Women Offer Interfaith Peace Prayers at India War Memorial

New Delhi, India - On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the Guild for Service and War Widows Association observed March 8, 2009, as “Women’s Day for Peace and Justice” and offered interfaith peace prayers at India Gate, a war memorial in New Delhi.

On a pleasant Sunday morning in the quiet environs of the India Gate, at the Amar Jawan Jyoti [Tomb of the Unknown Soldier], members, well-wishers of the Guild for Service and War Widows Association gathered to pay homage to martyrs, spread the message of peace through interfaith prayers, and observe the Women’s Day for Peace and Justice.

The International Women's Day is celebrated on March 8 every year. It is a major day for global celebration of the economic, political, and social achievements of women.

Global societies are marred by heinous crimes against women, including rape, dowry deaths, and female infanticide. Problems across the globe such as domestic violence and death due to dowry occur frequently in India. The marriage of under-age girls causes its own set of problems, such as infertility, population growth, and women's health. Women’s rights cover an array of aspects from Education and Equality, to the Girl Child and Health and Well Being. Thus the International Women’s Day holds special significance in India.

Smt. Gursharan Kaur, the Chief Guest and wife of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, arrived at 8:30 AM, and tight security arrangements were visible all around. Among the special guests were Ms. Syeda Hameed, Member of the Planning Commission; Ms. Sushma Seth, eminent film personality; and Ms. Kiran Walia, Honorable Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Women & Child Development, and Languages of the Government of Delhi. Ms. Rashmi Singh, Ms. Suman Krishan Kant, and many other distinguished guests also graced the occasion.

Wreaths were placed at the Amar Jawan Jyoti [Tomb of the Unknown Soldier] remembering the sacrifices of valiant martyrs by Ms. Gursharan Kaur, war widows, and other distinguished guests. Bugles were sounded as a mark of respect to the martyrs.

Greeting the women on behalf of the Guild of Service and War Widows Association, Dr. V. Mohini Giri, Chair of the Guild and a founding trustee of the Universal Peace Federation in India, welcomed the guests and read a message of the Honorable President of India, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil.

Dr. Giri said that women's movements across the globe have accelerated women-oriented policies and governments recognize women as equal partners in development and other activities. "Now women have come into view significantly in the government’s agendas of social reforms and initiatives, and there exist several organizations that cater to the rights of women on a very tangible level. Women in urban and metropolitan areas benefit most from these rights."

Since interfaith prayers have always contributed much to national integration, the Guild of Service recognizes the importance of prayers being a feature of its functions. "We are thankful for the support of committed persons from across religions who have been participating in the Guild for Service functions," Dr. Giri said.

A Sarva Dharma Prarthana [prayers offered by people of many faiths] was a part of this celebration. The message of peace was delivered through prayers and holy recitations by members from the National Spiritual Assembly of Baha'i, the music of the YWCA Christian choir, Muslim recitations, Sufi songs, and Sikh and Parsi prarthana [prayers]. The solemnity of the occasion was touching and was able to spread the message that India is united and secular while being open to many faiths.

Dr. Giri thanked everyone for their cooperation and for making the function a success. She expressed hope that women across the globe will be able to lead lives of dignity and self respect.

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