The Institute of Jainology (IOJ) and the Jain All-Party Parliamentary Group celebrated a milestone as they gathered for the 20th annual Ahimsa Day at the prestigious House of Commons, Palace of Westminster.
This revered occasion, an annual tradition at the heart of the House of Commons, united esteemed personalities, dignitaries, parliamentarians, representatives from Jain and other faith communities, and academics.
The evening commenced with a tranquil recitation of the sacred Jain prayer, Navkar Mantra, and blessings by the revered nuns, Pujya Samani ji, setting an atmosphere of spiritual elevation for the assembly. Dr. Mehool H Sanghrajka, the Managing Trustee of the IOJ, extended a warm welcome to the attendees, underlining the significance of promoting compassion and non-violence in today’s world.
Gareth Thomas MP, Chair of the Jain All-Party Parliamentary Group, delivered a gracious welcome, emphasizing the enduring relevance of Ahimsa in nurturing peace and harmony. Bob Blackman MP, Vice-Chair of the Jain APPG, also extended a warm welcome, emphasizing the importance of understanding and supporting the Jain community’s cultural and educational needs.
Addressing the gathering, Shadow Minister of Faith, Sarah Owen MP, underscored the importance of upholding principles of non-violence and compassion in society.
Lord Karan Bilimoria, Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, delivered an impactful introduction, paving the way for the announcement of the endowment of the Bhagwan Dharmanath Chair at the University of Birmingham. To mark this momentous occasion, the Directors of the IOJ presented a Jain Murti (idol) of Bhagwan Dharmanath to the Chancellor and other university professors.
The University of Birmingham reaffirmed its profound commitment to fostering Jain Studies through the words of Professor Charlotte Hempel, Professor David Cheetham, Professor Andrew Davies, and Dr Marie Hélène Gorisse, collectively articulating the institution’s dedication.
The highlight of the evening was the prestigious Ahimsa Award presentation. This accolade, previously bestowed upon luminaries such as HM The King and the Dalai Lama, was awarded to Jasvant Nagindas Modi of Los Angeles, California, for his exceptional contributions to Jain education, endowing over 30 chairs at major colleges and universities, notably the University of Birmingham.
Kumar Mehta, a Director of the Institute, read the citation and announced Mr. Modi as the winner of the 2023 Ahimsa Award. The presentation was made by the Chair and Vice Chair of the Jain APPG alongside the Directors of the IOJ, graciously acknowledged by Mr. Modi in his heartfelt response.
Nemubhai Chandaria OBE, IOJ Chair, praised Jasvant Nagindas Modi, stating, “Jasvant bhai is a deserving winner of this year’s Ahimsa Award for establishing many chairs in Jain studies in Western universities. His vision of Jain education becoming a part of the mainstream has already started to become a reality.”
Parveen Jain of the Arihanta Institute, a prominent online platform for the study of applied Jainism, outlined the institute’s vision and objectives, joined by Dr. Christopher Millar, its Academic Director.
The event culminated with Dr. Adrian Plau of the Wellcome Collection, responsible for the collection’s 2,000 Jain manuscripts. Dr. Plau discussed the acquisition and Wellcome’s decision on the restitution of the entire collection to the Jain community. Dr. Mehool Sanghrajka, on behalf of the IOJ, graciously accepted the collection, hailing the move as brave and pioneering. He announced that the IOJ would arrange for the collection to be loaned to the Jain center at the University of Birmingham, contributing to its status as a global hub for Jain teaching and research.
Amit Lathia, a director of the IOJ, offered the vote of thanks, expressing gratitude to all participants and attendees, acknowledging those who had traveled far for this momentous event.