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UNESCO & Cardinal Paul Poupard Foundation

International Symposium 2018-2019

A New Utopia: Promoting Dialogue for a Humane and Sustainable Society

St. Andrew’s College, Bandra

 

Photos link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/YFCkVjeoce5z5j8b7

The day started off with the arrival of the guests who were received and greeted by the Principal, Dr. Marie Fernandes. They were escorted to the Principal’s office where they conversed with each other over tea and breakfast.

The lighting of the lamp by the Principal, the esteemed guests and the executive committee to mark the inauguration of the Symposium 2018-2019.

The conference hosts, Shabana Shaikh and Susheel Varghese, gave an introductory note about the conference and its theme for this year i.e. A New Utopia: Promoting Dialogue for a Humane and Sustainable Society.

The presence of God was then invoked through a special prayer dance which venerated the presence of god as well as celebrated the spirit of the nation and the pride in the state of Bharat, our beloved motherland.

The Principal, Dr. Marie Fernandes then gave the Welcome Note addressing all the students and speakers. As a part of the 10th Symposium, the release of the journal of the UNESCO and The Cardinal Paul Poupard Foundation Chair for Inter-Religious and Inter-Cultural Dialogue was also announced. The journal was officially released by the Principal, Dr. Marie Fernandes amidst the esteemed speakers.

The key note address was then given by Mr. Tushar Gandhi, Managing Trustee of the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation. He is also a renowned journalist and has authored several acclaimed books, including ‘Killing Gandhi’. He is also the Chairman of the Australian Indian Rural Development Foundation.

He commenced with his observation that patriotism in India is simply a gesture and a symbol and nothing truly unites us. Symptoms of revolution are apparent in India and have been for a while but nothing happens because Indians are spiritual. We are not a responsible democracy. Citizens seem to be oblivious to the fate of rural India. He said that people causing awareness about sustainability are the ones most immune to it and sometimes are the very cause of the sustainability campaigns. He blamed upper class consumerism and greed for faults in the nation. People exploit and take advantage of each other. He raised the question that if we were a nation then why didn’t we care about each other. According to him, what is keeping us together is fear; and everything that tries to keep us together is propaganda, which works like anaesthesia.

The Chief Guest, Ms. Stefania Costanza, the Consul General of Italy in Mumbai, addressed the gathering. She has served in various capacities in her long diplomatic career, in locations including Kabul and Buenos Aires, and is an expert on the challenges that are faced in the 21st century. She believes in the power of education as a tool to solve these challenges.

She began by commenting that society is like an organism, with specific parts and organs that work together to keep the organism alive. Cities expand; and a city like Mumbai has no place to do so but go north, due to geographic reasons. People from outside start moving in and there is a need to start sharing infrastructure. Industrialization of a place causes people from diverse backgrounds to come together and settle in a place. Conflicts can easily arise over petty differences and it is necessary to learn to share. There is a need to give migrants a sense of ownership and belonging, which may be created by sharing beauty. Something as simple as a wall mural gives people a sense of belonging and community.

Mr. Sumeet Mallick, the Guest of Honor, is one of the senior most bureaucrats of the state of Maharashtra, and is presently the Chief Information Commissioner of Maharashtra, and has held various positions in the state, such as the Additional Secretary and the Chief Protocol Officer in the government. He has also held the position of Secretary to the Governor during his long career.

He spoke about the universe in his talk titled “In The Beginning” wherein he explained the formation of the universe and how the world went on from being nothing to suddenly, everything. According to him, all the universe sees is explosions and extinctions of life.  Mr. Mallick went on to speak about the panspermia, various periods in time, the multiverse theory, black holes and his belief in multiple dimensions and the existence of extra-terrestrial life. He ended his talk with an audio visual on the ‘sounds of the universe’ which left the entire audience awestruck.

Dance as an art form has been one that has been practiced over centuries as a sign of celebration, of solace and of joy. It is also an art form that has transcended regional, linguistic and cultural diversities and can be a tool to promote sustainability and dialogue. A fusion folk dance was then showcased by a group of students of St. Andrews College.

Prof. Nicolas Gravel is an internationally renowned expert in public economics, researching on themes including the measurement of inequalities, poverty, social mobility and contribution to public good among others. A widely cited research scholar, he currently serves as the Director of the Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities, Delhi.

He gave a talk on the topic ‘Globalization and the Inequality Among World Citizens’. He started out by asking the question ‘Are inequalities really increasing?’ and further went on to explain the fear of globalization and why it should be feared. He explained the inequality of consumption expenditure and said that consumption data is more reasonable. According to him, consumption expenditure is either lower share of greater income or greater share of lower income. He concluded by saying that people complain about negative aspects because they see from a country’s perspective. He concluded with the question ‘What inequalities shall we care about?’

