Madurai, India – Under the title Healthy Earth, Healthy Body, Healthy Society: The Riddle of Relationship, the latest World Social Initiative Forum explored the various ways in which humanity can change our planet and the way we live in it.
The Biodynamic Association of India, the farms of Muhil/Karmuhil and the Section for Social Sciences at the Goetheanum hosted the gathering at the Pillar Centre in Madurai, where attendees from all corners of the globe came together to discuss, listen and share the challenges and new ideas emerging for social initiatives.
The welcoming location provided a warm space to meet, reflect and practice the social networking dynamics embedded in the conference programme. Every morning began with exercises on rhythm and movement to awaken the body and the group spirit, followed by key lectures on the subjects of Relationships (Joan Sleigh), Society (Gerald Häfner) and caring for the Earth (Jean-Michel Florin).
Social exercise sessions led by Joan Sleigh and alumni of the Anthroposophical Studies at the Goetheanum, sought to bring a new level of depth to the words spoken at the lectures by giving participants the chance to experience what it takes to forge meaningful relationships. The dynamics aimed to develop trust, observation skills and cooperation.
“The exercises resulted in a powerful experience that gently overcame the otherness that separates me as an individual ego, while at the same time allowing me to strengthen my distinct individuality and retain my peculiarities, without feeling judged or at least without worrying about feeling judged.” Rob Small, Founder, Farm and Garden National Trust
Nourishment was provided daily by Thirumurugan a young, local family business that brings people the best of traditional Indian cuisine produced with fresh and organic ingredients. Breakfast, lunch and dinner did not feel like conference breaks, but rather smooth transitions between sessions for participants to keep on networking.
The afternoon sessions provided everyone with unique opportunities to understand the local life and customs of Madurai. A tour around the farms of Muhil/Karmuhil and Compost and Cow Pat Pit-making workshops gave everyone the chance to understand some of the processes involved in preparing the earth for biodynamic agriculture. The participants experienced some of the daily tasks completed by local farmers and guided by biodynamic advisor Jason Jerome.
“The way in which Bio-Dynamic practices have been taken up reflects once again the great energy and above all the deep devotion with which India seems to take everything up, with great attention to detail and a mixture of stern pride in individual mastery, deep respect for the teacher and gentle humility towards the Gods.” Rob Small, Founder, Farm and Garden National Trust
In the afternoon an open space was created for initiatives to present their achievements and missions. Amongst the organisations presenting was Timbaktu, a collective working in over 150 Indian villages for sustainable development, whose vision is for “rural communities [to] take control of their own lives, govern themselves and live in social and gender harmony while maintaining a sustainable lifestyle”.
Rob Small, founder of The Farm and Garden Trust, showed how they fight against poverty and unemployment in Cape Town through the creation of urban micro-farms managed by local people; and David Hogg from Naandi showed attendees the outstanding work that the foundation carries out to improve health, basic education and sustainable livelihoods for people in the region of Andhra Pradresh.
Also presenting was WSIF co-founder Ute Cramer, who spoke about the Brazilian initiatives of the Monte Azul community and the Childhood Alliance in Brazil. Her presence was particularly celebrated, as she represents not only the organisations for which she works in South America, but also the impulse and objectives of the WSIF.
Florian Kraemer of Vulamasango in South Africa delighted everyone with images of the children’s performances around Europe, whilst Pinky Stuurman and Lusanda Bali Project Managers and musical directors at the orphanage gave a live performance, a beautiful gift that truly showed how deeply art touches the human soul.
The participation of these initiatives would not have been possible without the generosity of individuals who kindly support the World Social Initiative Forum and the work of the organisers: Sundeep Kamal, Father Vincent Clement, Dr. Fatima Rani and the Goetheanum’s team; our most sincere thanks to all of them.
There is an undeniable connection between the state of the Earth, our bodies and the societies of which we are a part. Each of these elements influences and nurtures the other, offering the possibility to work from different disciplines – such as agriculture, medicine, education or social work – to begin a process of developing and healing ourselves, our relationships and the environment. The mystery of this relationship broadens our horizons and allows us to ask what does it take from each one of us to support the movement towards healthier communities, relationships, lifestyles and ultimately a healthier environment for all beings on planet Earth. All of us, from our different standpoints and walks of life, can play a role. The WSIF 2016 speakers and participants reminded us all of this, and of how much could be achieved.
“It is so wonderful and often overwhelming what people can do and are doing selflessly for the earth and their fellow human beings!” Angelika Mandaiker, Executive Member, Anthroposophical Society India
The World Social Initiative Forum will continue to grow in 2017 by creating an online platform to showcase a variety of social initiatives aligned with Anthroposophy, and working towards a more inclusive, freer society. A new website www.wsif.org is being developed and a team led by Joan Sleigh and the Social Sciences Section at the Goetheanum will manage the network, whose primary responsibility will be to listen, research and understand the initiatives and their needs. If you know of a project that would like to become part of this growing community and could benefit from receiving news about projects, opportunities and events you can now get in touch with Andrea De La Cruz – Andrea@wsif.org