5th International Youth Peace Conference
On the occasion of the 5th International Youth Conference organised by the International Youth Union of Yoga in Daily Life, its initiator H. H. Vishwaguru Mahamandaleshwar Paramhans Swami Maheshwaranandaji and an group of 40 delegates of Yoga in Daily Life from several countries, were welcomed on 30 November 2007, in the historical City Hall of Prague on behalf of the Lord Mayor of Prague by the Deputy Mayor for International Relations Mrs. Marketa Reedova, Deputy Mayor Marie Kousalikova and City Councillor Mr. Petr Stepanek.
In her speech, Mrs. Reedova thanked His Holiness for more than three decades of his valuable efforts for public health through Yoga in Daily Life in Czech Republic, as well as his engagement and work for world peace, inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue and understanding. “The teachings you are bringing”, she said, “are based on tolerance, understanding and mutual respect. I wish that they will go on to inspire as many people as possible, not only in Czech Republic or Europe, but all over the world.” Mrs. Reedova also paid respects to Swamiji’s merits of giving practical and mental help to the Czech people in the difficult times of the Communist Regime, and asked him to continue his worldwide mission for good health, protection of the environment, peace, harmony and understanding.
Then H. H. Swamiji was invited to set his signature into the book of Honoraries of the City of Prague. Swamiji and the group were guided through the most beautiful and significant halls and rooms of the Town Hall, which was built in the 15th century and shows marvellous frescoes, intarsia, paintings and the tower clock with the 12 apostles going around each hour, a master-piece of medieval handicraft and artwork. Swamiji especially admired the larger than life-size historical paintings of the famous Czech painter Brozík.
In the evening a “Colourful Concert” took place in the Salvator Church, in the heart of the city, organised by Yoga in Daily Life - Prague. This concert of spiritual music performed by famous Czech musicians marked the opening of the 5th International Youth Conference, entitled: “Let Us Save Our Planet”.
In the International Youth Conference, on Saturday morning, 1 December 2007 at Bohemian Hall “Hagibor” in Prague, youths from numerous countries participated, as well as renowned artists and dignitaries from politics and science. Amongst them were representatives from the Ministry of Education of Czech Republic and from UNESCO, sent from Barcelona, Spain.
In his opening speech His Holiness Swamiji stated:
“Yoga in Daily Life is a worldwide organisation committed to peace, tolerance and understanding for the youth; to grant them right education, and pass the Earth on to the youth in the same condition – if not better – as their parents got it from their ancestors.
It is a great pity that in contemporary education, morals and ethics are missing. If there are no moral and ethics in education, the culture and country are going down. Children are the culture of tomorrow. How is culture created, protected or destroyed? This depends on the young generation – on their education. It is not the mistake of the young people, but of the adults. All technology, education systems etc. are brought by grown people. The lives of the youth are lying in the hands of the grown-ups. Education is not only a matter of school and university, but most important is home education, family education, social education. Unfortunately in this modern civilization, through media, tv and the internet, the world’s culture is suffering. The modern way of eating, way of dressing … all these modern “fashions” are not a culture of any country, but it’s coming from the ambition of greedy people who only want to make more and more money. The victims are the people and especially the young people. It is the duty of the grown people, to preserve and transmit the valuable traditions and an ethical culture to the next generation.
In past centuries religion was not tolerant at all. People used force, created fear, persecute people in the name of religions. Religion means love – and they have done many wrong things that should not happen again in the future. People should be free to choose their belief and live without violence and fear. Where there is no family tradition, no freedom of belief, no tolerance, respect and understanding, that country will go down. Millions of children live in disrupted families where no one really loves them and has time for them. Don’t think children in Africa are the only poor children. Here in rich countries, children are suffering too, from carelessness and lack of love from parents.
What technology, industry is doing is not sustainable development but sustainable destruction! This is the origin and cause of pollution in the world!
Unfortunately this “culture” that means darkness for humanity is also coming to Asia! Where there is still a beautiful and strong family culture – in Hindu families as well as in Islamic families.
We need that humans again learn a human education, learn to love and respect other creatures and become again connected to nature. Humans have to come back to a healthy and natural way of life, to a non-violent way of life – a “noble way of life”.
Keep in mind: Youth is the culture of tomorrow. Your children are a “raw material” in your hands. You can form them as you like. You should make good “models” out of them! Teach children how to behave, how to eat. Put television out of your house! Keep them away from bad company and from drugs. It is not easy, but later on children will thank you, otherwise they will be unhappy and lost. A country that does not provide and preserve a moral and ethical education is going into darkness.“
The representative from UNESCO Catalonia, Mr. Browne, thanked the organisers for the invitation to the Youth Conference. He explained the situation in Catalonia where there exists great cultural and religious diversity, from which numerous conflicts are arising. UNESCO tries to help and calm down the situation by implementing “grass-root” activities. They go into the communities in order to create inter-faith dialogue for peaceful solutions. They especially take care of and communicate with the young people. UNESCO would like to set up a relation and co-operation with YIDL in order to enhance and support their activities through yoga-techniques and meditation for integration and mediation. He expressed his hope that their co-operation will be of benefit for the efforts of UNESCO in Catalonia and worldwide.