Dr. Armida Fernandez is someone who states that she would prefer to spend her day in a lazy chair surrounded by cats, dogs and plants, but as the Medical Director at the Holy Family Hospital and as a Founder Trustee of SNEHA NGO, those moments are rare indeed. She is the former Dean of the Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Hospital & College and the Head of the Department of Neonatology, and her areas of focus include improvement in neonatal care and is the pioneer of the first Human Milk Bank in Asia.

Sustainability in Healthcare & Medicine is a vital aspect of sustainable development and Dr. Fernandez addressed exactly that. She told the audience how her NGO Sneha has helped change the face of sustainable healthcare among the poverty-stricken. She took the crowd through the existing system in healthcare and talked about what changes could help people achieve a better quality of life. She explained the multi-tiered extensive health system with its extensive goals, objectives and operational systems. Her belief was that only infrastructure and doctors do not make up the healthcare sector but a consistent drive to pursue a better and more secure future.

Following the theme of focusing on building a new utopia, the role of education cannot be over emphasized. Only through educating the population of the world can we combat the pressing challenges faced today. Teach India is a Corporate Social Responsibility initiative of the Times of India. With the British Council as its knowledge partner, the initiative is implemented on ground through the partner NGO’s. The initiative focuses on promoting volunteerism and imparting spoken English skills to underprivileged youth to enhance their employability.

 An established businessman Mr. Sidney Gonsalves spoke on the behalf of Team Teach India. He started off with the idea of ‘giving back to society’, further proposing one of the ways to do it is through the Teach India initiative. He also spoke about ‘making a difference ‘ and had an interactive session with students. In the latter half of his speech, he mostly spoke about Teach India. He briefly explained the Volunteer and Learner profiles and appealed the audience to volunteer for this initiative and stated attractive reasons for them to do so. He concluded by explaining how significant volunteering in such an initiative has proven in his life and how it makes him feel a better person.

According to renowned author Yuval Harari, humanity is in a race against technology for dominance. In this light, the importance of Digital Hygiene in the Modern Era is a very vital topic of discussion. Dr. Avinash De Sousa, an experienced practitioner in the field of psychiatry and a widely recognized face in Mumbai, was then called upon to speak regarding how and why it is important to be aware citizens in this digital world.

He showed different scenarios where technology has taken over interpersonal relationships. With various pictures, he carefully pointed out the contrast between what social media was designed for and how it is now. While the advent of social media was to reinforce family relationships, it has brought a rift even between the closest members as everybody remains glued to their phones. In his talk, he mentioned about two sets of people using the social media – digital natives, who were born in this digital generation, who are fast and multitasking with the need of constant connections comprising mainly of students. The other set were digital immigrants who are mostly elders such as teachers who are slow and also tend to work on one thing at once. His talk ended on a heavy note and reminded us to use social media to a reasonable extent for a better future.

The panel discussion took place with the vibrant presence of Deacon Ivan Fernandes as the moderator. Deacon Ivan Fernandes is the Coordinator at the Diocesean Youth Centre, Bandra. The Diocesean Youth Centre is the apex body that animates parish youth movements in the Archdiocese of Bombay.

He gave an introductory speech, appealing the youth and henceforth, setting the mood for the discussion to begin. Thereafter he introduced the panellists i.e Susheel Varghese, Pranav Dubey, Almas Shaikh, students from the college who spoke on 3 inter connected topics, individually first, and then the discussion went further. The topics were Defining Consumerism, Dependence on Technology & Loss of Interpersonal Relationships and lastly, Consumerism and Religion. Collectively, they then discussed Consumerism and its Impact on the Ecology and Consumerism and Sustainability.

 

This was followed by the Fashion Ensemble with the theme “Jewels of Indian Textiles and Costumes”  which was presented by Department of Textiles and Fashion Technology, College of Home Science, Nirmala Niketan, NAAC Accredited A Grade, Affiliated to University of Mumbai. . This was conceptualized, directed, scripted & choreographed by Dr. Ela Dedhia, Head Of Department, assisted by Dr. Pratima Goyal, Mrs. Sangamitra Navalgund & Mrs. Vibhuti Khedekar. The performance which highlighted the importance of Indian artisans and handicrafts was well appreciated.

The conference came to an end by quoting Dr. Stephen Hawking i.e. “Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn’t have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking,”.

