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Organization: Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University
The following information may be cited or quoted as long as the source is accurately mentioned and the words are not taken out of context.
Posted: May 05 2005,04:20 If you wrote this report, you will find a button here that you may click
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PROGRESS: Has your organization seen progress toward a culture of peace and nonviolence in your domain of action and in your constituency during the first half of the Decade?

The BKWSU has certainly seen progress towards a culture of peace and non-violence within its domain of action.  In particular:

1. There has been an increase in the number of people interested and participating in events offered by the BKWSU.  Thus:
• Around the world, the BKWSU’s meditation classes and sessions have attracted greater attendance and there has been a growing awareness of the need to develop and maintain inner peace in order to create a lasting culture of peace.
• There has been greater participation in BKWSU events for youth, women and men’s groups, and within these groups there has been more active discussion on peace and more widespread commitment to values and a way of life supportive of a culture of peace.
• BKWSU interfaith projects and programmes have attracted greater interest, especially since 11th September 2001.
• The demand for retreats for personal empowerment has increased during the first half of the Decade.

2. The BKWSU has seen an increasing number of people practise collective moments of silence for personal and world peace – for example when there have been disasters or at the opening and closing of meetings.

3. The University’s activities have spread more widely in range, drawing active participation in different areas of society.  It has met demand for peace and values work in fields such as education, health-care and business.  It has also increased its co-operation and involvement with other NGOs with regard to a variety of different programmes and projects.

4. The media has paid more attention to the peace activities of the BKWSU.  The University has been asked to participate in numerous radio, television, newspaper and magazines interviews on the themes of peace within the self and the global community.

OBSTACLES: What are the most important obstacles that have prevented progress?

The BKWSU has not experienced obstacles (minor or major) that have PREVENTED progress: in general, communities have been found to be quite receptive to peace.  However, there have been some aspects that have LIMITED progress.

While many people express support for endeavours to build a culture of peace, they often state that limited availability of time is a major factor in their lives; thus while some may be willing to give a financial donation they are often reluctant, in the context of a busy lifestyle, personally to involve themselves or contribute other than financially.

Another limitation to progress is the tendency for people to look at peace as a global issue that calls for political leaders or governments to respond (in whatever way) to war or acts of terrorism ,rather than seeing the building of peace as an issue that they can take personal ownership in their lives.  Inbuilt within this perspective may be a limited awareness of how such personal commitment to peace is the build block for family and then community, society, national and global peace.  

Other limiting factors have been the reluctance in some individuals to take action that does not bring them some immediate personal benefit, whether financial or otherwise, while some organisations that felt that they were able to carry out their work alone rather than on a cooperative basis.

ACTIONS: What actions have been undertaken by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the first half of the Decade?

The BKWSU has continued promoting peace and non-violence through a wide variety of participatory and experiential events including dialogues, forums, workshops and meditations that have drawn people from a broad cross section of society or the general public, as well as representatives of political, economical, cultural, religious and educational bodies.

Particular groups of people that the University has worked with have included, for example, youth, women-leaders, World War II veterans, businessmen, scientists and educators.

Key global projects and programmes (in alphabetical order):

• The Call of the Time Dialogue
This series of dialogues brings together thought-leaders and men and women on the field of world service for reflection and conversation over a three- or four-day period.  Themes have included: ‘Serving through the mind’, ‘Personal dignity and world transformation’ and ‘Globalisation, leadership and love’.

• Images and Voices of Hope
This on-going, international conversation on the impact of public story-telling and image-making on society engages people working in all types of media to create a new and more expansive story of possibility for the world.

• The International Day of Peace  
Annually on the 21st September, to mark and renew commitment to peace, the Brahma Kumaris conduct a variety of activities such as concerts, meditations and public talks, inviting people to dedicate a few moments to express good wishes or take other action for peace in the world.

• Peace Experience Workshop
Providing an opportunity to share and collaborate as a group to bring about practical peaceful solutions for the individual in daily life, these workshops are conducted in local communities and are open to the general public.

