements. Lumbini can be home to pilgrims, peace lovers and tourists from around the world. Lumbini not only provides an ultimate pilgrimage and nirvana for Buddhists, it is also one of the most important destinations for non-Buddhists, to be visited at least once in one’s lifetime.

Buddha’s message of compassion is more relevant today than at any other time in history. Teachings and philosophy of Buddha need to be put into practice for the promotion of universal brotherhood, peace, prosperity of mankind and mutual understanding among nations of the world.

It is paradoxical to say that Nepal is a peaceful country, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, while the country has been going through such turbulent times for over a decade. In view of current climate of uncertainties, the desire for peace among people has got even stronger. Not only Nepalis but also the whole world is waiting for a day when Nepal will be peaceful again and recognised as one of the important landmarks for world peace. Political stability and inclusiveness will go a long way towards achieving this end.

Ghimire is PhD scholar on Pilgrimage tourism and Lumbini, TU