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International Youth Conference
21-28 th February 2005

Interactive workshops and plenary sessions

Four mornings of the conference will be dedicated to interactive workshops on the following themes:

Exploration for new values through Intercultural and Inter Religious Dialogue in:

The morning sessions will be structured to include:

  1. A panel of eminent speakers whose life work has related to the mornings' theme will address delegates in a plenary session
  2. Small group dialogue sessions led by experienced facilitators to allow for thoughtful reflection and in depth dialogue between participants
  3. Concluding sessions where the small dialogue groups will meet again with the presenters of the morning session in a large group to sythesise reflections and arrive at some statements expressing the views of the delegates

Descriptions of the theme of the workshops as well as presenters is given below;

Wednesday 23rd February 2005: Spirituality and Religion
Religion at its origin was meant to be an expression of humanity's evolutionary quest for a deeper, broader and higher consciousness. Somewhere along the way, religion was separated from its source and focused more on the exterior aspects of rituals and dogmas. This bred ignorance, intolerance and fundamentalism which has led to a strong secular anti-religious stand amongst many.

But if we realize that all religions are merely an outward form of a deeper essence of spirituality, and that this essence is more or less common to all religions, then our understanding of true spirituality would be clearer. Is it possible to try not only to understand each other's position from different religious standpoints and also to delve deep into our own to find its essence? Is it possible according to this inner journey, to find common spiritual values with other religions and spiritual paths?

Youth as “ transforming agents” can play a decisive role in the evolution of religions towards a universal spirituality for humanity, particularly on the sub-continent of South Asia , where a maximum number of world religions are to be found.

Panel presenters:
Shraddhalu Ranade (Session Facilitator) – Sri Aurobindo Ashram Pondicherry

Mme Rosa Guerreiro – Programme specialist, Inter religious dialogue programme, UNESCO, Paris

Dr M.D. Golam Mohiuddin – Vivekananda Mission, Mahavidyalaya, West Bengal

Mr Bernad. E. Sami – Ex dean and presently head of history department, Loyala College , Chennai

Dr D.C. Jain – Head of Neurology, Safdarjung hospital, New Delhi

Dr Ananda Reddy –Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research

Buddhist leader – to be announced

Thursday 24th February 2005: Education, art and culture
Today the human being is the center of education, and the development of his faculties the aim of education. Yet there are deeper aspects of the individual, which are not given sufficient space for growth. Can quality education for all be based on the integral development of the personality? What is the contribution of transdisciplinary concepts applied to education?

Similarly in the field of art, if art is more than just an expression of the finite and the known, more of a search for the infinite through the finite, then something of the essence could be captured which would express unity of cultures in diversity.

South Asia bound by the Himalayas in the north and the oceans in the south has over the millennia developed a special culture. Can the countries, which compose this sub-continent, go further in understanding what approach to life is common to them? What are the values, which make the peoples of this region similar? What has  South Asia contributed to world culture?

A special focus should be given to the future of cultural heritage, including it's spiritual intangible dimension. As quoted from the Malta declaration: behind the stones, there is a soul.

Can youth as “creative agents” dream and manifest the beauty of this heritage by preserving it and transmitting it to the next generation?  

Panel presenters:
Mr Maurice Shukla (Session facilitator)– Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry

Mme Sonia Ramzi – UNESCO Paris

Dr Aster Patel – Centre for Indian Culture, Auroville

Mr Prithiviraj Pereira – UNESCO Delhi

Mrs Ameeta Mulla Wattal – Principle, Springdale school, Delhi

Friday 25th February 2005: Spirituality and society
Young people who are in quest of a more informal way of living spirituality have often regarded religion as a retarding force within society. Generally speaking, they tend to think that globalization means uniformity in the way of life and thinking, it conveys the idea of material values, whereas universality has a more positive significance: they view the latter as a possibility of discovering shared values although coming from different cultures and social backgrounds.

Once we step out of the rigid concept of an exclusive religion towards a more comprehensive idea of spirituality, we may find that this quest for self-discovery both within the individual and society could lead to a progressive growth of consciousness. A new relationship between the individual and society could be created. A new way of looking at the past and a new way of directing the future could be envisaged.

How can we find ways to look afresh at governance, economy, business, and social issues? How can we look at the larger portrait of human kind's collective progress?  The split between the haves and the have-nots may begin to converge if social interaction is based on values of universal brotherhood rather than on simply material values.

Youth as “agents of change” can explore a greater understanding and therefore a path towards a progressive and harmonious co-existence.

Panel presenters:
Dr Soumitra Basu (session facilitator) – Sri Aurobindo Society, West Bengal

Mr Mukesh Vatsa – Delhi Court

Mr Robert Catalano – Focolare Movement, Mumbai

Dr Kittu Reddy – Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry

Dr A.T. Ariyaratne – International Advisory Board or Auroville and Sarvodaya Movement, Sri Lanka

Ms Kosha Shah – Centre for International Research In Human Unity, Auroville

Saturday 26 th February 2005: Science and integral development
For centuries, humanity has changed the world by external means. Mental and physical developments have moulded - for good or for bad - life and it's perceptions. Can the world be changed from the inside without being crushed? Can the inner core of humanity and its great wisdom guide the directions of growth towards a new paradigm of wholeness, mutuality and human ecology? Should sustainable and durable development be based on a growing universal fraternity?

A continuous quest must be undertaken to achieve progressive harmony between humanity , nature and the spirit, a dynamic balance must be achieved between urban and rural development. The water issue as a world-challenge to sustain life-energy must be addressed. The importance of a proper balance between tangible and intangible development needs to be explored.

Youth as “unifying agents” can help bring about a dynamic change where mutual ground of understanding can be found. 

In essence, science and spirituality are complementary. They both seek the fundamental truth of existence, the hidden laws governing the physical world. Science deals mainly with matter and energy while spirituality focuses more on consciousness. They also share common methodologies of observation, analysis, synthesis and proven experience, but their fields of investigation are different: the material aspects for science and the inner ones for spirituality. Their research tools differ substantially, yet they both belong to the ageless quest of mankind for knowledge, freedom, unity and immortality.

In many civilizations and cultures the two were interrelated or at least did not interfere with one another, however in the past centuries they have been separated by materialistic or religious prejudices and dogmas. Today, new frontiers of science and knowledge are explored, subtler fields discovered and new theories formulated where dialogue and eventually synthesis have become possible.

The media and communication technologies can play a crucial role in this search.

Youth as “free spirit agents” can venture into this new land where unimaginable unifying fields of life-consciousness are waiting to be discovered.

Panel presenters:
Dr Sauro Mezzetti (session facilitator) - Centre of Urban Research, Auroville

Mr Shraddhalu Ranade – Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry

Mr Enzo Fazzino – UNESCO Paris

Mr Toine Van Megen – Auroville

Dr Marc Luyckx –International Advisory Board, Auroville