Mr. Ernest Fernandes was then called upon stage to give the Vote of Thanks which was followed by everyone rising for the National Anthem and the Principal, the executive team and esteemed speakers joining in on stage.

 

UNESCO & Cardinal Paul Poupard Foundation

International Symposium 2017-2018

The Role Of Education To Foster Religious Harmony

St. Andrew’s College, Bandra

 

Photos Link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/CxDkDiWEDZ9BxB7G9

Concept note: To start with, the role of education in developing communal harmony is immense. The normal life of ancient people was to have a touch with nature and to fulfill their needs alone. They did not care about other people. The best example that could illustrate this is the old age man, who used to wander and hunt to satisfy him alone. After the intervention of education, people started understanding that all human are of same kind and they began to think in the second person perspective. This methodology has reduced many chaos and riots as it made them to choose the right things according to their opinions. Education can also be regarded as one of the means to communicate to people, so that their thinking results in good welfare for people.

Education is a powerful means to ensure peace, harmony and development in a democratic country. Without peace, harmony, and development democracy hardly has any meaning. For promotion of peace, harmony and development, education plays a very significant role. Education only can make a man realize what activities and behaviour are expected of him as a human being. Education makes a person realize the difference between good and bad. There is little doubt to assert that the spirit of any democracy is to promote and champion good causes .Thus education becomes a powerful tool to achieve the objectives. Thus peace, harmony and development are the manifestation of education. Democracy is in a way subject to peace, harmony and development and these are subject to education. It is not hyperbolic to mention that those countries which have got the real peace, both internal and external, harmony, sustainable development have the real democracy. The more a country is peaceful, harmonious and developed, the stronger are the chances of its being a vibrant democracy. Democracy is rooted in peace, harmony and development and they in education.

 

The International Conference, ‘The Role Of Education To Foster Religious Harmony’ provided a platform for discussing modern day issues with religious significance. The chief guest for the conference was H.E. Cardinal Gracias and he delivered the presidential address. Mr. Harsh Mander, an activist, who works with survivors of mass violence and hunger as well as homeless persons and street children was the keynote speaker at the conference. He is also the director of the centre for equity studies.

Marco Cardelli, National Youth Coordinator from the Focolare Movement raised issues that the young faced. Mr. Jehangir Patel, editor of the magazine Parsiana- touched on the matter of “Resolving Religious Differences in Communities’’. Dr. Fr. Frazer Mascarenhas, the ex-principal of St. Xavier’s College, discussed education from a principal’s perspective. Sameera Khan, journalist and researcher focused on “What are Our Children Learning- The Role of Parents”. Carol Andrade, journalist and director of SPICE, deliberated on the “Success and Failure of Inspiring Leaders to overcome Religious Conflict”.

This was followed by a Panel discussion moderated by Mr. Dilip D’souza. Our student, Mikael D’souza too was part of the discussion. The vote of thanks was given by Fr. Magi Murzello. The yearly journal was also released during the session.

 

 

UNESCO & Cardinal Paul Poupard Foundation

International Symposium 2016-2017

Family and Nation Building

St. Andrew’s College, Bandra

 

Photos link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/FwSASb5Lba5oPvnv6

Concept Note: The family is the bedrock of our society. Strong families build strong communities which in turn can build a strong nation. It is in the family that our young people first learn moral and spiritual values which give meaning to their lives. Blessed John Paul II reminded us years ago that: “The future of humanity passes by way of the family.” He referred to the family as “a society in its own original right”, and the “first and vital cell of society.”

At the beginning of June, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a speech in Milan when he opened the 7th World Meeting of Families. Inter alia, he said that the family is humanity’s “principal asset.” He highlighted the importance of faith and the family in today’s society; “the importance of legislation and the work of state institutions being ordered to the service and protection of the person in his various aspects, beginning with the right to life, the deliberate suppression of which can never be allowed, and the acknowledgement of the proper identity of the family, founded on marriage between one man and one woman.” He called for a defense of family time. He said we should make time for God, work and for family. He appealed for Church communities that are more and more family oriented.

Families and their ‘practices’ (what goes on inside them) are highly significant to local, national and supranational governments because, however constituted, they are the micro ecology in which emotional and material needs are met for the majority of people. Families are essential for social cohesion, the socialisation of children and individual well-being; they are the base from which children and adults can learn, work, and contribute to society. They play an indispensable role in care, particularly for vulnerable members of society, such as the disabled and elderly. Governments therefore have a vital interest in the welfare and practices of families under their purview and are concerned with how they are structured. For example, a consultation paper from the UK Government in 2010 states that ‘Strong families give children love, identity, a personal history and a secure base from which to explore and enjoy life as they grow up. Strong families also help build strong communities, so they are crucial for a successful society’. Research justifies treating families as both problem and solution to a range of social ills. For example, children being raised in dysfunctional family settings are at greater risk of engaging in criminal activity during adolescence and later in life, while a supportive family acts as a protective factor against such an outcome. Widespread family breakdown is symptomatic, or even to a certain extent causal, of wider social breakdown, given its association with a wide range of social problems, whereas supportive families are the bedrock and foundation of a cohesive society. Some level of government intervention is justifiable and necessary if only to create the conditions in which strong families can flourish.

