Charles Mendies to speak at Keuka Commencement

Peace advocate Charles Mendies, respectfully referred to as the “fireman and bridge builder” by colleagues, friends, and adversaries, will deliver the commencement address at Keuka College Sunday, May 24.Keuka’s 101st graduation ceremony will begin at 12:30 p.m. on the lawn in front of Norton Chapel.Mendies has facilitated peace and understanding in hot spots and troubled regions around the world for the past three decades. He has met with such diverse groups as the Taliban in the mountains of Afghanistan, Sri Lankan Tigers outside Columbo, Maoists in the Himalayas, and Palestinians in Gaza.Thanks to his devotion to peace, Mendies has fostered close relationships with Mother Teresa, Yasser Arafat, the Dahli Lama, Benazir Bhutto, King Hussein, and other past and present political, religious, social, and economic world leaders. Bhutto, the former Pakistani prime minister who was assassinated in 2007, was godmother to one of his children. “I have grown up seeing him in this role as a mediator and voice of reason over and over again,” said his son, David. “And it happens every time, not because of any title or position he holds, but because he is recognized in Nepal, South Asia and many parts of the world as a man of truth who is guided by his own purpose: to love God and love his neighbor. This recognition has not come overnight, but through a lifetime of living his life with others’ interests put before his own, with no thought or care for his own advancement.”Charles Mendies was raised in South Asia. His father was a successful Anglo-Indian businessman and his mother, originally from Canada, came to India in the mid-1940s with the Salvation Army. She is most remembered for the care and loving home she provided for more than 50 years to hundreds of needy children at the Mendies Haven outside Kathmandu. Today, the work she and her husband started continues under the direction of Charles’ wife, sons, and daughter-in-law.Mendies attended seminary in the United States—he is an ordained Christian minister—and returned to Nepal to face growing persecution toward non-Hindus. Eventually, he was imprisoned for not renouncing his faith, serving six months of a seven-year sentence. His release from prison paved the way for freedom of religion and speech in Nepal and the establishment of a parliament and representative government. The government of Nepal, which placed him in prison 22 years ago, now turns to him frequently for guidance.Following his release from prison, the Mendies family moved to New Delhi, India.“At that time, Delhi, for all practical purposes, was the most central city in South Asia,” said David. “Dad was going to be available to people in leadership in South Asia, befriending them with no agenda whatsoever. His hope was to positively impact the leadership of the countries and try to stop some of the conflicts in the region through the avenues of personal relationships, so that people would prosper.”Although the world is his workplace and office, Mendies primarily resides in Nepal. He established the Sangam Institute—Nepal’s first think tank—that is dedicated to researching and mediating peaceful solutions to global challenges.

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