The European division of ISKCON Communications met this April at ISKCON’s picturesque chateau in Radhadesh, Belgium, with over thirty attendees from countries as diverse as Ireland, Latvia, Sweden and Italy.
As outlined by Shaunaka Rishi Dasa at the meeting’s outset, much of the Communications team’s work since 1982 has been focused on dealing with challenges to ISKCON's authenticity – and sometimes even its right to exist.
But recently the organization’s role has turned proactive, rather than reactive. "Devotees have done a lot of work cultivating good relationships and responding to challenges,” says International Communications Director Anuttama Dasa. “And we’re now reaching the stage in Europe and around the world where we can handle difficulties much more effectively, if and when they arise."
Recent developments in France, one of the most problematic countries in the world for ISKCON, highlight this change. This year, devotees Mahaprabhu Dasa and Sylvie Dourneau were invited to take part as guests on a popular French TV show. The secretary general of MIVILUDES (Interministerial Mission for Monitoring and Combatting Cultic Deviances), Catherine Katz, was also a guest on the show, where she complimented ISKCON and spoke about the society positively.
A few weeks later, Anna-Lucia, a London-based model and practicing devotee, was also invited to appear on the same show as a religious representative on the topic of celibacy. After the years of difficulties French devotees have experienced with their government and media, both these incidents signify a very positive step forward.
ISKCON’s European Communications team also reinforced their local presence by taking a break during the meetings to visit the European Parliament, and be shown around Brussels Cathedral by a local priest.
Mahaprabhu Dasa, director of ISKCON Communications Europe, coordinated the meetings, along with Anuttama Dasa, Shaunaka Rishi Dasa, Merudevi Dasi, and Lal Krishna Dasa.