The International Symposium was held on 11th February, a platform for discussing modern day issues with religious significance. The topic for the year was “Family and Nation Building”. The chief guest was Archbishop Felix Machado, Bishop of Vasai, who delivered the presidential address. The guest of honour was Dr. Maria Luisa Rossi, Secretary to Consul General of Italy in Mumbai, who delivered his Excellency Ugo Ciarlatani’s message, and the keynote speaker was Dr. Rev. Fr. Rudolf C. Heredia, Founder of the Social Science Center at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. Other dignitaries included, Fr. Cajetan D Menezes, Director of the Family Service Center Snehalaya, Dr. Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, Director of Tissue Bank at Tata Memorial Hospital, Kapil Devdas, Vice President of ISKON Juhu, Mr. Irfan Engineer, Director of Center for Study of Society and Secularism Mumbai, who voiced their opinions and perspectives on the topic. Siddhanth Sinha (T.Y.B.Com) and Kelly Waller (T.Y.B.A) also participated in the panel discussion. The yearly journal was also released during the session entitled “Ethics and Society: An International Journal Religious and Cultures for Peace and Harmony” – Volume 5.

 

 

UNESCO & Cardinal Paul Poupard Foundation

International Symposium 2015-2016

Relevance of Religion

St. Andrew’s College, Bandra

 

Photos Link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ZFaVRwzzJmLkWNEAA

Concept Note: It is a fact that the world is changing rapidly, and this is not something new.  Change is the changeless law of the world.  History shows that every time there was a massive change, the great phenomenon influenced the lives of millions.  However, the fundamental principles of living have always remained unchanged.  Religion has played its role in the past.  The question is whether religion will be of any consequence in the coming millennium.  What will be its position?  Will it have any relevance in the future way of life?  If it has any relevance, then what form will it take?

The relevance of a thing is determined by the need and purpose it serves.  Man is not just a physical being.  He has thoughts, emotions and has a keen sense of aesthetics.  Hence philosophy, along with science, art, music and dance, will continue to be relevant. When one thinks in this way, one will understand that religion will also remain relevant for all times.  The question is what is religion. What role does it play in one’s life and what is its need?  Religion has the following three aspects:

Philosophy means the vision of Truth.  It is the vision of the entire life.  This aspect will be relevant for all those who are the seekers of Truth.  It is observed that everybody is not merely interested in food, clothing and shelter, vain entertainment or sensual pleasures.  There have been many seekers from time immemorial who renounced all material objects and went in search of Truth.

The seekers came from different backgrounds of society.  These are the people who have an intense longing for knowing the Truth.  Religion fulfils this demand of such seekers at the highest level.  The purpose of religion is to enlighten people about their own nature and the nature of the Absolute Truth.  Hence, as long as there are seekers of Truth and a religion that fulfils their demand, religion will always remain relevant.

This is a very important aspect of religion. These values keep the society integrated and in harmony. The health of a society that is made up of individuals depends upon the quality of education. Education not only involves gaining knowledge and the skill to apply this knowledge in life, but it also includes understanding the purpose of applying this knowledge.  After the completion of the medical course, even the doctors take an oath that they will use their knowledge to serve the society.  All knowledge that one gathers should be used to enrich and serve the society.  Earlier, the idea of business was, how to make profit for oneself, but now people have realized that one cannot make a profit without taking care of the customer’s interest.  In the beginning there was management by force and authority, but now it is slowly changing to management by love.  This is an aspect of religion.  For all moral and ethical values, the basis is the vision of oneness of the Self, which is gained through religion.  However materialistic a society may become, it will have to abide by the principle of ‘live and let live’.  As one looks upon one’s own happiness, one will have to look upon the other person’s happiness too. When one deceives someone else, one is deceiving one’s own self.

Therefore, one should have these moral values of life.  Otherwise, one’s own existence will be in danger.  These values will always remain relevant.  Without this aspect of religion, there cannot be any peace, harmony and integration in society.

