Report of the 29th Auroville International meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
24-30 October 2011
AVI USA: Julian Lines, Bryan Walton
AVI UK: Sonia Dyne
AVI France: Francine Finck, Hasi Grandcolas
AVI Germany: Friederike Mühlhans
AVI Canada: Christian Feuillette
AVI Spain: Alfonso Galiana
AVI Switzerland Camille Egger-Foetisch
Auroville Vani Poirier, Jaya Berggren-Clausen, Shivaya Hauser, Tineke Smits, Dr Margarita Correa, Deepti Tewari, Amy Bassett, Tatiana Tolochkova, Miriam, Antonio and Hanna Sevnickar, Tekeste Berhan, Joss Brooks, Lourdes Nadin Epinal, Cristo Mabilat, Carsten Michelsen, Marco Tormo
Ethiopia: Shimelis Adugna, Haimanot Alemu, Melake Selam, Brooks Teklehaimanot, Selamawit Wagaye, Gelaye Delas
A.Conference “Towards Tomorrow – Integral Approach to collaboration between Auroville and Africa” and Cultural Experience
B. Board meetings
- Future meetings
- Voting of next AVI board
- Reports from AVI centers and liaisons
- Mailing list
- Report from IAC meeting
- International Zone
- Visa situation
- Involvement of Youth
- “Vision future”
- Auroville/AVI “couch surfing”
- Participation of Aurovilians in AVI meetings
- Presentation of Joss
- Key-note address of President Girma Woldegiorgis
- AVI presentation by Christian Feuillette
- Messages from AVI liaisons Burkina Faso and South Africa
- Address by Julian Lines and message from Dr. Karan Singh
- Press release
A. Conference “Towards Tomorrow – Integral Approach to collaboration
between Auroville and Africa” and Cultural Experience
A very effective team, spearheaded by Aurovilian Jaya, had organized the public conference in the Red Cross Society Training Institute of Addis Ababa. Our Ethiopian partners were well connected and had communicated the information about the conference in wide circles, including a press release that was sent to the media and to many offices of government, African Union and NGOs in Addis. So it happened that some days ahead of the meeting a small group of organizers (Jaya, Friederike, Tekeste, Selamawit and Woldemu) was invited to see the President of Ethiopia, Mr. Girma Woldegiorgis and explain about the conference and the plans of the Addis group for a closer collaboration with Auroville and AVI. The President was very interested, regretted that he would not be able to come personally to greet us at the conference but promised to send a delegate.
Before the conference started, 24 large-size exhibition panels on a wide range of Auroville topics were mounted at the Red Cross Institute. They had been prepared in Auroville, mainly by the AVI representative Vani Poirier, formed a beautiful framework for the conference and were a good point of contact with visitors.
The very skilful and charming conference moderator, Haimanot Alemu, greeted the guests and specially honoured Tekeste Berhan who had been the inspiration for an Auroville conference in his home country already back in 2002. He reminded us of the fact that about one third of the nations represented at the inauguration of Auroville came from Africa, the continent known as the “cradle of humanity”, while Auroville was conceived as the “cradle of human unity”.
The conference was opened by Shimelis Adugna, a former Ethiopian Minister and Ambassador of Ethiopia to India. He said that humanity always had high hopes and ideals but always failed to implement and keep its promises. Now Auroville is there to bring dreams into reality. Shimelis had come to Auroville in November 2010 for the inauguration ceremony of the African Pavilion.
Second was the key-note address of President Girma, read out by his delegate, in which he expressed his sincere hope to see a further close collaboration between Auroville and Ethiopia. The speech will be attached to this report.
Christian Feuillette followed, introducing the AVI network to the audience and expressing our hopes that at the end of the conference we will have an AVI Ethiopia group joining our association (attached). Friederike Mühlhans read out two messages from the AVI liaisons in South Africa and Burkina Faso (attached).
Then Julian Lines conveyed the greetings of the International Advisory Council of Auroville, of which he is a member, and read a message by Dr. Karan Singh, Chairman of Auroville´s Governing Board (attached).
The opening ceremony was completed by Sonia Dyne who handed over the volumes of Sri Aurobindo´s Complete Works to a representative of the John F. Kennedy Library at the Addis Ababa University.
An Ethiopian film team had recorded the opening session, and in the 8 o’clock evening TV news a fairly detailed report of the conference opening was broadcast, with a full screen shot of Sri Aurobindo´s books.
