30 devotees from European countries, as well as from the US and Australia participated at the conference
(Photos by Anuttama Dasa and Gandharvika Prema Dasi. Editing by Kancana-valli Dasi.)
20 years ago the first Communications Conference was held in Europe. The anniversary of that first meeting has just been celebrated in Budapest, Hungary, early in May 2013. Mahaprabhu Dasa is the Director of ISKCON Communications Europe (ICE), and has been attending the conferences since the 1990s. He chose Hungary for this year’s conference considering it an exemplary country for the meeting, especially because of their communications’ successes over the years.
The 30 devotees who attended heard how the goals, objectives, and principles of ISKCON’s internal and external communications affect devotees’ everyday lives, and how communications’ devotees cultivate relationships with academics and leaders of various religious groups, and provide information for media outlets. A Communications Starter Kit was also showcased at the conference as a source of information for media and other interested parties.
Each country's representative gave a report about their recent achievements as well as their plans to enhance their communications with internal and external audiences
Shooting for the rhino
Because of the unpredictable political situation in Hungary ISKCON’s local communications team has spearheaded campaigns helping protect devotee’s religious freedoms in the country. The turbulent history of the Hungarian Society for Krishna Consciousness was presented by Krishna-lila Dasi, a leading figure in the campaigns. She described how important co-operation, training, teamwork, resourcefulness, and open relationships with religious leaders, politicians, and scholars are. She said, “We should be always alert because anything can happen. Democratic norms are not self-executive, it is up to us to keep them alive, or to make them real. However, we should not be afraid, crisis is not always bad, it can also be a 'blessing in disguise' and lead to great developments.”
Conference participants paid a visit to Bhaktivedanta College Hungary as part of the discussion ISKCON and Academia
Jahnavi from the UK described a blossoming project in London aimed at introducing new people to the benefits of kirtan. Although normally taking place at yoga schools, they are also oranising kirtan “street parties” that have been well received. At the first party nearly 150 people attended. “They absolutely loved it,” Jahnavi said. “Usually people in the kirtan scene have to work very hard for 10 years or more to make a name for themselves. Yet after doing this for only 2 years our program has become very successful. We’ve had some very positive comments, such as ‘kirtan is in your blood’ which inspires us to make nice presentations.”
Jahnavi Harrison leading kirtan
ISKCONs 50th anniversary
2016 is the 50th anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s founding ISKCON in New York City. The anniversary is an opportunity to publicize Prabhupada’s achievements and mission, and ISKCON’s activities and future plans. Ideas of ways to celebrate this important anniversary included: making documentary films and publishing books about the 50 years of ISKCON, organizing 50 different major events throughout the world.
Anuttama Dasa, ISKCON Communications Minister, suggested a motto for the anniversary: “The Hare Krishna Movement – celebrating 50 years of fostering peace through service, community, and spiritual knowledge”.
Sightseeing and interfaith dialogue
As a part of the conference attendees spent a day sightseeing and meeting with scholars in Hungary’s capital Budapest. The first program was held in the Synagogue, where a distinguished rabbi elaborated on the similarities between different religions and said: “I tell you one secret – there is only one God, and there is only one humankind.”
Visit to Budapest Synogue by ISKCON Communications Europe
Then the conference participants had a lively discussion with Professor Uitz, a young lady expert from Central European University, a specialist on Religious Freedom in Hungary.
In the afternoon, the devotees paid a visit to a Mosque, which offered a opportunity for a meaningful interfaith dialogue with Muslim believers.
The next day devotees visited New Vraja Dhama or Eco Valley. Kamala priya dasi from Sweden visited the farm for the first time. “It was amazing to see how well-organized this community is. And it is really self-sustainable, just like they said.” she concluded.
Touring the New Vraja Dhama eco farm with project director Radha-Krishna Das
“I’m happy how the meetings went – we had such good discussions.” Mahaprabhu Dasa concluded. “Anyone interested in the subject is very welcome to come to the Communications Course in Villa Vrindavana (Florence, Italy), July 8–11.”