From May 26 to May 28, ISKCON Communications European (ICE) leaders and representatives from 17 Countries gathered in Prabhupada Desh just outside of Venice, Italy, to discuss and share their thoughts on some pressing issues such as women’s position in ISKCON, veganism, the changing world around us with social media and how to grab people’s attention on Facebook and Instagram. The Countries represented were:UK, Belgium, Holland, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Slovenia, Germany, Sweden, Hungary, Czech, Slovakia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Russia and USA.
Mahaprabhu Das from Radhadesh in Belgium, a dedicated leader who has been heading the Communications efforts in Europe for over 10 years, was very excited to see the largest ever gathering of almost 50 people at this year’s meetings. He felt a certain energy and momentum this year and feels that this may have been the tipping point in the right direction. He understands there is a lot of work to be done and we have a long ways to go. He hopes that more people from more countries will attend next year and in the coming years. “There are still a lot of people who don’t know who we are and the values we stand for, they only have a partial understanding of ISKCON. If we really want to become an influential organization in the world we have a lot of work to do, to properly present our views and our position,” said Mahaprabhu.
Some thoughts and take-aways from other attendees:
Olessia from Moscow stated “I always come here to meet like minded devotees and recharge my batteries to become enthusiastic again.” Govindananda Das from Croatia, shared a similar sentiment where “the commitment of devotees in this communications service and readiness of devotees to think for the benefit of our society creates a family atmosphere.” Saraswati Dasi from the Netherlands also appreciated the good spirit of the event and the great discussions on women’s issues.
Many attendees appreciated the invigorating discussions of the conference. Madhavi Dasi from UK stated to be “very inspired to see the devotees on how they responded and participated at the World Cafe on such a sensitive issue on women’s position in ISKCON.” Devarsi Narada Das from Croatia echoed this thought in saying that “by discussing veganism and women’s issues was important because these are subjects we usually sweep under the rug, but here we can openly discuss.” Urukrama Das from Slovenia had similar thoughts and stated “we shared experiences and ideas, and most importantly networked with the attendees. All topics of veganism, women’s issues, pastoral abuse, and child protection are very important and contemporary issues. We not only addressed these issues we also worked on a strategy for the future and communications in ISKCON at large, it was a very fruitful meeting.”
The invigorating spirit of the conference’s discussion was also felt by Janmastami Das from Belgium, who thought that the World Cafe and Theatrics presentation by Gauri Das magnificently broke the ice and all attendees got to know each other better.
In addition to the World Cafe discussion, Parabhakti Das from Villa Vrindavan, Florence, Italy, found the presentation on social media and communications by Ajita to be profoundly interesting. First time attendee, Priyakirti Das from Czech Republic, was very impressed with the association and the contents discussed and found the social media presentation to increase internet preaching to be very useful. Perhaps the most excited devotee was Tarunyamrta Dasi from Belgium whose biggest take away was “how innovative the digital part of social media is as a tool for outreach.”
All in all, Kamala Priya Dasi from Sweden, thought the conference was very successful with several practical tips and tools given to all who attended. Saci Sundari from Bulgaria felt very inspired, especially coming from an isolated country where they do not get many visiting preachers from around the world. She felt proud to be a part of this international movement and being a part of this bigger family stating, “I feel Inspired again for action with this helpful and relevant knowledge.” Both Vladislava From Bulgaria, and Gandharvika Prema Dasi from Hungary found the conference as a whole “very interesting, useful, and inspiring. To see what other countries are achieving was very encouraging.”
ISKCON Communications Minister Anuttama Das called this conference “the largest meeting of communications in Europe ever. It shows the interest, increased conviction, and understanding on how ISKCON can become a prominent community in Europe.”
Lastly, Patita Pavana Das from Spain says he’s taking with him the inspiration and new ideas from the many like-minded devotees, and he’s also excited that he won the votes to host the next ICE meetings for May 2019.
The last day the conference attendees had a fun outing to Padova, a city known for its Scrovengi Chapel from 1300s and the vast 13th Century Basilica of Saint Anthony. The Basilica, with its Byzantine-style domes and notable artworks, contains the namesake Saint’s tomb. An ecstatic Harinaam through the old town of Padova, known for its arcaded streets and stylish cafes, followed by a sumptuous lunch picnic at a famous park. Then a visit to the only Synagogue in Padova still in use. The city is also known for its first University in Italy, The University of Padua, established in 1222.
All in all, the conference attendees agreed, it was a lot of learning and fun with kirtans, warm company and out of this world prasadam pizzas, lasagna and fresh baked breads everyday.