During the next two days, Aurovilians presented their projects and spoke about Auroville´s 44 years of experience in all fields of “karma yoga”. The presentations and speakers were:
- Deepti Tewari, Auroville; “Auroville and Human Unity: A living expression of Sri Aurobindo’s evolutionary vision”
- Joss Brooks, Auroville; “On Auroville and the Environment”
- Presentation on Education: “An Auroville Perspective”, by Deepti Tewari, Auroville
- Presentation on Education: “Activity Based Learning (ABL) for Primary Education in India”, by Lourdes Nadine Epinal, Auroville
- “The Nadukuppam Environment Education Center”, by Lourdes Nadine Epinal, Auroville
- “The Greening of Auroville and Ourselves”, by Joss Brooks, Auroville
- “Preventive Health Care; Vector Control and Safe Drinking Water using Natural Probiotics”, by Dr Margarita Correa, Auroville
- “Renewable Energy Systems and Auroville”, by Carsten Michelsen, Auroville
- “Sustainable Cities with Natural Probiotics”, by Dr Margarita Correa, Auroville
- “The Auroville Earth Institute” by Cristo Mabilat, Auroville
- “Using Earth Construction Technology in Ethiopia” by Melake Selam, Addis Ababa, who holds the Chair of Appropriate Technology at the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building construction and City development (EiABC). Melake has studied for some months at the Auroville Earth Institute.
- Coffee Ideas! Uniting people through the value Coffee Chain”, by Marc Tormo, Auroville
- “On Human Unity”, by Deepti Tewari, Auroville
- “The International Zone of Auroville and the Unity Pavilion”, by Shivaya Hauser, and Jaya Berggreen-Clausen, project holders of the Unity Pavilion
- “The Nakashima Peace Foundation and the Hall of Peace”, by Julian Lines, AVI USA, member of the Nakashima Peace Foundation and Shivaya Hauser, project holder of the Hall of Peace, Auroville
- “Africa House”, by Tekeste Berhan, Auroville, former Ethiopian Diplomat and project holder for the Africa House project, Brook Teklehaimanot, who holds the Chair of Architecture and Design at the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building construction and City development (EiABC) and Jaya Berggreen-Clausen, Coordinator for the Africa House project
- “SAVI, the Auroville Volunteer and Internship Service”, by Shivaya Hauser, Coordinator of SAVI
A condensed version of the presentations was repeated and very well received by the academic audience during two evenings at the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building construction and City development (EiABC). These evenings were organized by Melake Selam and Brook Teklehaimanot.
The participants of the conference were invited on October 26 to visit the National Museum of Ethiopia, where great archaeological finds of the Great Rift Valley area, including our oldest human ancestor “Lucy” (or “Dinkinesh” in Amharic, meaning “The Wonderful”), are kept and presented. We were also invited to attend a presentation and exchange in the auditorium of the Museum by the leading Ethiopian Palaeontologist, Dr Berhane Asfaw. He gave us an immensely enlightening presentation on the evolution of the early hominid to man – the same presentation he had given earlier in Rome to the Pope. We also learned from him that he prefers to speak of the Great Rift Valley, rather than of the “cradle of humanity”, of the “laboratory of humanity” – this gave us representatives of Auroville, which The Mother had called “a living laboratory of human unity”, the intense feeling that our presence in Ethiopia was following a deeper cause.
Deepti Tewari then presented the view of evolution as seen by Sri Aurobindo and expressed in the Veda. A lively question and answer session followed.
A full day was reserved for a visit to Asebe Teferi, a little town east of Addis, where Tekeste Berhan and the “Auroville International Africa Education Center”, which he has founded together with friends, were donated with 67 hectares of land. The group around Tekeste has plans to work this land along the lines of Auroville´s experience in sustainable rural development. Our aim to actually put our feet on this piece of land and hold a little blessing ceremony were thwarted by a breakdown of the bus engine, but the group could get close, and stopped for a concentration and burning of incense.
The program was completed at the Taitu Hotel in the center of Addis by two afternoons of public viewing of films, which had been presented at the 2011 Auroville Film Festival. The charming atmosphere and delicious vegan lunch buffet at the hotel attract many visitors, among them an international crowd of NGO officials. It is the oldest hotel of all Ethiopia, founded in 1898 by Empress Taitu. Today it is managed by Selamawit Wagaye, who is a member of the Addis organizing group around Tekeste. The present hotel owner was also very supportive of the meeting. Both are now members of the group, which is planning to join AVI as a new liaison or center. The hotel was also a friendly home to Jaya, Tekeste and the AVI Board members who came prior to the conference. Also, the Board meetings were held there and the chef prepared an excellent farewell dinner on our last conference day.
Aurovilian (“Coffee”-)Marc became good friends with the kitchen staff who happily agreed to his collaboration in some special meal preparations.
