“God has no one name, no one face, no one color or one shape. God is pluralistic.” –Father Varghese
Then, why do we fight to preserve the name that we know, the characteristic that we identify with, and the color that we prefer? Why has God become a “commodity that is up for sale”?
Father Varghese Alengaden, a Catholic priest from India and founder of the Universal Solidarity Movement (USM), recounted his personal journey that has led him to placing truth and spirituality above what he identified as "religiosity".
Father Varghese grew up in a devout Catholic family in the South of India. He joined the priesthood, compelled by his upbringing and faith. In his early years as a priest, he traveled to northern India as a missionary. As he preached and experienced life with his Northern brothers and sisters, his eyes were opened to the injustices and the shortcomings of Indian society. India prides itself for its diversity and pluralism. However, Father Varghese saw how obsession with faith, caste and ethnic identity were tearing the Indian people apart.
He prayed, seeking for clarity in truth and his connection with God. He realized that we tear each other down and split families apart because we have become consumed with religiosity. Father Varghese defines religiosity as the outward practice and traditions of religion. In our search for connection to community through rituals and beliefs, we have turned a blind eye to the fundamental values and principles of our faiths that actually bind us together.
Father Varghese founded USM to bring back the focus to common values and ethics found within world religions and lessen overzealous emphasis on religiosity. His search for common ground reminds us that the journey to establish peace must go beyond self-promotion and self-preservation if it is to succeed.
He concluded by encouraging the audience to reconnect to the essential principles of one's own spirituality, principles such as love, justice, honor, respect and dignity.
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