Ms. Dena Merriam helped organise the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious Leaders, which Amma addressed at the U.N. in New York in 2000. She also convened the “Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious & Spiritual Leaders” at the U.N. in Geneva 2003. At Amritavarsham50, she served as the announcer of the endorsement and global initiatives that came out of the Women’s Initiative, “Embracing Universal Motherhood for Peace & Harmony.”
“This event has been phenomenal. Of all the religious and spiritual gatherings I have been to around the world, this is something special. To have such an energy coming from one religious leader—this is of a magnitude I have not seen.” —Ms. Dena Merriam
Your speech this morning was very moving and powerful. Did you plan it?
“Actually, I didn’t know what I was going to say when I came here. I try and tune in and say what I feel in the moment needs to be said.”
How did you come to work with interfaith events?
“My spiritual background is with Paramahansa Yogananda and study of the Vedas, but I have worked closely with all traditions. Professionally, I began as a cultural journalist, covering art and spirituality and then moved into women’s issues. Then I began counseling spiritual organisations.”
What is the importance of interfaith activities?
“Not theological discussion but bringing people together to discuss issues—issues such as conflict, weapons of mass destruction, care for the environment—so that different religious groups can join their efforts and work side by side.
“For instance, in the Middle East, I walked with an orthodox Jewish lady and a Palestinian lady. We walked to see the sacred sites, the Wailing Wall and the Dome of the Rock. You go through massive security to these sites. The guards didn’t want to let a Muslim to the Wailing Wall and the same at the Dome of the Rock, they didn´t want to let a Jew in. But they stood hand-in-hand and insisted on going through together. Their loyalty to each other got them through.
“At the Dome of the Rock, they sat down together and meditated. Both were following Eastern practices. It confirmed my feeling that spiritual solutions are the only solutions.”
What is your impression of Amritavarsham50 thus far?
“This event has been phenomenal. Of all the religious and spiritual gatherings I have been to around the world, this is something special. To have such an energy coming from one religious leader, this is of a magnitude I have not seen.”
What good do you see coming out of it?
“The voice of the Divine Mother must come forward now, at this time, in a very strong and powerful way, so that the whole world will listen. Eastern religions have not been given their rightful place at the table; they have not been acknowledged by the rest of the religious community. Understanding of the Divine Mother is one of India’s gifts. This gathering brings out love, the Divine Mother’s message, as well as the message of the Vedic culture. This event will have tremendous reverberations in ways which we can’t envisage.”
Is there something personal for you as well?
“For me, my path is devotion to the Divine Mother, and it is wonderful to see that manifested in Amma. It’s a heartache for me that I haven’t found recognition for that around the world. The time is ripe for this to come forth on a global scale. What I have found is that Amma’s gift is very subtle—it’s an empowerment of my work. I described in my speech how I came to Amma when I felt like I couldn’t make the Geneva Summit work, and She effected a transformation in me that helped me move forward and make it a success. Her work is at the level of the spirit—it’s very subtle.”