Children and youth from more than 10 countries in Europe and abroad participated at the conference. Many themes were covered and the youth demonstrated a lot of wisdom, insight and fresh ideas in their visions about the world and its future. Below is a short summary of the conference proceedings and presentations.
Main Theme – what would our planet say?
Hana Sundaè (17, Zagreb, Croatia) presented an essay comparing the planet to a mother who loves her children and takes care of them. The planet is speaking, but are we listening? She closed with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see.”
At several points during the conference, slide presentations and videos were shown as interludes between speeches, all containing various people’s answers to the question of what our planet would say if it could talk.
Two more presentations - a film by Michal Voøíšek (13, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic), called Today and Tomorrow and a presentation by Iskra Radeljak (16, Samoor, Croatia), asked the question: “What kind of planet do you want?”. The message was that nature can be either clean or polluted, and energy can be used for good or bad purposes. It is up to us, and the decisions we make today, what kind of planet we will have to live in tomorrow.
In his opening address, Swamiji emphasised the importance of ethics and morals in educating young people, because the young are the culture of tomorrow. It is up to the adults, however, to educate them. Education should not be limited to attending school – social education in the family, and learning to respect tradition, are just as important. Today, millions of children live in broken families – especially in so-called developed countries. Yet, for children, to have loving and understanding parents is more important than money and toys.
Ildiko Cseuz, 7 (Hungary) – her presentation was about her grandfather who loves birds. He had a pet bird who lived freely in nature and came every day to bathe in a barrel of water, which was always kept fresh. In this way, Grandpa taught her to love and take care of animals.
Michaela Rojová (17), Martin Roj (14), Martina Knapová (17), Kateøina Voplakalová (12), and Jan Levý (15) (Czech Republic) produced a short video film especially for the Conference. It tells the story of a boy and girl who meet in the gym playing basketball and end up rushing into marriage when they find out she is pregnant. Later, the boy turns into an angry, alcoholic husband and their daughter runs away from home. In their introduction to the film, they presented some disquieting statistics: for example, each day in the Czech Republic, eighty children learn that their parents have divorced.
Boris Lubiè (13, New Zealand) gave a presentation entitled “Happy, healthy and fit” in which he proposed replacing video games with sports and other time spent outside in the fresh air. These activities can make us happy. The video games and DVDs, on the other hand, lead to violence and teach us to take drugs and engage in other bad habits.
Tamás Cseuz, 16 (Hungary), shared his experience from playing in a community brass band. His bandmates included people of all ages. Their enthusiastic music-making demonstrates the power of sound, “like an elephant’s trumpeting” as he put it, to bring people together.
Sanja Krce (29), Luka (12), Ive (12), Mirna (12), and Dino (14) (Split, Croatia) – gave a presentation about FRIENDS HELP, an award-winning volunteer group at their school. The group’s name is an acronym that stands for Friendship, Results, Ideas, Equality, Nurturing, Donation, Sympathy (FRIENDS) and Humanitarian, Empathy, Love, Peace (HELP). Originally focused on tutoring, they later expanded their circle of giving by writing a play and presenting it at an orphanage and a nursing home. Their motto is: each time you give, you get something in return.
Mariann Adasz (19), Eva Berki (19) and Uta Friedrich (22) (Szeged, Hungary) offered an overview of the current situation in Romani education in Hungary, centring around the story of Marika, a Romani girl, and her dream to one day become a veterinarian. In another presentation, Tomáš Bystrý (28, Prague, Czech Republic) showed a film about social work with Roma in Prague. This work is based on education, such as sewing courses for women, or truck-driving lessons for men, aimed at helping them find jobs. Tomáš believes that events such as this conference will draw attention to education for Roma and other minority groups.
Jana Neboráková (25, Rychvald, Czech Republic) talked about her trip to Ladakh, India, high in the Himalayas, known as “Little Tibet” for its social and cultural similarity to Tibet. Her experiences there led her to begin organising festivals in support of Tibet, and to establish M.O.S.T. (Charitable Society for Tolerance) to draw attention to the violation of human rights there and at the same time introduce people to the unique culture of Tibet. Lately they have launched several projects to support young monks in monastery schools and help them to receive a better education.
Tanja Žagar (23, Slovenia) gave a presentation on the significance of volunteer work for human society and the specific role of volunteers in healthcare in general, and oncological (cancer) care in particular. She also spoke about the Hindu tradition of Karma Yoga, or selfless service. Tanja is a student of psychology and is interested in psycho-oncology (palliative care), neuroscience, and languages.