Rituals are a demonstration of the philosophical vision.  Customs and traditions are also derived from the same vision.  There is a great deal of potential for changes, variation, addition and subtraction in this aspect of religion.  All cannot understand the vision theoretically.  They require demonstrations.  Many rituals came into existence to demonstrate the vision.  When people follow them, they will want to know what they are doing and can thus slowly turn their mind towards the highest Truth.  The ritualistic aspect of religions differ a lot from one another, giving a feeling that one religion is totally different from the other. Even in a single religion, there are numerous denominations.  These denominations start competing with each other.  Then comes a sense of superiority and inferiority.  The wars that are fought in the name of religion are not prompted by religion.  The tendency to consider one’s religion superior and an insistence that others should join that religion are the cause for most of these fights.

Looking back into the history of religions, as far as Hinduism is concerned, one does not know when it began or who the founder was.  In the case of other religions, there is a particular historical period when they were established and they depend upon a specific founder. One can find vast differences between a religion as it was at the time of its formation and as it is today.  Many new denominations come up in the name of the same founder.  This is inevitable because people are changing and their appreciation of things is also changing.  Industrialization too has brought about many changes in the society.  The form and nature of religion have to change.  But the vision of Truth and the values based on it will remain permanent.  The religion that understands the ever changing nature of this world and is able to mold itself at the empirical level, keeping the essence intact, will survive.  Those religions which become very rigid and are unable to change will perish.

One thing is certain – religion was there in the past, it is present now and it will always remain.  Even those governments or countries which tried to do away with all religions by closing down the temples and other places of worship, had to reopen them.  The spirit can never be killed.  The voice of that spirit may sound very feeble and the number of seekers may decrease, but their power will remain unshaken.  Religion can never become irrelevant.  What form it will take in the future, one does not know.  Sometimes it appears that there will be a kind of synthesis of the various aspects of different religions, giving birth to a new religion for all.  There were Masters who tried to bring synthesis among religions, but they succeeded only in adding a new religion.  It appears improbable that one can have a new universal religion by taking something from all the existing religions.  Every religion in a way has taken some aspects of other religions, but still they continue to maintain their individuality. This is a strange phenomenon.

We should understand the true essence of religion as the oneness of the Self.  All the moral and ethical values should be founded based on this understanding.  Furthermore, based on these values if we lead our lives, then the world will become a better place.  Many wrong notions and confusions may arise, some people may even try to destroy the foundation of religion, but those who understand the Truth must abide by it, become stronger and proceed further. This is the best way to approach the future.

The International Symposium was held on 27th January 2016. Fr. Francis Gonsalves S.J, Professor of Systematic Theology and Scripture from Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeet, Pune was the keynote speaker. He presented his views on the ‘Importance of Interfaith Dialogue’. The other dignitaries included Ven. Dhammachari Chandrabodhi (Theravada Buddhist); Dr. Kokila Shah (Professor of K.J. Somaiya Centre for studies in Jainism), Ms. Uzma Naheed, the executive director of Iqra Education foundation, Brahmakumari Vinita and Terkel Douglas, Bachelor of Political Science from the University of Copenhagen- who represented their papers with their perspectives and interpretations on the topic.

The yearly journal was also released during the session entitled “Ethics and Society: An International Journal Religious and Cultures for Peace and Harmony” – Volume 4.

 

UNESCO & Cardinal Paul Poupard Foundation

International Symposium 2014-2015

Impact of Media on Religion and Culture

St. Andrew’s College, Bandra

 

Photos Link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/wwX3YBm8e5AnnoGH9

Concept Note: The link between social media and religion has attracted the interest of many scholars in the last decade. Lim and Putnam (2010:914), in their article ‘Religion, social networks, and life satisfaction’, state that social networks offer strong evidence for social and participatory mechanisms shaping religion’s impact on life satisfaction. Although the rise of online social networking appears to represent a new challenge to religious individuals and institutions, Verschoor-Kirss (2012:1) opines that it is wrong to assume that the interaction between religion and technology is always adversarial. Generally, technology can enhance religious practices through the expansion and creation of religious communities.

Verschoor-Kirss (2012:9) continues to say that it would appear, therefore, that to unilaterally set up religion and technology as incompatible fails to take into account the complex ways in which both support and erode the other. Technology can be beneficial to religion when it enhances the communal aspects of religion, and detrimental to religion when it degrades these communal aspects. While there are certainly other aspects of religion that technology might influence, it would appear that community represents the most important one. Given the fact that online social networks generally appear to enhance notions of community, it is perhaps inevitable that religious organisations and individuals will turn to them in ever-increasing numbers. Whether this turn towards digital communities might inadvertently erode physical communities is unclear, though certainly possible (Verschoor-Kirss 2012:9).