In a closing circle we expressed our deep gratitude to our Ethiopian hosts who had made big efforts to organize the conference and make us feel welcome “among friends”. We also expressed our sincere hope that a close collaboration with the Ethiopian group will emerge from this meeting and more contacts with other African countries will develop. It was also mentioned how important these close encounters and collaborative efforts of Aurovilians and AVI members are, giving invaluable opportunities for mutual perception and understanding.
A group of five Aurovilians and four AVI members were able to stay on after the conference to make a tour to the North of Addis Ababa and visit several cultural highlights of Ethiopia, including the Blue Nile Falls, the monastery islands in Lake Tana and the famous rock churches of Lalibela. We were impressed to see the beautiful landscapes and vast stretches of agriculturally cultivated ground, albeit on a low technological level, thus preventing higher yields and prosperity. This experience further nourished our hopes that countries like Ethiopia will not open their doors to agro-multinationals like Monsanto but follow a path of sustainable rural development. Auroville has a lot to share in this respect and we are confident that the impulses going out from our conference will be heard in the right circles.
One of the outcomes of the conference was an invitation to send a speaker to the National Ethiopian Conference on Education, which was supposed to take place in early December 2011. It was planned to present the ABL (Activity Based Learning) method and Auroville´s experience in the field of education there.
B. Board meetings and General Assembly, October 22/23, 2011
Donations for the Ethiopia meeting by FWE and AVI (associations and individuals) have been close to € 5500. There was a small minus in the end since prices went up at the last minute for conference catering and transport. This has been covered by private donations.
2. Next meetings:
The next meeting will be in Auroville from February 6-10, 2012. Then we will go to Gujarat the following week from February 13-19. This way we would also be able to attend the conference Aster is organizing annually which will take place the weekend of February 10-12.
For our 2013 meeting there are three offers: from Argentina, Burkina Faso and Ireland. It was felt appropriate, following our recent meetings in North America (Canada), Europe (NL) and now Africa to go to South America again. So we agreed to take this idea up with Maga, our contact in Buenos Aires, who seems to have good media connections. We will try to find out from her which would be the best month to go and also whether there are special events planned in the Buenos Aires area in 2013 which might be interesting to hook into.
3. Voting of next AVI board:
Due to the considerable number of board members not being able to participate in this meeting, and the closeness of our next meeting in Auroville, it was agreed to hold the elections at our 2012 meeting.
We regretted very much Sonia ´s announcement that for health reasons she will not stand for the next elections. Robert also announced that he will not stand for our next elections. He may also resign from the AVI France presidency. Since both Linda-Grace and Devasmita are Auroville Newcomers we will have to look for new board members. Camille and Jürgen from Ireland were proposed and we will have to invite AVI Netherlands to nominate a candidate. Camille would accept a nomination and was invited to attend the second board meeting.
4. AVI centers and liaisons:
Francine reported that AVI France has stopped its legal fight against the refusal by the authorities to grant tax exemption since it was becoming too costly. It was proposed to create a sister organisation like AVI Germany has created for donations for village development projects but perhaps there is already a possibility to use Dominique Darr´s foundation.
Friederike reported about the recent initiative by AVI Germany and its sister organization to hand in an application with the German ministry for economic cooperation and development for a € 120 000 grant for AVAG´s microfinance corpus expansion. In order to receive the grant, AVAG has to contribute with € 24 000, which have already been secured, and AVI Germany with € 16 000, which by far exceeds its means. € 3500 have been secured meanwhile, but the AVI community is urgently requested to channel all possible funds through AVI Germany (see also AV Today August 2011).
We regretted that many of our liaisons, like the ones in Italy and in Russia, do not hold a real contact with us. Vani said that some of our liaisons do not even contact her when visiting Auroville. This should be a prerequisite for being a liaison. Julian proposed to set up a skype conference with the liaisons during our next meeting in Auroville.
We also regretted that Jasmin and Aravinda withdrew from being our South Africa liaison. We hope to find new people to replace them soon.
On Jaya´s return from the tour to the North of Ethiopia she will see which group will form here to become our Ethiopian liaison.
Vani reported that there were recent contacts with people from Chile and also from Colombia. Narad visited the latter recently; Vani will contact him to get more details.
Vani will also follow up with Akash on the issue of extracting visitors’ addresses from the Visitors Center terminal. She will also check whether our info material is still available at the guesthouses. The awareness about AVI inside Auroville has to be heightened.
5. New mailing list:
Friederike will raise the issue of a new host for our board and center mailing lists with Christoph again. Meanwhile we should create a group address list for mailings with attachments.
6. Julian´s report from the International Advisory Council meeting:
The official recognition of AVI by the GB could not be followed up since Julian was not present at the last IAC meeting. Karan Singh had earlier announced to issue a letter of recognition. Julian will contact him again on this.
Doudou Diène came early this year to be a judge at the Auroville Film Festival, which was a great success.
