Table of Content
News from South Africa
9 December 2013
Om Shanti and special love and greetings from South Africa. We are all experiencing very tangibly the worlds good wishes and love focused on South Africa at the moment. It has been an extraordinary time this last weekend.
Throughout the country there have been various programs, memorial services and and prayer meetings held. In Cape Town on Friday evening at the Grand Parade ( an outside venue in the city where Nelson Mandela addressed the public for the first time after his release from prison) an interfaith prayer was held and on Sunday evening a special peace concert was held with local artists at the same venue - again beginning with an interfaith prayer. Both occasions Bks were part of it and at the concert we offered a meditation on peace.
On Saturday, we had a lovely memorial service at the Observatory centre - and it was really heartwarming to hear stories of how BKs had personally met Mandela and their experiences. What came out again and again - was the warmth of his personality, his humility, how being in his presence the feeling of love was so tangible, the respect he showed and also how he could inspire people to give more of themselves for the service of others. It was really lovely to hear these personal experiences.
On Sunday, all centres held special meditation programs. It was declared by the President that Sunday would be a day of prayer and meditation. Sunday afternoon was a memorial service held in Lenasia, a program organised by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, The ANC branch and 25 other religious, social and sports organisations. It was a gathering of people inspired to serve in different ways and actively participate in making a difference to their communities. BKs were asked to light a special candle in Memory of Nelson Mandela and also had the opportunity to share a message. The highlight of the evening was the reminiscing of Ahmed Kathrada and Isu Chibha, both have spent time with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island - Ahmed Kathrada for 27 years and Isu Chibha for 18 years. Their reflections and stories were so heart warming and really gave the audience an opportunity to truly feel the depth of humanness and love that helped them survive the extremely torturous conditions of the prison. What stood out quite strongly, was the deep culture of respect that they held for each other, how Mandela treated everyone with equality and took no preferential treatment because of his status - he willingly lived through all conditions that was imposed on his fellow inmates. Mandela also personally cared for each prisoner in his block - that when they were ill he took care of their personal needs. His quality of always putting others before his personal needs was what won the hearts of many. ... There were many more qualities that were shared and as Isu Chibha ended he said Mandela had saintly qualities without being a saint. It has been very beautiful to see the impact one soul can have on so many lives just because of his character - a true testament of a great soul.
There are many memorial services planned for this coming week - will send some more info later.
In Baba's sweet remembrance
Br Anthony Strano's visit to South Africa
6 December 2013
Brother Anthony Strano graced the shores of South Africa between the 13th up until the 24th November. Arriving in Johannesburg, he had a public lecture on the theme, Overcoming Pain - A Time for Healing, in Lenasia. An hour before the talk, there was a severe thunderstorm with hail. However, once everything calmed down and cleared souls arrived for the program. A clear indication, that healing is needed not just for the souls of the world but also for the elements.
"There is a difference between pain and suffering. What is required, is the healing of the heart - this will remove suffering. What creates ‘real' health ? Spiritual education is needed to restore the dignity of individual as a person. For this 3 things are needed. 1) A true sense of identity 2) A sense of belonging and 3) Purpose. I need to rejuvenate my consciousness otherwise the same pain will repeat itself. You cant' solve the problem with the same consciousness that created the problem."
The next day in Observatory center, Johannesburg a half day retreat was held for all souls, including contacts and evening students. The theme centered on having a fulfilling relationship with God. Everyone enjoyed the space and time given for reflection guided by the input so clearly and powerfully expressed by Br Anthony.
One souls insight," My relationship with Baba will be reflected in my relationship with other people. This really hit home as it triggered the realisation of what is lacking in the soul and where honest efforts needs to be made."
From Friday the 15th until the 17th November Anthony was in Cape Town where a teachers retreat was held for all the teachers in the region. On a beautiful farm amongst Zebras, Kudu and springbok we spent a weekend absorbed, exploring the signals of time for each one of us on our spiritual efforts. A key emphasis that br Anthony stressed was the importance of silence and introspection. As teachers we get very drawn into activity but it is essential to spend quality time in reflection, only then can the quality of our yoga deepen and sanskaras transform. Humility is needed because that is what allows for creativity and newness. The teachers were deeply appreciative of this time together and felt it was Baba's very special gift to them.
