The Republic of Suriname has awarded global spiritual master and founder of The Art of Living, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, with the country's highest civilian honor, the Grand Cordon - honorary order of the yellow star (Ere-Orde van de Gele Ster) for his humanitarian work. The award was conferred by President of Suriname, Chandrikapersad Santokhi, on Friday during a ceremony at the Presidential Palace.
Gurudev is not only the first Asian recipient of the honour, but it is also the first time the award has been given to a spiritual leader. Historically, the award is given to the head of states. The President of Suriname is the Grand Master of the Honorary Order of the Yellow Star.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar dedicated the award to the teachers and volunteers in the country while expressing his gratitude for the honour.
"I credit this award to the teachers and volunteers who have been doing commendable service in this country. I thank President Santokhi and the judges for this honour," Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said in a tweet.
A warm welcome and a grand ceremony
Sri Sri visited the South American nation after 21 years and was received by Suriname's Minister of Defence. At the ceremony, where the award was presented, Ambassador of India to Suriname Dr. Shankar Bhalachandran was also present besides other dignitaries.
"We are honored that you're shining a light worth seeing and feeling, now and also for the future generation. With this declaration, may you lead us all to peace and harmony...The people of Suriname welcome you with a warm heart," President Santokhi said in his address at the ceremony.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar also met with leading businessmen during his visit to the country and emphasised on the importance of spirituality in taking care of the mental health of the work force. He also led a mediation after addressing a fully packed national indoor stadium Anthony Nesty Sporthal in Paramaribo. He further interacted with thousands of followers present at the event.
Prez takes "I Stand for Peace" pledge
Another highlight of the event was President Santokhi taking the pledge 'I Stand for Peace', a global movement launched by Gurudev to bring the focus back to peaceful progress, unity and harmony.
For this campaign launched at the UN office in Geneva in April, Gurudev travelled across Europe and the United States.
"People come together when there is a crisis, when they feel threatened or when they are wise. I have a question -- can people not come together for something that is positive, something that can create harmony within the society," Ravi Shankar had asked in his address at the UN in an event hosted by the International Association for Human Values and the Permanent Mission of India in Geneva on the topic Unity and Collaboration in a Post-Pandemic World'.
Gurudev preaches the idea of teaching kids the importance of non-violence. The Art of Living has several initiatives to promote peace and harmony. These initiatives include disaster relief and trauma relief efforts, rural development, environment care, education programmes, prisoner rehabilitation, and conflict resolutions. These initiatives have transformed over 370 million people across 155 countries in six continents.