Volume 4 Issue 27| July 30, 2011|


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Cover Story

Berlin 2011
The World Culture Festival

There is a saying in Sankskrit, "Basudeva Kutumbokum" which means, "One world, one family". This is not a modern saying, but one that has been used since ancient times. Even though these are well-known and much-used words in modern-society, we hardly adhere to the practicality that such sayings portray. This is mainly because of political conflicts and barriers of language, religion, culture and race, which prevent the people of the world from acting as "one". This leads to the economic powerhouses dominating over the ones who are not as fortunate, thus leading to even more divisions and therefore taking us further away from the quintessence of "globalization". The biggest irony here lies in the fact that countless peace-summits and anti-racism campaigns, are taking place simultaneously with striking examples of conflict. Whether it be the downplaying of Muslims or abuse related to ethnicity, the world just hasn't been able to leave behind its differences and work towards unity. Furthermore, we are yet to know how long poverty alleviation will actually take to become a success story or whether the bridging of the gap between the rich and poor can actually take place. Does this mean that we should just sit idle and NOT do anything to help improve the status quo of the world? No. Even in the wake of such realities, there are certain people who actually work towards making "globalization" a materialized dream. One such person is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who recently hosted the World Culture Festival in Berlin, which had gathered dreamers from all around the world, who left behind their differences of language and culture for 2 days, just for the common good. Bangladesh itself had 21 attendees at the festival who participated in event. This amazing festival makes up the cover-story of today's issue of Star Insight.

Rafi Hossain

With the tagline “Celebrating Diversity and Enriching Life”, the World Culture Festival was held from 2nd 3rd July 2011 in the Olympiastadion in Berlin, Germany. It was a unique international peace event and celebration of cultures, bringing together the participation of 150 countries featuring dance, music, food, literature, yoga and dialogue. The event highlighted a Grand Celebration with an extraordinary entertainment programme, a World Continents Pavilion showcasing cultural heritage of Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Americas and Europe as well as Europe's biggest Yoga Park. More than 70,000 participants travelled to the World Culture Festival and joined in the celebrations of 'Celebrating Diversity and Enriching Life'. I, along with a score of Bangladeshis, were lucky enough to participate in the festival.

Fascinating cultural shows, melodious music, dazzling and colourful costumes from around the globe had taken the audience on an unforgettable journey through all the different countries in the world. Under the patronage of the Indian Embassy in Berlin, the Festival honoured the norms and values of various cultures while celebrating harmony in diversity. All countries demonstrated the uniqueness of their culture and contributed to a rousing evening; well-known artists from around the world thrilled the audience with their acts. In the dance performance "One World Family" the diversity of the traditions of all the continents merged into a single, colourful show. 200 artists represented the tradition of yoga in a graceful choreography. Part of the Grand Celebration was a concert with 6,500 guitars and 30 pianos.

As I witnessed the harmonization of the world's various culture on a single stage, and marvelled at its vibrance, one thought haunted my mind. Cultural differences accross the globe, along with religious and racial differences are the root of the most perreniel problems of the human kind. But, at the World Culture Festival, instead of being obstacles, cutlural difference is what united us. It is our differences that made each person unique, its each person's unique difference that added a new flavour to the festival, making it that much richer and diverse. Everyone there was part of one large family, and despite not knowning everyone's language, they were blended in as citizens of the earth. Perhaps this is the single biggest lesson to be learn, that if we let go of our individual ego problems and become tolerant of differences, we can appreciate everyone for who they each really are. In the process, we can learn to appreciate the wealth in them.

At the festival, the World Continents Pavilion interactively showcased the beauty of all the world's cultures through their local dance, music, food, literature, conferences and inter-cultural dialogue. The Pavilions also hosted the 5th International Women's Conference, the World Youth Conference and a Conference on Living Human Values. At Europe's biggest Yoga Park, Yoga experts shared their expertise in conferences and workshops. A unique Yoga Museum was used to chart the evolution of Yoga from ancient sages to its global application in the 21st century. The Yoga Park also illustrated the societal impact of Yoga in peace building and therefore its application in humanitarian projects around the world. Life is a celebration, and at the World Culture Festival, I experienced the true meaning of that statement.

In a bid to promote peace and cultural togetherness, senior governmental representatives, business leaders, academia, leaders of NGOs, religious and spiritual leaders, peacemakers and renowned personalities from across the globe exchanged their views and spread the message of peace, unity and harmony in diversity. The World Culture Festival was concluded by a unique peace meditation and interfaith peace prayer, bringing together representatives from all traditions to spread the message of peace and intercultural harmony.

