As a testament to unity, community service, and interfaith harmony, the lamp of peace and unity lit up a community event at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London – popularly known as Neasden Temple.
The inspiring community event was hosted recently in the presence of His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj – a globally respected Hindu spiritual leader who is currently visiting the UK – and esteemed guests from all over the UK.
The event brought together more than 1,400 guests, friends and well-wishers to explore the core values of faith, service and global harmony through live performances, videos and presentations by esteemed speakers from around the world.
In his address to the audience, Captain James Basnett, Director of Flying at British Airways (BA), reflected on the longstanding partnership with BAPS to support various humanitarian efforts and the correlation between His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s ethos, “In the joy of others lies our own,” and BA’s motto, “Fly to serve.”
He noted: “Engagement with the community is possible at all levels. It inspires, it informs, and it brings together and awakens the human spirit within our organisations.”
Charlotte Hill, Chief Executive of the Felix Project, shared her positive impressions of the event and the work with Neasden Temple.
She said: “Being at an event like this is such a humbling reminder of what can be achieved when communities come together. We’ve loved the partnership that The Felix Project has always had with Neasden Temple.”
Esteemed speakers like Professor Chris Butler, Professor of Primary Care at the University of Oxford, highlighted the essential contributions of the Mandir and BAPS during Covid and in serving the wider nation at a critical time. Stressing the importance of community health, he said: “In the joy of others lies our own, but I would like to add on behalf of our partnership and collaboration that ‘In the health of others lies our own’.”
The event highlighted inspiring stories from around the world, including from Yann Dubosc, Mayor of Bussy-Saint-Georges – an eastern suburb of Paris where a BAPS mandir is being constructed.
He said: “Through BAPS, I discovered the wisdom and values of Hinduism, such as mutual respect regardless of age or race, and service to society, as exemplified by your commendable actions during COVID and at the beginning of the war in Ukraine.”
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He also shared his appreciation of the “dialogue [by BAPS] with other communities to preserve and promote harmony” in the region.
David Gold, Director of External Affairs and Public Policy at Royal Mail, praised Neasden Temple as a global architectural icon and a beacon of diversity and openness. “This is a place that opens its doors and opens its heart to all of us regardless of our faith or whether we have no faith at all,” he commented.
Andrew Davidson, the artist behind Royal Mail’s ‘Diversity & Community’ Coronation stamp featuring Neasden Temple, shared his personal experience of designing the stamp: “As you may well imagine, the diversity stamp was the hardest to design and the most sensitive, as all faiths which share this small island must be represented fairly and respectfully. From a personal point of view, I thought this temple was the most perfect to represent your faith.”
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Reflecting on the significance of the event, Harriet Crabtree, Executive Director of the Interfaith Network for the UK, said: “When you’re in the presence of a holy person [His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj] and leader with a powerful commitment to unity and bringing people together, it’s a very remarkable experience.”
Mahant Swami Maharaj (pictured below) underscored the values of unity, peace and service, reflecting the teachings of Their Holinesses Yogiji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj. “They didn’t just say this; they lived it, every second of their lives,” he said.
Yogvivekdas Swami, Head Swami of BAPS UK & Europe, concluded: “Together we can build bridges, we can foster understanding, and pave the way for a better, brighter future of global harmony.”
*Info: Neasden Temple