Religion is also related to self-disclosures. Bobkowski and Pearce (2011), in their article ‘Baring their souls in online profiles or not? Religious self-disclosure in social media’, examined personal attributes associated with religious identification as well as the overall quantity of religious self-disclosures. Zviadadze (2014:164) suggests that increased religiosity is manifested not only in a traditional form of piety (church attendances, observance of rituals) but also in the expression of religion in new media (clerics preaching on YouTube, a church bell as a ringtone on a mobile phone and a picture of a church as a desktop photo). Everton (2015:1) adds that social networks are crucial for the recruitment and retention of members of churches, the diffusion of religious ideas and practices, motivating individuals to volunteer in church work and become politically active, the health and well-being of people of faith.

The relationship between religion and social media has been discussed most recently. Faimau and Behrens (2016:66), for example, analysed the ways in which certain linguistic strategies and religious discourses used in Facebook posts, reviews and comments on a religion-based Facebook page create and shape the narratives of religious authority, religious identity and religious community. Brubaker and Haigh (2017:1) explored why Christians use Facebook for religious purposes and the need for engaging with religious content on Facebook. Coman and Coman (2017:129) show that in a post-secular society, the religious imagery is not only a ‘canopy’ inherited and kept because of convenience, but a cultural frame of the significant public sphere.

However, social networks do not offer only positive results; at times, it is a source of destruction. In fact, the use of social networks in religion has both advantages and disadvantages. Miller, Mundey and Hill (2013:227) mention sacred and secular influences on social networks’ involvement and social behaviours, such as being in school and participating in organisations that are more non-religious.

It is pivotal therefore, instead of completely shutting down the use of social media, to outline what the advantages and disadvantages of such usage are in order to address them. In order to address the disadvantages of social media in religion, Al-Mosa (2015:126) highlighted the value aspect of social media by studying the problems that hinder the activation of the role of social networks regarding youth values.

The International Symposium was held on the 28th January 2015 on ‘The Impact of Media on Religion and Culture’. His Grace, Archbishop Felix Machado was the chief guest, Dr. Margit Koves was the keynote speaker and Prof. Ram Punyani was the Guest of Honour. The panel discussion was seamlessly anchored by Rev. Dr. Fr. Gilbert D’Lima. The panelists included Rev. Fr. Josquim Fernandes, Dr. Zeenat Shaukat Ali and Prof. Ram Punyani. The release of the first magazine named ‘Ignite’ to enhance the spread of the message of peace and harmony, and highlight the efforts, joys, the commitment and teamwork that radiates through the organization.

The yearly journal was also released during the session entitled “Ethics and Society: An International Journal Religious and Cultures for Peace and Harmony” – Volume 3.

 

UNESCO & Cardinal Paul Poupard Foundation

International Symposium 2013-2014

Care for the Earth

St. Andrew’s College, Bandra

Photo Link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/QrRzAiSN3MoBP56S8

 

Concept Note: “As inhabitants of the earth, we are nourished and sustained by Mother Earth who provides us with our food and all the resources for life. If she is healthy and well, we will be healthy and well. Our fates are intertwined.” —Dharma Master Cheng Yen

In Malaysia there’s a family of four who, for over 30 years, used to run a noodle shop selling meat noodles. They turned to vegetarianism and switched to selling vegetarian food, despite a decline of earnings as well as customers. In Taiwan, a volunteer who was running a very lucrative business selling disposable tableware closed it down, forgoing the profit. What made these people change?  These are people who love the environment and Mother Nature. They’re making adjustments to their lives so they can better protect the Earth. This is because they understand how our life is connected to Mother Nature and how our daily lifestyle impacts the environment.

Our Earth is a very beautiful planet. Among all the planets in the universe, the Earth is the loveliest, with mountains, oceans, and all manner of environments, each a home to many kinds of creatures. Mother Earth sustains all life on it, including us humans. She provides all the food we eat and the material goods we use.

But her health is declining and she’s losing her ability to protect and provide for the creatures living on the land. Natural disasters, such as floods, mudslides, wildfires, drought, and earthquakes, cause damage to the Earth. Crops are destroyed as a result of drought or flooding, leading to food shortages and famine. People lose their lives and their homes as a result of natural disasters. Mother Nature can no longer provide a safe environment for us to live in.