Klára Gáspár (21) and Éva Várszegi (18) (Hungary) gave a presentation on various models of special-needs education, arguing that handicapped children should be educated near their homes. They also told the story of Stephen Hawking, the famous theoretical physicist. His life is a good example of how modern technology can help the life of handicapped people (for example, he speaks through a electronic voice synthesiser). Klára studies astronomy at the University of Szeged and Éva studies Hungarian literature at Eötvös Loránt University.
Pirožka Bucur, Emese Nagy, Kristof Nagy (Hungary) presented a film about how young people are lost in a consumer wasteland in which they fall prey to alcohol and other temptations. They need fulfilment and meaningful ways to spend their lives. Pirožka, Emese and Kristof have found this fulfilment in Yoga in Daily Life but, as they say, it could be any meaningful activity.
Environment and Sustainable Development
Áron Cseuz (13, Hungary) – the message of Aron’s presentation was that people should get more exercise to be healthier and happier. He himself is an athlete and definitely feels much better after training. He also encourages people to plant more plants and take care of them with love, instead of just waiting for the crop.
Jakub Èebiš (25), Petr Býma (25) (Czech Republic) put on a two-man skit called “You’re not recycling yet?”, in which a friend convinces his doubting mate about the necessity to sort waste. The arguments were presented in a humorous form and supported by statistics. For example, the Czech Republic (population approx. 10 million) produces 30 million tons of trash each year. Waste must be separated and sorted for recycling in order to prevent and mitigate water contamination from landfill seepage and air pollution from incineration.
Petr Konùpka (22, Frýdek-Místek, Czech Republic) – chocolate and coffee are very popular in the West. Over 70% of the world’s cocoa production comes from West Africa, one of the poorest areas of the world. An estimated 280,000 children aged 9-12 work on cocoa plantations there, putting in long hours in very poor conditions. The situation is similar in the production of other commodities such as bananas, rice, tea, etc. Since 1997, the Fair Trade mark has provided a way for consumers to distinguish products produced under fair conditions for farmers and agricultural workers, and help put a stop to child labour in the third world.
Zuzana Škvaøilová (26, United Kingdom) gave a presentation on vegetarianism as the foundation of the sustainable development of human existence. First she detailed the negative impact of growing meat production, based on FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) figures: 16,000 litres of water are consumed to produce one kilogram of meat, while one kilogram of potatoes requires only 160 litres, i.e. one hundred times less. Meat production is also a major source of water and soil pollution and contributes to hunger in the world. Also according to the FAO, meat production would need to be halved in order to stop the further environmental degradation of our planet. The FAO and UNESCO state that vegetarianism is one important way to help improve the environment, address the growing crisis in access to safe water and feed the growing global population.
Daniela Hlinková (22, Slovakia) gave a presentation on “Passive Houses”, explaining how to build a house that requires only a very small amount of energy to heat, and why we should be interested. Since building operation represents nearly 50% of world energy consumption, buildings are a major source of greenhouse gases. She presented the design of a passive house that consumes 5 – 9 times less energy per square metre than a conventional house. The passive house design even makes use of air filtration and recirculation to recuperate waste heat radiated from people, PC monitors, etc.
Anna Škvaøilová (22, Czech Republic) spoke about the various toxins and man-made chemicals, and how they affect our quality of life. Toxins are all around us – in furniture, electrical devices, cosmetics, cleaning agents, and even in clothing. For example, exposure to toxic substances can disturb a child’s development even before it is born, and chemicals are responsible for 18-30% of all work-related diseases. Toxins can cause cancer, impair the immune system, damage the brain and nervous system, and cause allergies and skin disorders. And children are especially at risk.
Spirituality and Religion
Iztok Skok (24, Slovenia) gave a presentation on Spirituality and Religion, focusing on prayer as the foundation of religion, giving strength, faith, tolerance, dignity, love, respect, wisdom, understanding, and compassion. In reality, there is only one religion – humankind, and only one nation – mankind. Iztok studies power engineering at the University of Ljubljana.
Petr Falc (28), Barbora Suèanová (20), Ondøej (17), Alžbìta Frintová (17) (Czech Republic) – spoke about animal-related ethics and vegetarianism in Hinduism, Judaism and Islam. Judaism teaches that the original world (Eden) was purely vegetarian and when the Earth again becomes a paradise, its inhabitants will again be vegetarian. Even now, many rabbis are vegetarian because they don’t want to kill, and they see that industrial meat production is similar to the Holocaust. They also know that eating meat is harmful to their health. Islam, though not teaching vegetarianism per se, does advocate humane treatment of animals. Hinduism has vegetarianism as one of its basic tenets.
Jiøí Kulhavý (28, Czech Republic), “Vegetarianism and Christianity” – the Bible says that humankind’s diet was originally vegetarian. But around the time of the great flood, people became evil and began to eat meat. Christianity allows meat-eating, but does leave the individual believer the option of extending the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” to include animals.
Agnieszka Galecka (24, Poland) gave a picture presentation entitled “All Living Beings are My Self” accompanied by excerpts from the Golden Teachings of Sri Deep Narayan Mahaprabhuji and the teachings of Swamiji.