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Opening Welcome Address at the World Parliament of Religions

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Sisters and Brothers of America, It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world. I thank you in the name of the mother of religions, and I thank you in the name of the millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects. My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honor of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration. I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: "As the different streams having there sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee." The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: "Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to Me." Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come. And I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.

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1 Enakshi Ganguly = "The Speaker: Swami Vivekananda"
2 Enakshi Ganguly = ""
3 Shawn Bose = "When Vespasian destroyed Solomon's Temple in 70 CE, it created the first major Jewish Diaspora as the center of Jewish life was no longer the Temple but transitioned to the Rabbinical tradition of individual communities.  Swami Vivekananda is here referring to the 'Cochin Jews' who arrived on the Malabar coast of India that year.  This Jewish community along with others has remained in India uninterrupted and free of religious persecution for the almost 2,000 years since."
4 Yaakov ben Chaim Tzvi = "The remnant of India is called the "Bnei Menashe", the sons of Menashe & Ephraim which were the children of Joseph. The organization Shavei Israel has worked tirelessly over the years to return these Jews from India back to Israel. You can check out the website http://www.shavei.org/ for more information about the additional 10 "Lost" tribes."
5 Yaakov ben Chaim Tzvi = "https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=53&v=HvtZpeq3XXgIndian Jews visiting the grave of their ancestor Joseph for the first time in 2700 years."
6 Enakshi Ganguly = "The Bene Israel community is alive and brilliant along the Konkon coast of India. For some literature, check out Girl From Foreign by Sadia Shepard and her documentary In Search of the Bene Israel.http://www.sadiashepard.com/films.html"