Global warming is causing natural disasters to happen more frequently. The rising of the Earth’s temperature has disrupted the order of Nature, resulting in abnormal climates and natural disasters. The increasing global temperature is caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere trapping the Earth’s heat. Despite the call by the United Nations to industrialized nations to cut down on their greenhouse gas emissions, in the past few years, we’ve seen a continued increase of greenhouse gases. If this goes on, our planet will continue undergoing destruction, jeopardizing the lives of all creatures, including us humans.

We all live on the same planet, so we all share the same resources. Depletion of the Earth’s resources will impact the whole of humanity, our collective quality of life, and our own collective resources. Let us do something for Mother Earth. If we change our consumerist lifestyle and become more environmentally friendly, we can improve the condition of our environment. By not eating meat and eating vegetarian, we can help to reduce greenhouse gases. By reducing our consumption and doing recycling, we can help reduce pollution, conserve resources, and prevent mountains from being destroyed. Conserving electricity and water also helps prolong these resources.

When we switch to eco-friendly living habits, we reduce our part in the harm done to the Earth. Our eco-friendly living habits may seem insignificant in tackling the planet’s environmental problem, but when one person changes to an eco-friendly lifestyle, that’s one person protecting the Earth. When two, three, five, a hundred, or a hundred thousand people switch to an eco-friendly lifestyle, that’s a hundred thousand people protecting the Earth. When more and more people switch to eco-friendly living habits, our collective efforts can protect our planet. One person alone cannot do this; it takes the joint efforts of all people. When everyone switches to eco-friendly living habits we can really curb pollution, mitigate global warming, and save the Earth’s resources. As inhabitants of the Earth, let us protect her so that she can remain safe and well. Only when our planet is well can we humankind be safe and well. To give back to the Earth for all that she has provided to us, let us all take care of our planet together.

The International Symposium was held on the 28th of January 2014. His Grace, Archbishop Felix Machado was the Chief Guest, Heidi Kuhn, founder and CEO of ‘Roots of Peace’, which is a humanitarian non-profit organization which turns minefields into beautiful vineyards and orchards, was the key-note speaker, and the Guest of Honor was his Excellency, Dr. Liu Youfa, Consul General of the People’s Republic of China. The symposium featured a talk-show brilliantly conducted by Rev. Dr. Gilbert De’Lima and included eminent panelists like Dr. Zeenat Shaukat Ali, Dr. Horni Dhala, Dr. Lalita Namdoshi and Prof. Surinder Kaur. The entire symposium was fabulously compered by Dr. Sr. Teresa Joseph.

The yearly journal was also released during the session entitled “Ethics and Society: An International Journal Religious and Cultures for Peace and Harmony” – Volume 2.

 

UNESCO & Cardinal Paul Poupard Foundation

International Symposium 2012-2013

Significance of Life and Death in Three Major World Religions

St. Andrew’s College, Bandra

 

Photos Link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/aTS7LRuhwZb6jzQX6

 

Concept Note: Our first question is to what end and upon what right do we think about the strange and totally inaccessible subject of death? The answer is because of the supreme certainty we have about the existence of man: that it cannot endure without a sense of meaning. But existence embraces both life and death, and in a way death is the test of the meaning of life. If death is devoid of meaning, then life is absurd. Life’s ultimate meaning remains obscure unless it is reflected upon in the face of death.

The fact of dying must be a major factor in our understand­ing of living. Yet only a few of us have come face to face with death as a problem or a challenge. There is a slowness, a delay, neglect on our part to think about it. For the subject is not exciting, but rather strange and shocking.

What characterizes modern man’s attitude toward death is escapism, disregard of its harsh reality, even a tendency to ob­literate grief. He is entering, however, a new age of search for the meaning of existence, and all cardinal issues will have to be faced.

Death is grim, harsh, cruel, a source of infinite grief. Our first reaction is consternation. We are stunned and distraught. Slowly, our sense of dismay is followed by a sense of mystery. Suddenly, a whole life has veiled itself in secrecy. Our speech stops, our understanding fails. In the presence of death there is only silence, and a sense of awe.

Is death nothing but an obliteration, an absolute negation? The view of death is affected by our understanding of life. If life is sensed as a surprise, as a gift, defying explanation, then death ceases to be a radical, absolute negation of what life stands for. For both life and death are aspects of a greater mys­tery, the mystery of being, the mystery of creation. Over and above the preciousness of particular existence stands the mar­vel of its being related to the infinite mystery of being or creation. Death, then, is not simply man’s coming to an end. It is also entering a beginning.

The highlight of the year was the International Symposium held on 23rd November 2012. His Grace, Archbishop Felix Machado was the Chief Guest, Dr. Maria Luisa Rossi was the key-note speaker and the Guest of Honor was Mrs. Kia Scherr, President of One Life Alliance. The panel of speakers consisted of a psychologist and eminent speakers from the three major world religions i.e. Christianity, Hinduism and Islam.

