Smiles Without Borders. The Power of Interfaith in Touching the Untouchable.

8 February 2023
Deepak Kumar Manoj Ram

Deepak Kumar - on the left, holding a Nepali flag - and Manoj Ram - on the right, holding an Indian flag. Photo credits: Alanna Sousa

With how many smiles can we change the world? One may think that it would take millions, but it is a single first that leads to the revealing of so many others. And whether you smile here in Brazil or across oceans, in India, smiling is a universal language. One that crosses any border. If only everyone had the same reasons to smile, despite their faith, class position, and/or caste.

As we welcome the World Interfaith Harmony Week - Annual UN Observance Week: Feb. 1-7 - we come to invite you to reflect upon and celebrate the power of interfaith in touching the untouchable by sharing the story of Deepak Kumar (Indian Hindu) and Manoj Ram (Nepali Dalit), two men whose difference in religion and geography did not prevent them from coming together and stepping forward towards implementing Educational, Environmental and Empowerment programs in underprivileged areas of their home countries. 

Smiles4Millions Foundation and Peace4Dalits are URI affiliated Cooperation Circles (grassroots organizations) that found in our global platform the possibility to connect their passion and purpose of promoting peace through education while caring for the environment, and eliminating caste-based discrimination. In other words, to put smiles on millions of faces, especially of those who have been deprived of reasons to smile.

While the caste system is officially prohibited, socially speaking it is still a daily reality in India and Nepal. A fact that leads to unequal access to education in a world where ignorance can be a bliss to some but a curse to many others, thus leaving no space for a face to smile. 

"The Dalits women and children were not given equal status by elite society but now they are coming to celebrate with them. URI solved the issue by uniting them. Two different countries holding hands together to provide education to people who are eliminated by society,"

replied Manoj about the impact of URI in the work done by the CCs.

Smiles without borders. The gathering of URI's East Asia CCs Leadership representatives and Global Staff Members to learn about grassroots work being done connected through interfaith togetherness. Photo credit: Deepak Kumar)

On this note, Deepak added:

"Smiles can be reached through education. Smiles can be reached by planting the samplings. Smiles come from helping or empowering society. [...]We both are working together with URI, and URI is a network giving us support in educating the slums students, educating the Dalit's people, the Dalit's children."

The sense of belonging and oneness* found in our URI network is the glue that connects us as a world community and challenges the status quo. A necessary challenge to a necessary change.

May we be inspired by Deepak and Manoj's courage to bring smiles to millions, on this World Interfaith Harmony Week.

* words repeated passionately in so many of the speeches and testimonials collected from CC members, Regional Leaders, and Multi region Trustees.