On the evening of the 17th a talk was held at the Cape centre for contacts and the general public on the theme, "Encounters with God". It was a beautiful evening where personal stories of transformation were shared. "An encounter with God leaves you changed and that change is seen in your responses to the world around you." The next day there was enough time for a quick visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, the largest indigenous botanical garden in the Southern Hemisphere. Br Anthony simply enjoyed the splendour of nature and the tranquility of the garden...a taste of paradise.
From Cape Town br Anthony went to Botswana, a country north of South Africa for 2 days.
Brother Anthony arrived in Port Elizabeth in the evening of Wednesday 20 November and a public programme was held in the city on Thursday evening. The topic was : The Spirit of Real Men. It was felt that it would be good to take up this topic as the concern for women empowerment is quite prevalent making us forget that men are also compromised in this challenging world of ours: fundamental spiritual values of humanity and masculinity are sacrificed in the name of power and progress. Brother Anthony dealt with the topic in a very relevant and entertaining way that pleased all in the audience – young , elderly, male and female. One member of the audience summed it up in four words: He spoke the truth.
We had two mornings for murli class with Bro Anthony which were held at both the centres in the city; students from an adjacent coastal city and town travelled quite a distance to be present and felt that it was absolutely worthwhile. All murli students felt very inspired.
Drama offered some time for Brother Anthony to see zebra, wildebeest, lions , tigers and exchange drishti with giraffe at a nearby game reserve and lion park. Needless to say, these good vibrations did limitless service. Brother Anthony left Port Elizabeth for Durban on Friday morning 22 November.
Brother Anthony Strano arrived in Durban at 4pm on Friday, 22 November 2013. A special event was held that evening at Baba's home for close contacts and souls who are co-operative in Baba's service. The event began with an elegant dinner, which our guests thoroughly appreciated. By 7pm, we had a full house of over 100 people, and the lecture on "Slaying the 3 Dragons – Overcoming doubt, worry and fear" began. Br Anthony highlighted how to free the mind from doubt, worry and fear by using the practice of meditation. He ended with a profound guided meditation, which enabled the audience to become easily absorbed into a space of deep silence and stillness. This created immense peace and power in the atmosphere.
A retreat for the Brahmin family began with murli class on Saturday, 23 November 2013. In the workshop which followed, Brother Anthony took questions from the family, and he thereby clarified concepts and created a deeper understanding of gyan and yoga, which definitely uplifted the family.
A public event was held at the Durban Royal Hotel from 3:30pm to 5:30pm on 23 November 2013. Br Anthony gave an inspirational lecture on "Overcoming Pain – A Time For Healing" Approximately 340 people took immense benefit from his wisdom and presence. Br Anthony, in a gentle and respectful way, explained the experience of pain in relation to the law of action, and he illustrated how to overcome the burden of the past through meditation and spiritual practice. The audience were enthralled.
Brother Anthony conducted morning class on Sunday, 24 November and he left to his next destination shortly thereafter. The fragrance that he left behind, restored the family with a reminder of the sacredness of this Brahmin life and a renewed sense deep appreciation for having found God.
On the evening of the 24th Br Anthony returned to Greece. The family of South Africa was left with the beautiful fragrance of his visit - which inspired deeper purity and silence. A heartfelt thank you to Br Anthony for these 10 days of invaluable sustenance.
Write to God Mozambique - The Finale
29 November 2013
The Write to God project ended on 31st October. 2037 letters were written and received. The finale of Write to God happened during a time of insecurity in Mozambique due to the current political and social situations. On the same day of the event there was a huge peace demonstration in the city and many schools, shops and institutions were closed. This influenced the number of people that participated in the program. 40 people participated in the finale and many of them used this oportunity to Write to God during the event. There were moments of reflection about Peace through poetry, dance and music. Dr Jamisse Taimo , a member of the advisory board shared that although we have written about peace we now have to become peaceful. He also praised the Write to God working group who had worked tirelessly for the last 7 months. Each member of the group read a selection of the public letters and Sister Samantha shared that we all belong to one family and that there is an eternal connection between all of us because we share the same Father. The program ended with the burning of the letters as an offering to God and this was accompanied with a beautiful song led by Sister Estrela – Hosi Katekissa Africa (God blesses Africa).
Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, South Africa
29 November 2013
September 17th, declared by the United Nations as the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, a program was held at the Lenasia Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. The program began with a few minutes of silence to honour the memory of those who lost their lives in traffic accidents.