 

UNESCO & Cardinal Paul Poupard Foundation

International Symposium 2011-2012

Water: Issues and Challenges

St. Andrew’s College, Bandra

 

Photos Link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/MbHEEGvqNkioL925A (1st January 2011)

https://photos.app.goo.gl/AvsGuNiB4JZSDQTd8 (2nd January 2011)

Concept Note: The consistent increase in the rate of growth of India’s population has also led to the increase in demand for water, particularly in the urban areas where the rate of increase is higher compared to rural areas. In 2001, the urban population was 285 million and assuming water supply of 135 litres per capita per day, the domestic water demand is estimated at around 38,475 million litres per day (MLD), whereas as in 2011 urban population was 377 million with a domestic water demand of 50,895 MLD. It shows that growth in urban population leads to additional water demand of 12,420 MLD in urban areas. The water supply of 135 litres per capita per day (LPCD) as a service level benchmark should be given for domestic water use in urban local bodies. However, currently as per Central Public Health and Environmental Engineering Organisation (CPHEEO), an average water supply in urban local bodies is 69.25 LPCD. This indicates that there is a vast gap between the demand and supply of water in urban areas of India.

The problem of access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities in urban areas of India is also a major concern. It is estimated that by 2050, half of India’s population will be living in urban areas and will face acute water problems. At present, 163 million people do not have access to safe drinking-water and 210 million people lack access to improved basic sanitation in India. In urban areas, 96% have access to an improved water source and 54% to improved sanitation. Whereas in rural areas, which accounts for 72% of India’s population lives, only 84% have access to safe water and only 21% for sanitation. In addition, there is a lack of wastewater treatment facilities to treat the wastewater of a growing population. There is a need to reuse treated wastewater in order to meet the current and future demands for water.

The prevention of pollution of water sources is extremely critical in order to continue to supply water of quality standards. Available data suggests that pollution levels have increased in surface water as well as groundwater. More than 100 million people in urban areas exposed to poor water quality. The lack of sufficient infrastructure, services and funds to support water and wastewater treatment facilities required for an urban area further exacerbates the problem. Moreover, drainage and solid waste collection services are not adequate in most of the urban areas. The systems are either poorly planned and designed, or operated without inadequate maintenance. Use of natural capacities of soil and vegetation (green infrastructure) can be applied to absorb and treat waste water. Natural systems are found to be more cost-effective and require low building, labour and maintenance costs.

The time has come to have a retrospect view on the water use and misuse to take serious actions that will lead towards sustainable urban water management. Sustaining healthy environments in the urbanized world of the 21st century represents a major challenge for human settlements, development and management. Again, flexible and innovative solutions are needed to cope with sudden and substantial changes in water demand for people and their associated economic activities.

In order to meet the future urban water challenges, there needs to be a shift in the way we manage urban water systems. An Integrated Urban Water Management approach must be adopted which involves managing freshwater, wastewater, and stormwater, using an urban area as the unit of management. The approach encompasses various aspects of water management, including environmental, economic, technical, political, as well as social impacts and implications. This will be one of the key topics of discussion at the 4th India Water Forum (IWF) to be organised by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in association with the Ministry of Water Resources River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India. The international convention has the broad aim of facilitating water for all in a safe and sustainable way, thereby aiming to achieve SDG 6.

This event provided a platform to highlight current and future water related issues and recognize good water governance practices and solutions through discussions among water experts from various fields such as academics, research, policy, industry and civic society.

 

The highlight of that academic year was His Eminence Cardinal Paul Poupard‘s visit to our college which was marked by a 2 day program. On 25th November 2011, H.E. Cardinal Paul Poupard had a discourse with students which involved a PowerPoint presentation on the activities conducted during the previous year, and the distribution of the course certificates. This was followed by a meeting with the faculty members of the college in the conference room. The second wing of the program was held on 26th November where an International Symposium on ‘Water: Issues and Challenges’ to promote peace and harmony was conducted in the college auditorium. The symposium was graced by H.E. Cardinal Paul Poupard and Adv. Giuseppe Musumeci, Scientist Mr. Niranjan Bilgi, and Dr. D. K. Sankaran, Former Chief Secretary of the Government of Maharashtra were the Guests of Honor. The symposium comprised of 3 sessions focusing on the scientific, religious and health aspects of water. Eminent speakers from various fields expressed their views on the same. The program was interspersed with music and dance on the theme of water.