28 May 2007

Quo Vadis

Near Chengam Road and close to several major ashrams, work is almost complete on the primary stage of the development of Quo Vadis; an Interfaith Dialogue Centre being set up by Arcot Lutheran Church.

The co-ordinator of Quo Vadis and Lutheran pastor of this area, Rev. Joshua Peter told me:

"Quo Vadis is Latin and means 'Where are you going?' Because we consider life a pilgrimage, a travel. So in this life we want to stop at one point when we meet people, and stop them as well and try to raise this question, 'Where are you going? Where are you coming from?' By that we start a dialogue."

The below is a photograph of a small hut currently being used for meditation, talks and meetings. As the hut is the original building of the Quo Vadis compound, it will continue to remain centre stage.

When I first saw the below carving, which I think is quite magnificent, I thought it was some kind of African icon. Rev. Joshua Peter told me that it was in fact done by a Tamil artist that had recently come to visit the Centre and it was carved out of a tree that had to be felled before construction of Quo Vadis, could be commenced. It was felt that it would honour the tree and site to transform the felled tree into a permanent sentinel at the compound.

The purpose of the Inter Faith Dialogue Centre is also about faith:

"This is also to share about the faith. Because many so-called ordinary people think that if religion has to be discussed that it should be done by scholars. But here we don't discuss and debate about religion but we dialogue about our own faith. And every individual has the authority to tell his/her story and share the faith.

So sharing becomes the core of our dialogue."

Rev. Joshua Peter

This is the inside of the hut and is quite leakproof. To those who have visited India, the bamboo style of the roof will be no surprise as even, in 2007 Tiruvannamalai, such roofs are commonly to be seen.

The unused area at the back of the compound will, at a later date, be made into accommodation units for visitors and pilgrims to stay at while visiting Tiruvannamalai. This will be the second stage of the development of Quo Vadis, whose concept is:

"On dialogue and building relationships. To go out and cross borders of the Church."
Rev. Joshua Peter

A good photograph of part of Quo Vadis.

The library, reading room will be located upstairs at Quo Vadis. In explanation for the reason that the centre is going to have a library facility, Rev Joshua Peter remarked:

"So, although this Quo Vadis structure was built very recently and this programme actually originated only four years back; Arcot Lutheran Church has a long history of what we call, 'Reading Rooms' and 'Libraries' in many towns, including Chennai, Tiruvannamalai, Cuddalore and Tirukoyilur. Where we would open up a library and invite all religious people to come in and use the library. Those days it was a good culture of learned people who would come and use the library.

Indian-Christian theology, we claim, was born out of the Reading Room in Chennai. Because great Indian Christian theologians would use our reading room and it was there that they wrote books which became the basis of Indian-Christian theology."

"We will have a cafe because a cafe is a wonderful place to sit and order a cup of coffee or soft drink or fruit juice and a piece of cake and share your faith. So there will be a cafe. And it is not a restaurant running as a business. We will have selected items, tasty items; we want people to come. And also we look for economy for that, whatever we earn will not go into people's pocket, it will be used to maintain the Centre and make it even more beautiful."

Rev Joshua Peter

There will in fact be two cafes at Quo Vadis, one here on the roof and one downstairs.

The upstairs at Quo Vadis is quite spectacular and I have no doubt will become very popular with visiting pilgrims. Such a centre has been needed at Arunachala for many years. Previously, visitors and pilgrims would have to either talk and dialogue at restaurants or share a hurried whisper at ashrams; but now Tiruvannamalai has a multi functional centre which is inviting people of all faiths to come, interact and exchange ideas, read a book or magazine, have a meal, visit, or just sit quietly and meditate.

"It is a new time and organisations and ashrams are going to have to adapt to the new time . . . people are coming with different needs and different ideas . . . unless an organisation deals with that reality and with the new type of person coming then that organisation is going to be very much based on the past."


"It is more of Centre. That is why I keep repeating that it is a Centre where people can come and meet and it should be a place full of life. Of course there is a place where you can go on your own to meditate but most of the places are here to actually share your faith. That is the more beautiful thing. What experience you gain; the enlightenment (whatever you call it); the energy, the experience, is more beautiful if you share with others. Because it enlightens further you and also empowers the other person and inspires them. So this place will be a place to inspire many people. And also to be inspired to love people, to love the others."

Rev Joshua Peter

"All the while Arcot Lutheran Church has believed in many things and we went out and called this “outreach”. But for the first time we have ventured out to build relationships. Actually Quo Vadis, intiated by the Lutheran Church, is the only such official Centre, (including all other Protestant institutions) in the whole of India."
Rev Joshua Peter

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