Guest speaker Sipho Nhlapo Operations Manager, Road Safety and Transport promotions for the City of Johannesburg, introduced the Streets Alive Road Safety Awareness Campaign in Johannesburg.
After having experienced a tragic accident and loosing a loved one a lesson was learnt, all questions such as what could I have done differently? The main factor leading to most road accidents were related to behavioural human issues and the decisions we make. The road safety problem is a sign of illness in society. The direct symptoms in society from observation can be easily seen such as: speed problems, alcohol and driving, vehicle conditions and road user behaviour. Going forward the community safety program has identified that they need more and better Behavioural change, Education and awareness, Enforcement, Community partnership and to Lower speed limits and to look at other ways of calming streets. The City of Joburg has adopted the following transport values to promote behavior change for road safety: Accountability, Co-operation, Honesty, Respect, Ubuntu.
The transport department and community safety runs awareness and education program focused on school children and road users using Pedestrian Angel, a mobile unit and industrial theatre to promote behavioral change.
Feelings from the heart, by both Sister Shobna and Sister Shirley expressed how spirituality gave them the strength and power to cope with losing a close family member through a road accident. Spiritual awareness encouraged them to hold on to good memories and subdue the pain one feels. Magela Pillay shared that road safety depends on the individual, every thought or word we speak influences us either negatively or positively. To have the awareness of what kind of driver, person, pedestrian or passenger am I? she advised to take few seconds to ground yourself before starting your car, arm yourself with the awareness that God is my protection.
The program ended with a guided meditation by Sister Shirley which created an experience of deep relaxation and cleared the mind of any negative feelings. People left inspired and committed to signing a pledge initiated by the City of Johannesburg to be more aware and disciplined in bringing about Road safety.
Service News from Benin, West Africa
29 November 2013
The centre in Benin held a special program to honour the UN declared International Peace Day, on September 21. As part of the preparation for this event, it created the opportunity to meet the Foreign Affairs Minister. The local media were also interested and hosted a talk on a local radio station and television station two days before the event.
On September the 21st at the public event hosted by the Brahma Kumaris honouring World Peace Day there were representatives from the Ministry of Communication, Ministry of Superior Education, Ministry of Secondary Education, Ministry of Primary Education and the Ministry of Family.
Representatives of different faiths were Islamic, Christian, Panafricanism, endogenous religion, Hindu, Voodoo, Diaspora Africa and Majesty the King and the M the Queen of Alada
Local artists who expressed peace through painting and songs contributed as well.
On the 24th of September afternoon, Sister Vedanti and Brother Tony came for a 4 day visit. Classes were held to provide for sustenance to the spiritual family.
Write to God - Zimbabwe
27 September 2013
The Write to God Zimbabwe, project, an initiative asking people to take a moment to reflect and write a letter to God was started in Zimbabwe on the 20th August. Sr Dipti from Nairobi came to initiate this project in Harare. It has been a wonderful opportunity to engage with all sectors in the community and reflect on their relationship with God and their aspirations. Zimbabwe a country which for the past few years had been experiencing many challenges, a moment to write to God was offering a ray of hope and encouragement to people. Its a simple project and has created great enthusiasm within the family.
The following are highlights of the magical experiences we had whilst she was here.
Interviews on the 20th August : Good Morning Zimbabwe Show - a radio interview,
on Morning Mirror Interview on the 1pm and 6pm News time (aired 3 times) and Southern Eye (local Bulawayo paper) newspaper editorial
We also had a table at the Harare Show which ran for one week, giving us an opportunity to distribute leaflets and collect a handful of letters. This place was kindly given by Nico Orgo fertilizers.
Various places were visited – University of Zimbabwe, a few cooperate organizations for support, schools, hospital, a Pentecostal church, supermarket, factories.
Message for Kenya
22 September 2013
Dear brothers and sisters
On behalf of the Brahma Kumaris, I want to extend our deep compassion and send thoughts of calm and healing to all of those affected by the terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. We have personally lost friends in this attack and our powerful thoughts are with the families of those who have lost their lives as well as those affected by this. It is not easy losing loved ones, yet the knowledge of the soul being eternal comforts us and we know that those who have gone are truly in God's hands.
It is at times like this when we need to turn our minds to God and draw on His compassion to bring strength, peace and understanding to our hearts so that we can keep our minds free from anger, fear and hate. One can never understand what leads to such brutal action, but we can only overcome such hate with peace. This will allow for our own healing.
