Panchtatva: Celebrating Nature’s harmony

18 February 2015

“A wonderful evening of spectacular music was in store for the Delhi crowd as Panchtatva celebrated the last of its five all-India concerts which started in Mumbai, and then went to Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and now Delhi,” said Kiran Mehra-Kerpelman, UNIC Director. “They carried off an absolutely magical evening depicting the five elements of nature, taking the understanding of climate change and the effects of human impact on the environment”, she noted. The five elements are: “Aakash (Space), Vaayu (Wind), Agni (Fire), Jal (Water) and Prithvi (Earth)”.  

Conceived by Durga Jasraj, together with Neeraj Jaitley, Panchtatva is an immersive experience through a spectacular combination of specially designed Animation and Visual Effects along with Soundscapes, and the use of Shlokas from the Vedas (scriptures). “Panchtatava is a musical extension of our dynamic Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji’s call for action for Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan” said Durga Jasraj. “We firmly believe that each one of us can contribute in our unique way and hence we decided to roll out a Concert tour to spread awareness through entertainment, which will leave a lasting impression on people’s minds”. The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India, Aditya Birla Group, and the United Nations Information Centre for India and Bhutan (UNIC) supported this endeavour.

This was really is a unique presentation wherein Musical Superstars -- Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Ustad Rashid Khan, Selva Ganesh, Taufiq Qureshi, Rattan Mohan Sharma, Ankita Joshi, Sridhar Parthasarathy, Ramkumar Mishra, Subhankar Banerjee and Durga Jasraj, performed together and the public just kept asking for more.

‘We need to take Cognizance Now’

13 February 2015

‘Taking Diversions and U-Turns: Conversations and Dialogues on Sustainable Futures and Spirituality’, an extremely interesting and rather unique ‘unconference’, was held at Loyola College, Chennai from 11 to 13 February. This was in partnership with The Global Centre for the Study of Sustainable Futures and Spirituality, Malaysia, Loyola University, Chicago, USA, Shikshantar/Swaraj University, Udaipur, Public Media Agency, Malaysia, Development and Civilizations – Lebret-Irfed, Paris, France.

With such different actors involved, the presentations were extremely diverse. Rev. Dr. G. Joseph Antony Samy SJ, Principal and Chairman of Loyola College, Chennai, quoted an astronaut’s view of the Earth. She said it looked so fragile from outer space. It is easy to take it for granted when we live there. Climate scientists tell us how we are facing challenges. So in our daily lives we need to think about how we can go about our daily business but not forget to care for the Earth.

Rev. Dr. M. Albert William SJ, Secretary and Correspondent & Web Master explained what this U-Turn in the title was all about. He said that when we come to zero velocity and find ourselves at the breakpoint, taking a U-turn could only be positive. It should take us towards sustaining natural resources for our children. “Creation is at stake”, he said. “We are at the brink of extinction if we don’t take cognizance and act now”.

UNIC Director Kiran Mehra-Kerpelman was the Chief Guest and brought the essence of the United Nations to this Conference. “When UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited India last month”, she said, “he asked what kind of a future do we really want our children and great grandchildren to inherit. Determining this is our moral and political responsibility, he said”. The SG said that at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, he called upon world leaders, business leaders and all the people around the world to be inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s vision and teachings. Mrs. Mehra-Kerpelman congratulated the organizers on planning such a gathering where one can develop initiatives and plans that fit our specific local context, while operating within the larger framework of sustainable development.

Mrs. Nancy C. Tuchman, Founding Director, Institute of Environmental Sustainability from Loyola College, Chicago did exactly this. She shared an amazingly successful initiative taken at their 100-acre campus where they found ways and means of involving their students in the creative experiments of bringing down each one’s ecological footprint. Based on guidelines that had been provided by the United Nations, she said, they had managed to bring down the consumption of energy phenomenally, while at the same time had increased the number of students. Some fascinating initiatives on organic farming on their rural campus, on competitions to keep certain “green” dorms on lowest energy norms were presented.

Delegates from 10 countries were present, from as far as Uruguay. Loyola Colleges are trying to create networks so that each one can learn from the other’s experience. Mrs. Mehra-Kerpelman mentioned the World Bank’s study “Voices of the Poor” which concluded that faith can play a remarkable role in advancing the objectives of the United Nations. Today, when our common goal is crafting a sustainable world that we can pass on to future generations, the importance of the intersection of culture, spirituality and sustainability is more than ever, particularly to help effect the large-scale individual and societal transformations that are crucial to this project.

