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SPANISH JESUIT GETS INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR PROMOTING RELIGIOUS HARMONY

Updated: April 11, 1996 05:00 PM GMT
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Jesuit Father Carlos G. Valles, a 70-year-old Spanish missioner in India for 47 years, has won an award for promoting harmony among various religious communities in the country.

The Kalekar international award for universal harmony, set up in 1994 on Mahatma Gandhi´s 125th birth anniversary, is given to "exceptional persons or institutions" working for peace through non-violence and co-existence.

New Delhi´s Kaka Kalekar Sarvodaya Seva Trust (KKSST) said Father Valles is "a multi-faceted personality" and an "innovative mathematician, writer, expert on classical Western music, besides a humanist and social worker."

KKSST chairperson Ramesh Bhardwaj described the award and citation ceremony March 24 as "a grateful" nation´s attempt to honor a person dedicated to human development and religious harmony.

Born in Lokroneou, Spain, Father Valles joined the Jesuits in 1941 and came to India in 1949. He taught at St. Xavier´s College in Ahmedabad, some 880 kilometers southwest of New Delhi.

Bhardwaj told UCA News March 25 that people found in the foreign missioner a "lover of India and a man of God," because he identified with people of all classes and religions. He took time off college work to wander as a mendicant.

According to reports, during such travels, a high-caste Brahmin washed his feet with water from the Ganges, Hindus´ holy river; a Jain asked him to read their prayers; and Muslims invited him to recite the Koran with them. In Bombay he became an "honorary Jain" for his friendship with the community.

"Father Valles´ significant contribution is in literature, particularly Gujarati," Jesuit Father Varghese Paul told UCA News. He mastered the language of Gujarat state, west India, to write in newspapers, magazines and journals.

His writings later appeared in some 70 books in Gujarati. He also wrote some 100 books in Spanish, and in English. A member of Gujarat Sahitya Parishad (association of Gujarati writers), he earlier won several awards in Gujarat.

His writings, the citation observed, "not only enriched Gujarati literature, but expounded the culture of India all over the world." With a masters degree in mathematics from Madras University, he also wrote 12 books on math.

Father Valles has been invited to lecture to Gujarati-speaking communities in India and abroad. Cited as a goodwill ambassador for Indian culture and spirituality through his talks, courses and publications, he says "commitment to the cause of humanity and brotherhood" is more important than honors.

END

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