• Peace of Mind Retreat
This week-long retreat is held once each year at the headquarters of the Brahma Kumaris in Mount Abu, Rajasthan, India and provides the opportunity to deepen personal spiritual practices and learn more about the art of meditation.  Underlying each retreat is the premise (in the words of the Preamble of the Constitution of UNESCO) that “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”.  Throughout the first half of the Decade, about 200 people from 60 different countries have been attending the retreat each year and many have spoken of how the experience and practice of inner peace enables the non-violent resolution of conflict and has a positive and practical impact on relationships, family, work life and community.

• Tsunami Relief Effort – bringing peace and hope to communities
The Brahma Kumaris provided both immediate and long-term support for those affected by the tsunami in December 2004 by utilizing their extensive international network.  A principle in giving such support was to ensure that relief work was carried out with respect for the dignity of the recipients.  A very important part of the BKWSU’s contribution was through spiritual counselling to help people come to terms with the situation, maintain good relationships, make the best possible use of resources and create an environment of peace and co-operation.  In Tamil Nadu, in South India, utilising their hundreds of centres and thousands of volunteers in Tamil Nadu, the Brahma Kumaris immediately began consulting with the people affected.  With the resulting direct awareness of people’s needs, and with guidance from District Collectors, local BKWSU centres distributed medicines, dry food stores, cooking vessels and bedding and created a mobile medical camp that toured the area for three months.  The state government of Tamil Nadu requested the Brahma Kumaris to counsel survivors at the government's relief camps.  This proved to be of great help and many people came for spiritual counselling to gain moral support, inner strength and greater peace and clarity of mind.  The government requested BK counsellors to train others while local BK teachers started working with the government in helping to solve long term problems such as donated money being spent on alcohol, escalating violence towards women, increase in substance abuse and family breakdown. In Sri Lanka, supplies were distributed to schools, refugee camps, towns and villages.  The BKWSU also arranged medical camps and a special programme of psychological and spiritual help was held for affected families, and those housed in refugee camps.  The authorities reported that the help given to gain inner peace helped to calm people down so that they could deal with the situation with greater inner strength.

• World Meditation Hour for Peace
Once each month, all BKWSU centres around the world open their doors to the public for an hour’s meditation for world peace.  With inspiring commentaries, music and images, the meditation is held at 6:30 pm local time in each BKWSU centre, of which there are about 7,000 in over 80 countries.


Key national events (in alphabetical order of country):

AUSTRALIA:
• A series of Culture of Peace Forums were held in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney involving representatives of about 100 private and government organizations.  For the 2001 Forum in Sydney, the project group held the first Dialogue among Civilizations Forum.  The Dialogue among Civilizations Network was formed on the key principles of a Culture of Peace and its Dialogues seek to promote engagement and dialogue with those of different cultures or religion.  Those represented during the Forum were Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Judaic and indigenous faith practitioners from Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, India, Iraq, Malaysia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Spain, USA and Vietnam.

• From 2003 onwards, a peace initiative to support those suffering the effects of war and tsunamis began.  The “Longest Letter of Good Wishes and Support” was a way for people to express their powerful messages of emotional support for those in need.
Project 1: The Longest Letter of Good Wishes for those who suffering the effects of war (6th July 2003).
Together with the people of Melbourne, the BKWSU created a 100 metre long and 2.3 metre wide Letter of Good Wishes which recorded the voices and feelings of people from all walks of life.  This project started as a desire to turn anger about the war in Iraq in to a positive expression of support to those suffering and the Letter was presented to Mr Jan Kavan, President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, New York on 10th October 2003.
Project 2: The Longest Letter of Good Wishes for those who suffering the effects of the Tsunami
This 170 metre long and 1.2 metre wide Letter of Good Wishes was written to those affected by the tsunami of December 2004 and plans have been made to transport it to the relevant countries as an expression of hope and reassurance that people from the other side of the world are thinking of them and supporting them as they look to a better future.  Nearly 7,000 adults and children from Melbourne recorded their support.