It is in dark moments like this that we also witness the resilience, unity and generosity of the Kenyan people. These values define the innate strength and spirituality of the people and will help us heal with time.
With blessings of peace,
Regional Coordinator for the Brahma Kumaris in Africa
Yesterday (Saturday 21st September) around 12.30pm in the afternoon gunmen stormed the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi on Saturday killing at least confirmed 39 people in what Kenya's government said could be a terrorist attack. Westgate Mall is one of the most secured shopping centres in the city, with guards screening visitors and their vehicles round the clock. This mall is located very close to the main centre in Nairobi.
Being a Saturday many people were in the building shopping, going for lunch. There was also a children competition so many children were also within the building at that time. There are also a couple of cinema theatres.
Police said more than 600 people were evacuated and 150 were injured, some by shrapnel from the blasts. The attackers shot their way through the main gate and the parking. They then approached the Artcaffé — a popular restaurant and opened fire on customers indiscriminately. The gang, which was dressed in black with their faces covered. They later stormed the second floor where they held dozens of shoppers hostage.
There are some contacts who have been shot and killed and as time is passing by we are still getting the news. But we are all fine in the centre. The gunman are still in the mall and the police, army and all are on site trying to do whatever they can.
We are send our sakash to all those still within the building and the families who are affected.
Sr Jayanti in Lagos
17 to 22 September
I was in Lagos from the 17th-22nd September and it was very beautiful to be with the family there. Every moment was used in a worthwhile way. Each morning there was class at the main Centre where Rewaben is and the theme was ‘Power' for example the 'Power of Virtues', 'The Power of Meditation', etc etc.
Wednesday morning after class we went to Bistro and a Women's group had gathered together of many Nationalities and the programme was 'The power of Virtues' and it was well received. The same evening we had a public event at the main Centre and there were 250 Nigerians who came the First Governor of the state, Former Governor and other dignitaries. Thursday we went to Otta, a town just outside Lagos where Brother Prakash who has been sustained by Sarkar, Avyakt Baba and the Dadis gathered his staff and we were able to meet a lot of people and the main programme was the Inauguration of Baba Bhavan a four storey building where the top floor is an auditorium to seat 500 people and space for a Centre. The outside of the building is a huge image of Shiva Baba.
The programme was attended by several chiefs of the area as well as a member of the Royal family. Police escort was arranged to take us there and back again, since traffic can be quite challenging. Around 400 people came to the programme.
Friday there was a programme at Poonamben's home. It was a gathering of multi National group around 120 people. That was the night I stayed at the new Centre across the water at Ikoyi.
Saturday morning was visits to many families connected with the yagya from early days. The inauguration of a Shakti Bhavan and the main public programme at a beautiful hotel on the theme of ‘ The Power of Peace' since it was the day for International day of peace. A panel of five spoke including the Italian Consul, Cardiologist from Lagos and a Nigerian Business man who works internationally. Children sang a song for peace, a gathering of nearly 300 came together.
Each morning was conducted Amrit vela and extended morning class. Sundayafter class we went to speak at the Laxmi Narrayan Temple on Victoria Island and also the Gita temple.
There was then a journey to Accra. Baba has a beautiful new Centre there with Grace as the instrument. Straight from the airport we went to the programme at Baba's home, again a multi National gathering of around 90 people and the topic there was ' The magic of the Mind.'
A brother danced beautifully to music to start the programme. There were lively questions afterwards. Next morning was a public holiday on Monday 23rdSeptember and so a chance for extended morning class and a programme in the afternoon on the theme of Meditation and then there was around 70 people who came and it was highly interactive.
It was a joy to see so many souls with such keen interest in Baba's knowledge.
On arrival in London on Tuesday evening again there was a programme as a follow up to Dadi's programme with the Sindhis, around 70 people including Sindhi Brahmins came for a session on the basics of meditation. It seems it's time for people to come close to Baba.
Launch of "Write to God" in Botswana
15 June, 2013
200 people gathered on 15th June for the launch of the Write to God Initiative in Botswana. The programme started with an emotive youtube video called Note to God by Charice and was then followed by 2 beautiful songs by the Baobab School Choir. A group of 40 children aged 10 -13 who created a beautiful atmosphere with their uplifting voices. Oteng was the Mc for the evening and Sister Samantha shared the experiences of Write to God Kenya. An inspiring power point presentation of Kenyans writing to God in different settings and in different ways shown and was well received by all.
