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Row at religious forum

By SEAN DOUGLAS Saturday, June 21 2014

A SMALL row broke out yesterday between participants at a forum on the “Ancient wisdom and spirituality in the modern world” held at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain. A dispute arose as to who was hosting the conference, with some guests telling Newsday they had been led to believe the event was run by the Inter Religious Organisation (IRO), but in their view it seemed to have been taken over by one religious group, the Brahma Kumaris organisation.

The head of the IRO is Brother Harrypersad Maharaj who is also listed on the IRO website as a member of the Brahma Kumaris.

One complainant told Newsday that the head table was dominated by the Brahma Kumaris Organisation, whereas he would preferred to have seen panelists from a range of religious groups. He claimed that a well-known representative of another religious organisation had actually taken it upon himself to modestly apologise for the apparent domination by the Brahma Kumaris Organisation. The source wondered if their conference leadership was involved in a conflict of interest between the IRO and the Brahma Kumaris Organisation. He alleged that this scenario was a violation of the IRO’s founding principles. Another complainant said, “You can’t have ‘inter religious’, and you are just promoting one body. My expectation had been to hear from a cross-section of religious leaders in the society.”

In the question and answer session, this was the very first issue raised, by Kenrick Francis, a member of the Seon Goodridge Society that represents alumni of Codrington College of Barbados. “We are ecumenical. The IRO is the Inter Religious Organisation yet we notice an absence of presenters truly representative of ecumenicalism.” He said Christianity is one of the sources of ancient wisdom and so its teachings should have been represented.

Harrypersad replied that the conference was organised by both the IRO and the Brahma Kumaris Organisation. He said the presenters were not religious leaders but religious scholars. “It is not an ecumenical service. It is not an ecumenical conference,” Harrypersad declared.

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