As I meditated on the Global Assembly in Rio in 2002 the following memories came to mind…the first image is that of light and laughter…and the sound of Brazilian music….then multiple marvelous shades of green punctuated by rich vibrant color of the landscape as well as the beautiful smiles, faces and colorful clothing of members of the human family from all across the globe.
Time stood still in welcoming spaces both indoors and outdoors, in solitary times for meditating and just being there and in times that we were gathered in sometimes intimate, sometimes large spaces…and always there was music….and spontaneous responses to joy in the universal languages of music and dance.
Also memorable is the reality of inclusion, the honoring and celebration of our rich diversity…a glimpse of the sacred oneness of all humankind…More sobering and very significant experiences as well occurred in a full day and evening among the young people we met in the flavellas (the Brazilian word for slum…as Andre Porto was faithful to remind us). As we walked up the street of this rather steep mountainside flavella we met young entrepreneurs from within the flavella, young founders of a bank and credit company for the poor within their community. We met as well beautiful children and their young teachers in their schools and recreation facilities. We were most graciously received, entertained and humbled by the young people as well as their elders… both by their courage and their talents and their joie de vivre despite the poverty that pervades their environment. Andre’s work within the flavellas and his efforts for gun control in Brazil are recognized as exemplary not only in Brazil but throughout URI by all who met him.
The difficult yet vital work that we did was, in my experience the “on the ground” sacred work, the work of deepening our awareness of and commitment to one another and our purpose in the context of the Preamble, Purposes and Principles of the URI. Techniques of appreciative inquiry as well as translators for the different language groups (with earphones for us )created the atmosphere of a sacred UN meeting…During sessions where we all wore ear-phones to hear our translators, we could participate in the stories of URI members from around the world: empathizing, laughing, weeping and recognizing our own ignorances, opening to new information, new perspectives we could empathize at deeper and deeper levels each day. In my opinion such interest, compassion, and empathy becomes the mortar for building the URI. The Global Assembly in Rio was a living vision of what we can experience…It was also a vision for addressing the demanding work that lies ahead of us.
Mayapur will be very different in many ways….we’ve grown over these six years….we’ve celebrated, faced and dealt with disappointments, seen our world changed yet again by the escalation of wars and violence….we have grown in numbers and in wisdom, and ”we have dug in our heels” to stand against religiously motivated violence….it will be good to gather again….in a very different sacred space… by the Ganges….
In Love and Peace,
Linda Bennett Elder
Director, The Pilgrimage Project