Respect diversity, Amma tells China meet

Shanghai, Nov 29 (IANS) Indian spiritual guru Mata Amritanandamayi, popularly known as Amma, Thursday urged the world to respect diversity and all cultures.

"We have to acknowledge that even though we are one in essence, externally, we are different," Amma told a two−day conference here attended by more than 150 delegates from around the world.

The meeting on "Harmony through Diversity and Dialogue", organised by a UN body, is being attended by delegates representing governments, academia, corporations, NGOs and cultural organisations. It ends Friday.

Amma, the only spiritual leader invited to the conference, spoke in Malayalam on coexistence and engagement between cultures.

She explained how globalization had affected coexistence both positively and negatively, emphasizing that "coexistence is possible only when culture and modernization are in balance".

She warned that efforts at coexistence fail when people claim "We are all one" but disrespect each other's ancient customs and traditions.

Amma urged the assembly to respect diversity. "An awareness of the need for coexistence amidst diversity is the only way to alleviate the suffering of others."

Asking everyone to show respect and tolerance, she said: "When we engage others with respect, understanding and acceptance, then we will be able to communicate at the level of the heart."

In her speech, Amma focussed on the power of love.

"For 40 years, I have been communicating with people of all languages, races, colours, castes and religion, from the very poorest to the rich and famous, through the language of love.

"There are no barriers for love. I have full faith in the transformational power of love to unite all hearts."

This was Amma's first visit to China. In the past three decades, she has visited numerous countries preaching spirituality − from the US and Russia to Africa and Reunion Island.

Among those who heard Amma were Cui Tiankai, China's vice minister in the foreign ministry, UN official Jean−Christophe Bas, Chen Jian, president of the UN Association of China, and Tu Guangshao, vice mayor of Shanghai.

The UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) has organised the conference, a spokesperson for Amma told IANS.

During the past 40 years, Amma, whose spiritual organization is headquartered in Kerala, has embraced more than 32 million people from all over the world as a gesture of blessing.

Amma's charitable wing, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math, has provided free medical care to more than 2.6 million people.