                                 
PHOTO CAPTION 1: Images of The Longest Letter of Good Wishes and Support to those suffering the effects of war in Iraq

COSTA RICA:
• A programme in February 2003, "Encounter of Youth for Peace", took place at CENAC (Ministry of Culture) for approximately 1,000 young people.  The event featured concerts with AMOUNSULU and MEKATELYU, different reflections and workshops on topics such as peace and non-violence, thoughts and peace, the Mayan Culture and peace, environmental issues and peace, food for peaceful life and personality for peace.  Young people, in particular responded with enormous interest to the possibility of being able to participate in the construction of a non-violent world.


MEXICO:
• The BKWSU was invited by several organizations to conduct talks, seminars and workshops on peace.  There is a growing need to serve the community, specifically those who suffer from depression, suicidal tendencies, violence, alcoholism, drugs and to address problems affecting youth and women.  In order to assist the different NGOs serving the community, the BKWSU has been offering courses on meditation, positive thinking and/or stress management, which has been beneficial for them personally and in their work.


RUSSIA:
• In April 2004 an event attended by 250 guests was held for veterans of World War II.  Highlighting the real meaning of victory for a peaceful world, the programme inspired these elderly war veterans to become a bridge which connects people’s hearts of people and to change the atmosphere in their communities through their positive attitude and high values.

• A Youth Forum in May 2004 attracted 150 representatives of different youth institutions, who made the following pledge:
1. I will help at least five people to renounce the bad habits of smoking, drinking alcohol and the use of drugs;
2. As a gift for my city I will plant at least five trees, bushes or flowers;
3. I will be committed to the Culture of Non-violence in my life.



PHOTO CAPTION 2: Representatives of different youth institutions who participated in the Youth Forum in Russia.


• A seminar in December 2004 gathered together 45 scientists to explore the theme of achieving success in research through peace of mind and moral values.


SPAIN:
• Held in September 2003, “Voices of Peace”, was dedicated to the International Decade of the Culture of Peace and Non Violence for the Children of the World.  Held in Barcelona and associated to The Forum of Cultures, the programme was attended by 2,200 people and was the starting point for co-operation between large and small organisations and individuals towards peace and a better world for everyone.  Speakers included Mr. Federico Mayor Zaragoza, former General Director of UNESCO and now President of the Culture of Peace Foundation.  At the close, representatives of the different faiths in Catalonia were invited to the stage to share a minute of silence together with the audience.



PHOTO CAPTION 3: Representatives of different faiths sharing a minute’s silence together with the audience at the close of the “Voices of Peace” event, Barcelona.


UK:
• Annual retreats for young leaders within their faith communities.  Themes have included ‘Respect: Contemplation, Communication and Co-operation’ and ‘Encountering the Sacred’.  Young people between the ages of 18 and 35 from at least 7 faith communities come together to explore the spiritual dimension of interfaith dialogue for peace.

USA:
• Peace Village Learning & Retreat Center is a living example of a community dedicated to nurturing a Culture of Peace.  Peace Village was created to give visitors an experience of the power of peace and inner silence and, located in Haines Falls, New York, USA, in the beautiful Catskill Mountains, the retreat centre is marked by a meditative environment that hums with peace.  Peace Village has hosted guests from all over the world on its naturally lush 300 acres of land.  The lifestyle of the dedicated residents of Peace Village is characterised by a simple spiritual lifestyle, inclusive attitudes, care for the natural environment, a principle of volunteerism and a commitment to the service of visitors.  Events hosted at Peace Village contribute directly or indirectly to participants' personal sense of peace and collective sense of responsibility to create a peaceful community.  They include retreats focusing on inner peace and peaceful thinking, retreats for different professional and language or ethnic groups, and residential multi cultural and family week-ends that encourage going beyond immediate differences and building on deeper commonalities.  The needs and potential of children and youth are particularly highlighted in these week-ends.



PHOTO 4: Peace Village Learning & Retreat Center

ADVICE: What advice would you like to give to the Secretary-General and the General Assembly to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the second half of the Decade?