‘We need to take Cognizance Now’

11 February 2015

‘Taking Diversions and U-Turns: Conversations and Dialogues on Sustainable Futures and Spirituality’, an extremely interesting and rather unique ‘unconference’, was held at Loyola College, Chennai from 11 to 13 February. This was in partnership with The Global Centre for the Study of Sustainable Futures and Spirituality, Malaysia, Loyola University, Chicago, USA, Shikshantar/Swaraj University, Udaipur, Public Media Agency, Malaysia, Development and Civilizations – Lebret-Irfed, Paris, France.

With such different actors involved, the presentations were extremely diverse. Rev. Dr. G. Joseph Antony Samy SJ, Principal and Chairman of Loyola College, Chennai, quoted an astronaut’s view of the Earth. She said it looked so fragile from outer space. It is easy to take it for granted when we live there. Climate scientists tell us how we are facing challenges. So in our daily lives we need to think about how we can go about our daily business but not forget to care for the Earth.

Rev. Dr. M. Albert William SJ, Secretary and Correspondent & Web Master explained what this U-Turn in the title was all about. He said that when we come to zero velocity and find ourselves at the breakpoint, taking a U-turn could only be positive. It should take us towards sustaining natural resources for our children. “Creation is at stake”, he said. “We are at the brink of extinction if we don’t take cognizance and act now”.

UNIC Director Kiran Mehra-Kerpelman was the Chief Guest and brought the essence of the United Nations to this Conference. “When UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited India last month”, she said, “he asked what kind of a future do we really want our children and great grandchildren to inherit. Determining this is our moral and political responsibility, he said”. The SG said that at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, he called upon world leaders, business leaders and all the people around the world to be inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s vision and teachings. Mrs. Mehra-Kerpelman congratulated the organizers on planning such a gathering where one can develop initiatives and plans that fit our specific local context, while operating within the larger framework of sustainable development.

Mrs. Nancy C. Tuchman, Founding Director, Institute of Environmental Sustainability from Loyola College, Chicago did exactly this. She shared an amazingly successful initiative taken at their 100-acre campus where they found ways and means of involving their students in the creative experiments of bringing down each one’s ecological footprint. Based on guidelines that had been provided by the United Nations, she said, they had managed to bring down the consumption of energy phenomenally, while at the same time had increased the number of students. Some fascinating initiatives on organic farming on their rural campus, on competitions to keep certain “green” dorms on lowest energy norms were presented.

Delegates from 10 countries were present, from as far as Uruguay. Loyola Colleges are trying to create networks so that each one can learn from the other’s experience. Mrs. Mehra-Kerpelman mentioned the World Bank’s study “Voices of the Poor” which concluded that faith can play a remarkable role in advancing the objectives of the United Nations. Today, when our common goal is crafting a sustainable world that we can pass on to future generations, the importance of the intersection of culture, spirituality and sustainability is more than ever, particularly to help effect the large-scale individual and societal transformations that are crucial to this project.

Children’s film festival promotes UN values

08 February 2015

UNIC Director Kiran Mehra-Kerpelman was in Lucknow at the City Montessori School, to unveil the poster and logo for the 7th International Children’s Film Festival. The festival is being held in collaboration with the United Nations Information Centre for India and Bhutan under its 70th anniversary yoUNg@70 campaign. “It aims to promote world unity and world peace and has been termed the world’s biggest such festival” said Mr. V. Kurian, the Festival Director. “We have received an amazing 1020 entries from 80 participating countries,” he said.

“This is a unique festival during which only children’s films are screened for entertainment as well as for learning lessons of character building qualities and spiritual inspiration from them”, said Dr. Jagdish Gandhi, who wants to bring education out of the four walls of the classroom and to build a safe society of values. Six years ago, CMS, which is now an UN-accredited NGO, conceived of this concept to eliminate the adverse effects of commercial films in which violence and vulgarity is depicted randomly. The festival was also designed to bring about social transformation by promoting universal values and global understanding through the powerful medium of films.

Another unique feature is that when the films are screened in early April, the plan is to bring more than 100,000 children from scores of schools of Lucknow and surroundings to several shows over a week. Invitations are also being sent to teachers and parents. That number in itself is staggering record-breaking one, and we are looking forward to a wonderful experience. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said: “There is no greater tool than education to enhance human dignity, promote a culture of non-violence, and build lasting peace. Through education, we can craft new ways of living with each other and the planet. Education can also lay the foundation for developing new forms of global citizenship and solidarity that are so essential in today’s world”. And the film festival is providing an entertaining path to education.

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