Dharavi Island Project

The Eco-Symposium Workshop

Mumbai, 4 February 2012: Inspired by the ideas, ideals, and visions of Tielhard de Chardin SJ and Thomas Berry CP, two Sisters, Gail Worcelo from the US and Sr Amelia Hendani from Indonesia, are touring South Asia on a mission to see what can be done to save our planet from peril. They spoke at an Eco-Symposium, jointly organized by the Xavier Institute of Social Research (XISR) and the Department of Inter-religious Studies (DIRS), for mainly university teachers, students, nuns and priests. They were ably assisted by Dr Orla O’Hazra, a cosmologist.

In the first part of her talk, Sr. Gail traced the evolution of Christian spirituality. She then explored the six major transformational ‘moments of Grace’ that have transformed the way religious communities all over the world have lived and evolved. These ‘moments’ have been “desert”, “community”, “mendicant”, “intellectual”, “activist”, and “cosmological”. She emphasized that our present times are marked by the entry of spirituality into the realm of planetary cosmology.

The second part, ‘Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream’, was from a secular perspective, and it made a great impact on the participants. Using video clippings from around the world, she explored the most critical concerns of our times, and enabled the participants to discover new opportunities for making an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just human presence on the planet.

Four questions were explored in depth: where are we? (an examination of the state of the environmental, social and personal well-being); how did we get there?(tracing  the root causes that have led to current imbalances); what’s possible for the future? (discovering the new ways of relating with each other and with the Earth, and looking at the emerging movements for change); and, finally, where do we go from here? (considering the stand we have to take to make our personal and collective impact). Issues of environmental degradation, climate change, and the concomitant equity principle formed part of the discussions and soul searching. What marked the symposium as unique was its methodology which paid a lot of attention to feelings (rather than just to thought and analysis), silence, and respect for persons and nature.

The high points of the symposium were: a) the formation of interest groups (organic farming, alternative energy, film and story-telling, waste management, planting of saplings & prevention of tree-felling, pollution control, etc) determined to do their bit to heal a broken world; b) the follow-up meeting on 5 February 2012 at Jivan Vikas Sadan that resulted in the formation of a core group to take the agenda of healing and greening the world forward.

Dr Fr. Anthony Dias, Director of Xavier Institute of Social Research, (XISR)