The main advice we would offer would be to promote greater recognition of the fact that awareness within the individual of his or her spirituality is the foundation of peace within the self and the world.  
Greater emphasis also needs to be placed on the indisputable link between the state of human minds and the state of the world and that our consciousness, attitudes and thoughts play a crucial role in shaping and developing society.  To build a lasting culture of peace, there must therefore be greater commitment to bringing spirituality to the heart of all efforts in this regard.  Education in spiritual principles and human values is an indispensable foundation of efforts for a culture of peace and non-violence.  
The third suggestion would be to find ways to increase understanding that an important part of achieving a culture of peace is to involve ordinary citizens of every walk of life in simple daily actions and approaches to life.  A campaign could be developed focusing on easily understandable concepts that emphasise the ability of the individual to make a difference and on the need to match principle with practice.  Thus, for example, individuals could be encouraged:  
- to make small, positive changes in their lives as an example to others and a way of living their commitment to peace;
- to dedicate a few moments a day to the practice of peace by consciously creating good wishes and peaceful thoughts for others, aware of the positive impact this has on others;
- to make a commitment to engage themselves at least once a year, for example on the International Day of Peace, in a peace dialogue, programme, event or other activity.

PARTNERSHIPS: What partnerships and networks does your organization participate in, thus strengthening the global movement for a culture of peace?

As a non-governmental organisation in general consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, in consultative status with UNICEF, and affiliated to the Department of Public Information, the BKWSU has partnered with many other NGOs.  As a community of local service centres, the BKWSU has worked with hundreds of national and local community organisations as well as professional and governmental organisations around the world.  While these are thus too numerous to name comprehensively, the following gives an example, in selected countries, of partnerships and networks that the BKWSU participates in and organisations that it has supported or partnered with:

INTERNATIONAL
The Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions
The Culture of Peace Foundation
The Global Peace Initiative of Women
Living Values Education Programme
Rights and Humanity
United Religions Initiative
World Congress of Faiths
International Union of Architects
Values Caucus, United Nations, New York

AUSTRALIA
ACT Youth Council
Australian Federation of Islamic Councils
Australian Federal Police - Diversionary Conference Team  
University of Technology - Social Sciences Faculty

CHINA (HONG KONG)
Hong Kong Council of Social Services
Network of Religion and Peace

COSTA RICA
National Direction of Prevention of Crime of the Ministry of Justice
The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports
The University of Costa Rica
The University for Peace

THE NETHERLANDS
Council of Ideology and Religions in The Hague (HRLR)
Shapers of Education
World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP)
The Hague Conference on International Private Law

SPAIN
Catalan Federation of NGO’s for Human Rights
Andalusia Committee for Non Governmental Organizations for Development
Federation Committee for Non Governmental Organizations for Development of Las Palmas

UK
The Prince’s Trust
The Janki Foundation for Global Healthcare
Spiritual Care Development Committee, Scottish Executive
Rank Foundation
Rights and Humanity

USA
Fetzer Institute
Case Western Reserve University
The Visions of a Better World Foundation

PLANS: What new engagements are planned by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence in the second half of the Decade (2005-2010)?

For the second half of the Decade, BKWSU will continue to promote peace and non-violence through the following key global activities:
• The International Day of Peace
• World Meditation Hour for Peace
• Images and Voices of Hope
• The Call of Time Dialogues
• Peace Experience Workshop
• Educational programmes for the empowerment of women

Furthermore, the University will explore and strengthen its partnerships with other NGOs and community organisations in providing opportunities for people to develop greater awareness of peace and non-violence and its benefits.

Postal address of organization

Global Co-Operation House, 65-69 Pound Lane
London, NW10 2HH, UK

E-mail address of organization

london@bkwsu.com

Website address of organization

www.bkwsu.com

Highest priority action domain of a culture of peace

Education for peace

Second priority action domain of a culture of peace

Understanding, tolerance, solidarity

Highest priority country of action (or international)

INTERNATIONAL

Second priority country of action (or international)

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Organization: Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University

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