On Christmas morning came the unexpected news. Minoti Aram has died in Dubai where she was staying with the family of her son Ashok.
For years Minoti Aram was in a wheelchair, her health going up and down in a worrying way. But her indomitable spirit made her overcome every the crises. She continued as a reference point for thousands of people living around Shanti Ashram of Coimbatore (in Tamil Nadu, south India).
Married to Dr Aram, an educationalist, a pacifist and a member of the Indian senate, she led her life in the spirit of Gandhi. In the 80s her husband and she started the Shanti Ashram, a centre for peace and social commitment. It sought to be, in the words of the Mahatma, part of the solution and not part of the problem.
She followed in her husband’s footsteps in her commitment to interfaith dialogue. For many years Dr Aram was one of the presidents of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (nowadays simply called Religions for Peace). This led her to meet Natalia Dallapiccola, one of the first focolarine, in Beijing during the 80s. They became, as Minoti loved to say, sisters. After the death of Dr Aram about 10 years later, Minoti fulfilled one of his dreams: to invite Chiara Lubich to India.
In 2001, she suggested to several Gandhian organizations in Tamil Nadu (Sarvodaya) to give Chiara Lubich the Gandhi Award, Defender of Peace. Her suggestion was accepted and Chiara went to India for 3 weeks. In Coimbatore, apart receiving the award, she spoke to a public meeting of about 600 Hindus. The following day Chiara, Minoti and her daughter Vinu and some of those who worked with them met to understand how to continue the dialogue that had begun.
This gave rise to Sarvo-Foco Pariwar, round table discussions between the Sarvodaya family and the Focolare. Minoti Aram was always present as a force behind this original form of dialogue. The family has grown and many member of the Aram family have joined in the moments of sharing between the Gandhian Movement and the Focolare. Artistic and social projects have been set up, as well as exchanges among groups of young people, to the point of oragnizing the 2009 Gen 3 Supercongress.
With other Gandhians she took part in the Hindu-Christian symposia of 2002, 2004 and 2007. At this last, Chiara Lubich despite her failing health, wanted to meet Minoti personally.
Two years ago, during the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Shanti Ashram, surrounded by many guests, Minoti recalled the importance of her dialogue with Chiara and Natalia, her sisters. In the last months she insisted to her daughter, Dr Vinu Aram, that there should be a conference at the Shanti Ashram to commemorate Natalia Dallapiccola, so that, as she said, ‘future generations may know the pioneers of dialogue between the followers of different religions.’ The date of the conference has been set for November 2014!