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A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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ISKCON Leader Addresses the Global Dialogue Forum in Portugal
By ISKCON News   |  May 22, 2024

Yudhistir Govinda Das on Sacred Ecology panel with Yahaya Cholil, Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, and Msgr. Maroun Gemayel, Apostolic Visitor for the Maronites in Europe.

The International Dialogue Centre – KAICIID opened its inaugural Global Dialogue Forum last week in Lisbon, Portugal. The event (May 14-16) explored the transformative power of dialogue in addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges. The Forum welcomed 150 high-level religious leaders, like the Former Prime Minister of Italy, the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, and the Imam of the Grand Mosque of Mecca, current and former heads of state, officials from the United Nations and European Union along with civil and non-profit leaders from around the world. Among the guests was Yudhistir Govinda Das, ISKCON Communications Director for India, who was also one of the key speakers at the gathering.

Dr. Zuhair Alharthi, the Secretary General of KAICIID, who opened the event on Wednesday, emphasized how vital these kinds of dialogues are in a global atmosphere of “growing distrust.” Yudhisthir Govinda Das echoed the sentiment, saying, “The world is going through major social, cultural, and geo-political transformations. It is essential for faith communities to work closely with policymakers in building a spiritual and value-based society. ISKCON, being a significant institution in this area, has a lot to contribute, and therefore, it must be a part of such forums.” Speeches were also delivered by several well-known public figures, such as Francois Hollande (Former President of France) and Graca Machel (the widow of Nelson Mandela and former First Lady of South Africa).

The KAICIID Forum covered three key themes, including building inclusive cities to respond to the influx of refugees caused by global conflict, promoting peace-building and conflict resolution, and, finally, exploring a “sacred ecology” approach to climate change. Yudhistir Govinda Das was invited to be a part of the panel discussion titled “Climate Change and Sacred Ecology” along with Yahya Cholil, Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Islamic organization with 100 million members and Msgr. Maroun Gemayel, the Apostolic Visitor (papal representative) for the Maronites in Europe. 

“The discussion presented the different faith perspectives on the issue of climate change and sustainability. We also offered our understanding of how to move ahead as faith traditions. The message in the opening verses of Isopanishad and Srila Prabhupada’s adage of ‘Simple Living, High Thinking’ is something that was appreciated. I also shared the need to build our communities based on the values found in sacred texts,” said Yudhistir Govinda Das. He also shared the various environmental initiatives undertaken by ISKCON, such as tree planting, promoting a vegetarian lifestyle, using more renewable sources of energy, and cleaning sacred holy places such as Vrindavan, Mayapur, and Puri.

Addressing the same theme, the Patriarch of Constantinople emphasized during the opening session that “the climate crisis is not a marginal or peripheral challenge in our world. It has sincere and profound spiritual roots, stemming from the way we perceive the gift of creation as a divine gift and a divine responsibility.”

On the sidelines of the Dialogue Forum, the participants also had the opportunity to meet and understand the activities of different institutions and communities. A welcome reception for the visiting dignities was arranged at the historic Palace of Ajuda, the residence of the erstwhile Portuguese Emperor. 

Yudhistir Govinda Das in conversation with Dr Iyad Abumoghli, Director of Faith for Earth Coalition at UNEP, and Amb Mussie Hailu, Director for Africa at URI.

Aligning with one of the KAICIID forum’s themes, the ISKCON Environmental Initiative (IEI) seeks to promote care, protection, and love for Mother Earth. To learn more about its efforts and initiatives, visit their website. To learn more about the ongoing KAICIID Global Dialogue Forum, click here. You can follow Yudhistir Govinda Das’s service on X (Twitter) and Instagram. All photos courtesy of KAICIID.