In early November 2017, Radhanath Swami was in discussion with former leader of the Alliance party of Northern-Ireland, Lord John Alderdice on the topic of ‘Bridging the Divide in a Fractured World’ at Christ Church College, University of Oxford.
Christ Church College is one of the largest colleges of Oxford University and is home to over 400 undergraduates and 175 graduates.
Christ Church is famous for its connection with two fictional figures: Alice in Wonderland, the creation of the 19th-century mathematics tutor Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), and Harry Potter (the film version of Hogwarts was partly based on Christ Church Hall). But there have been many real-life alumni of historical importance: among them the philosopher and Father of Liberalism, John Locke; William Penn, who founded the Province of Pennsylvania; W.E.Gladstone, four times Prime Minister of UK; the poet W.H.Auden; Frederick Lindemann, scientific adviser to Churchill; and many others. Alfred Einstein too was briefly given hospitality and membership of the college, when he fled to England from Nazi persecution.
Radhanath Swami spoke with Lord Alderdice, who is famous for his part in the peace negotiations between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the 1980s. He was also Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly between 1998-2004, but currently he sits as a Liberal Democrat in the House of Lords. The discussion was moderated by Shaunaka Rishi das, Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies who also sits on the International Advisory Council of the Auroville Foundation by appointment of the Indian government.
An audience of eighty students gathered in the Sir Micheal Dummett Lecture theatre to listen to the discussion. They both spoke about community, compassion, values and ethics that are needed in today’s society.
Lord Alderdice spoke warmly of Radhanath Swami at the end of the event and was eager to remain in contact with the Swami. He had never spoken alongside a leader of the Hindu community and told the Swami that he enjoyed their discussion and looked forward to more in the future. Radhanath Swami presented him with a gift of both his books: The Journey Home and The Journey Within which he was happy to receive.
Other students from the University commented how they were inspired by the event. Sushini, a DPhil student in Social Policy and African Studies, said “I really liked the questions from the Shaunaka das and the event was evenly balanced to allow enough questions from the audience.” On Radhanath Swami she expressed, “I think the way he answered questions was wonderful. As a teen and then as an adult, sharing his life-stories made it real for us because it’s easy to feel distance from someone that wise. So he felt more human in that way.”
Radhanath Swami was happy to speak at Oxford University and looks forward sharing ancient wisdom within its historic landscape in the near future.