The resounding message from conference planners of the 2018 World Hindu Congress (WHC) scheduled to take place in Chicago next week, is strengthening the Hindu community on a global scale for the pursuit of the common good for all. The once in a four-year event aims to harness the full potential of Hindus around the globe and provide a platform to network, share ideas and inspire one another.
“Any community that wants to progress and be respected must establish global visibility. Economy, education, media, and politics are the primary sectors where we need to increase our impact and women, and youth will be the primary drivers,” said Swami Vigyananand, founder & global chairman of World Hindu Foundation (WHF) and chief organizer of WHC held in Delhi in 2014.
Among those attending the congress include prominent dignitaries like Vice President of India Venkiaiah Naidu, Dr. Mohan Bhagwat, chief of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Art of Living Head Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Governor of Bali, Prime Minister of Mauritius, Vice President of Surinam, and bollywood actor Anupam Kher.
This year’s conference convener is Abhaya Asthana, and Sham Seth will host the conference.
“When people hear the word Hindu conference they think it’s a spiritual conference. There will be no spiritual discourses,” conference convener Abhaya Asthana said in an interview. “The aim is to use the essence of Hindu philosophy, dharma, to inform how we come together (in the diaspora) as men, women and youth — in politics, education and commerce.”
The sold-out conference is expected to host more than 2,500 delegates and has attracted top leaders, heads of state and representatives more than 53 nations, with nearly 23 percent of participants from the Arab countries, South America, UK, and Europe.
“For Hindu businessmen, it’s the first of its kind platform to meet and network. The first WHC Congress has set a precedence in 2014 which established our organization as a critical platform for Hindus worldwide,” said Soumitra Gokhale of a member of the WHC international outreach committee.
With the goal of promoting the collective power of more than 1.2 billion Hindus worldwide of which more than 35 million exist in the diaspora, the conference will focus on four key areas: business, education, media and politics- with a emphasis on the roles of women, youth and the numerous Hindu community organizations around the world.
The Hindu Organisations Conference panel organized by the Hindu Organisations, Temples and Associations Forum (HOTA) is one critical component for mobilizing the community at large.
“It’s important for Hindu organizations worldwide whether they are linguistic, cultural and social to maintain their sectoral identity. What we are asking from them is to transcending the sectoral identity to establish a larger Hindu identity in the world built on our unified strengths,” said Vigyananand.
After the economic pillar which has attracted more than 600 delegates the women and youth sessions are most popular at this year’s conference according to planners.
“Our goal is to enable women to become the driver’s of the economy through not only promoting their own education but also through the education of children and society, Once women become a part of mainstream decision-making in key areas they will remove the objectification and bring more equality. They are the beacons that will carry our future generation,” Vigyananand added.
Volunteers in the Chicago area, across the U.S and delegates from other nations including Thailand, where the next 2022 conference will take place have joined forces to organize and plan the meeting.
“More than 250 volunteers worldwide have contributed to making this conference happen. I am so pleased and excited with the way everybody came together. That convinces me that- yes if Hindus want to come together to do something bigger they can,” said Asthana.
Beyond networking and sharing ideas, delegates can expect to leave with tangible outcomes and a shared understanding regarding the way forward towards building a collective influence. Each program will have its own projects and goals that will be announced at the conference.