Africa Service News Reports
Launch of Write to God in Mozambique
8 May 2013
The write to God initiative was launched on 8th May 2013 at the Gungu theatre in Maputo, Mozambique. We had representatives from the media who recorded some of the event. Gilberto Mendes a popular TV presenter and actor was the MC for the event. The program started with Sister Samantha sharing her experiences of the project In Kenya. Letters written to God and a short video clip of Kenyan's writing to God were shared and this was followed by an update of the project in Mozambique, which was presented by one of the members of the core group, Alfredo Junior.
Members of the advisory board in Mozambique shared their inspirations. Tânia Tomê a famous singer in Mozambique sang a beautiful song and shared her inspirations for write to God. She shared that she has actively been involved in other peace initiatives with young people and would be happy to partner with write to God. She felt that this initiative gave people a chance to be introspective and reflective and this could help bring about change.
Rev Jamisse Taimo shared that God is One and when we write we are able to communicate honestly with God which in turn brings us closer to Him. He felt that as Mozambique has a population of 20 million we could get more than 1 million people in Botswana to write to God. Sónia Sutuane a writer and artist shared her life experience of writing to God
Sr Vendati and Sr Yasmita in Conarky
Clink below links for news
First day of COP17, UN's Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa
28 November 2012
COP17 was officially opened Monday 28th Nov. with a welcome ceremony attended by the President of the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency, Mr Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma and H.E. Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation for the Republic of South Africa and President Elect of COP17/CMP7, together with many other dignitaries.
Despite limited access for NGO's, due to their registration as a Research and Independent Organisation (RINGO), the Brahma Kumaris received invitations for 3 people. Sister Jayanti, Golo Pilz and Usha Jevan from Durban attended the welcome ceremony, which also included spectacular African Zulu dance and singing.
During the two weeks of the conference our exhibition stand at COP17 will serve as a focal point of our central theme of the conference Consciousness and Climate Change – Building Capacity and Building Power (Solar Energy).
Inter-generational Dialogue – Honouring Wisdom and Strengthening Commitment – University of KuzuNatel at Howard College, Shepstone
The first program at the NGO Forum with Panellists:
Sister Jayanti – Director Brahma Kumaris Europe and Middle East
Youth: Theresa Mungazi – Program Manager for Young Voices Network with a degree in Applied Environmental Sciences, Zimbabwe
Dr Sandika Baboolal- Medical doctor with special interest in environment
Simmi Dullay - Lecturer in gender studies, Degree in Fine Arts
Edna Kaptoyo - Programme officer at Indigenous Information Network
Four professional and dynamic young women joined Sister Jayanti in a lively and informative dialogue moderated by Devindree Pillay. Their conversation touched on many key issues around climate change and other major crisis facing humanity today; justice, gender equality, value based education and inter-generational communication, to name a few.
Theresa emphasised the need for value based education and posed the question; ‘Decisions are based on our value system, but the spiritual dimension is missing. When I share some of my ideas, young people just look at me strangely. How can I get my ideas across in an acceptable way?' Sister Jayanti took up the topic by saying "Young people don't want to be seen as the odd one out and so create ideas that catch on with them such as cycling instead of driving wherever you go or buying local foods in season instead of imports. This way it becomes ‘in' to be ‘green'".
Coming from an activist family, Simmi shared some of her disillusionment around initiatives such as COP17. She felt that negotiations do not bring about justice, only compromise and so issues such as wealth distribution and gender inequality are never resolved. Therefore the plight of the poor and women, in particular, especially in Africa, is never improved. Sister Jayanti responded that "Injustice can create anger, but this approach compounds the problem. Criticism separates me from others and then I cannot influence them. First I have to remove my own weaknesses and then I can engage calmly and clearly with others and achieve my goals. With truth we are able to make a difference and bring about the change that we would like to see".
In the evening a welcome reception hosted by the President of COP 17/CMP 7, took place at the City Hall of Durban. The large room was filled to capacity and decorated creatively with recycled materials such as cushions stitched out of sugar sacks. Soft green spotlights flooded the room from high ceilings highlighting a ‘forest' of cleverly stitched hearts and African continents made from stuffed newspaper hanging from white painted branches. Julia Grindon-Welch and Sonja Ohlsson attended and met many fellow delegates.