Minister for Information and Cultural Affairs of Bangladesh, Mr Abul Kalam Azad was present on the dias in the concluding ceremony. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar also received the prestigious Human of the World Award from General Major Alexander Stephanov, President of the Academy of National Security, Russia. Cultural Minister Mr. Abul Kalam Azad along with Member of Parliament Ms. Tarana Halim, Bangladesh Ambassador Mr. Masud Mannan and Bangladesh Islamic Foundation Deputy Director Mr. Syed Abdullah Al-Maruf had a special meeting with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in which the Cultural Minister had extended a warm invitation to him to visit Bangladesh.

The Art of Living Foundation (AOLF), founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in 1981 to promote peace and human values, is an international non-profit educational and humanitarian organization with a presence in over 150 countries.

Who is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a universally revered spiritual and humanitarian peace ambassador. His vision of a violence-free, stress-free society through the reawakening of human values has inspired millions of people globally to broaden their spheres of responsibility and work towards the betterment of the world. Sri Sri's work sees him addressing audiences of diverse nationalities and backgrounds, including the United Nations, prison inmates, corporate management teams, ailing farmers and school children. It is also not an uncommon sight to see people from warring nations sitting side-by-side in one of Sri Sri's programmes or addresses.

As an ambassador of peace, Sri Sri plays a key role in conflict resolution and spreads his vision of non-violence at public forums and gatherings world-wide. Regarded as a neutral figure with the principle agenda of peace, he represents hope to people in conflict. He has received particular credit for bringing opposing parties to the negotiating table in Iraq, the Ivory Coast and the states of Jammu & Kashmir and Bihar in India.

Born in 1956 in Southern India, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was a gifted child. By the age of four, he was able to recite parts of the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Sanskrit scripture and was often found in meditation. His first teacher was Sudhakar Chaturvedi, who had a long association with Mahatma Gandhi. At the age of seventeen, in 1973, he had graduated with degrees in, both, Vedic literature and physics.

Through his initiatives and talks, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has consistently stressed the need to enhance human values and to recognize the humanity as our highest identity. Promotion of religious harmony and the need for multi-cultural education as a remedy for fanaticism are important parts of his efforts to achieve sustainable peace on our planet. Working towards achieving this with his “One World Family” message, overcoming barriers, races, nationalities and religions, his work has touched the lives of millions of people around the world. Inner and outer peace is possible. A stress-and violence-free society can be created through service to others and the revival of human values.

Guitar Ensemble

Sri Sri comes from the lineage of peace and non-violence of Mahatma Gandhi. Through his initiatives and addresses, Sri Sri has consistently emphasized the need for reinforcing human values and recognizing humanity as our highest identity. Fostering interfaith harmony and calling for multicultural education as the remedy for fanaticism are significant parts of his efforts to achieve sustainable peace on our planet.

In 1997, he co-founded the International Association for Human Values (IAHV) to coordinate sustainable development projects, nurture human values and coordinate conflict resolution in association with The Art of Living. In India, Africa and South America, the two sister organizations' volunteers are spearheading sustainable growth in rural communities, and have already reached out to over 36,000 villages.

Tackling the issue of terrorism and promoting interfaith harmony, Sri Sri has taken his message of a multicultural education to concerned forums across the world be it the 29th National Meeting of the Jamiat-Ulema-i-Hind (the largest Islamic Imam Association of India) or the 3rd World Congress of Rabbis and Imams for Peace in Europe. He has taken his message to members of every stratum of society religious leaders, decision-makers, academicians, bearers of social responsibility and the common man.

Bangladesh cultural minister Mr Abul Kalam Azad speaking at WCF

With the Art of Living and the Sri Sri Yoga Workshop Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has translated the application of Yoga in the modern times of the 21st century. Making the techniques easily applicable, yet profound and effective, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has been instrumental in rekindling the interest of the social mainstream in Yoga. Beyond reviving ancient wisdom, Sri Sri has also designed special courses which teach effective and practical techniques for emotional and physical wellbeing. These include the Sudarshan Kriya which has helped millions of people to find relief from stress and discover inner reservoirs of energy and peace in daily life. The Sudarshan Kriya, a powerful breathing technique, forms the cornerstone of a diverse range of self-development programmes catering to all sections of society.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, said about the World Culture Festival, "30 years of the Art of Living: This is a big milestone with many achievements, inspiring us to move forward with greater speed and greater enthusiasm. The dream to make life a celebration and the world a family has materialized and become a reality. Millions of volunteers who have worked with such enthusiasm and love will continue to inspire millions more, reach out to all those areas where we have not reached and wipe all those tears that are yet there. The 30th anniversary is a celebration of achievement and a vision to do more service.”

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