The IAC members had a meeting with Joss, who reported that Auroville is invited to cooperate in a 5 year Tamil Nadu development plan in greenwork and organic farming. The SEDAB plan for the Auroville bioregion has been given full recognition by the State Government. Bhavana has to be honoured since she has been the one to put a lot of effort in the development of this plan.
The Government is willing to increase grants, since Auroville enjoys growing respect for its work in Government circles. Auroville could become a green model for the whole of India. One has to consider, however, all the consequences of greater government involvement.
In order to make Auroville less dependent on government grants there is a plea to AVI to look for other funding sources, like legacies.
The architect Mr. Doshi is willing to invest more of his energies in working with Auroville but he is getting more and more frustrated by the missing executive power in Auroville.
Massive tree cutting has taken place in the Auroville greenbelt, mainly opposite Dana community, it seems for a building project of an outsider. So far the government has taken no action to enforce respect to the notification of this area.
7. International Zone
Vani gave an overview of recent developments:
Auroville was visited recently by a Dutch group around a “wise woman”, who had a vision of the Dutch pavilion while being in Auroville.
L’Avenir still has not issued a 5-year development plan for the IZ.
The new Tamil heritage center is situated outside the Bharat Nivas compound. It will be important to get the active Tamil Aurovilians involved in solving the Bharatipuram issue.
The place for the planned SAVI building complex has been shifted to the ring road towards the Visitors Center, behind Bharat Nivas.
Jaya withdrew recently from the IZ coordination group which now consist of: Rakhal, Jyoti, Vani, Aryamani, Shivaya and B.
Abby recently made the proposal to invite the “International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers” to the International Zone, perhaps for the 12/12/12 event. The idea is now not to focus only on this date but to make the whole year of 2012 a special year to create greater awareness about the International Zone, both inside and outside Auroville. A Kabir festival (Kabir was an Indian 15th century mystic weaver poet) is going to take place in April 2012 in Auroville. The German pavilion group also started to collect ideas for a cultural festival.
Sonia suggested to invite international dance teachers to teach their national dances.
Following the donation of AVI Germany, Aurovilians Kireet and David have started planting a “living fence” around the IZ. Christian announced that AVI Canada might make a donation to extend the green wall.
A meeting has taken place between Rakhal and Mr. Doshi about IZ development and the University idea has been central topic.
German Newcomer Hanspeter Durlesser and Aurovilian Elvira, who are management consultants, have been invited to advise the IZ group.
8. Visa situation:
Vani reported that Dominique made efforts to form a group looking into the visa issue; Vani is part of this group. A proper educational status has to be found for Auroville.
9. Involvement of youth:
Friederike introduced the topic by reading a message that Muna, young member of AVI Germany, had written for the meeting:
A Pledge to Integrate the Young
They say that „ “age is nothing but a number” and while it is true that you are as young as your heart is, or in the paraphrased words of the Mother “as long as you are willing to learn, you remain young” there is an undeniable difference between generations. The young bring a fresh outlook on things, optimism and hope for the future. This is not to say that older generations lack these qualities but simply that experience has made them more cautious and/or having been familiar with the old structures, ways and aspects sometimes miss the wood for the trees. While the young are prone to reinvent the wheel and hence can only benefit from the experiments made by older generations, the older generation can receive support by a fresh look on things by someone who has not been involved in the old structures.
For these reasons it seems obvious that younger and older generations should unite their qualities in order to bring about change.
Then Friederike reported about the great experience of AVI Germany and its volunteer programs. It makes a big difference for the work of the association to get young people actively involved. More and more of the returning volunteers stay in contact with Auroville and AVI Germany. Recently regular Auroville round table meetings have been established in Berlin, Freiburg and Munich.
As a first step to get into contact with young people, the AVI centers could start approaching ex-volunteers from their countries and invite them for a specially shaped program. SAVI and Sadhana Forest could provide contact addresses.
Networks between young Aurovilians abroad and also between ex-volunteers already exist. We should consider creating an AVI facebook page.
Vani reported that more and more younger people and young families come to join Auroville, who have a good education and some work experience. In order to ease the constant housing shortage for young people Devasmita and Satyakam have started a city housing project with 60 units for newcomers.
10. Christian´s proposal “Vision future” (see attachment):
The board appreciated this proposal to start fundraising inside AVI, for specially selected young newcomers, very much. The concern was raised that it would interfere with the entry process if we start selecting people already in the newcomer period. It should be amended in a way that young people can only apply once their newcomer period has ended successfully and they are accepted as Aurovilians.
Some felt a certain unease to get involved in a selection process but it may be easier to raise funds if the approach is personalized.
Vani remarked that we should open the program also for young Aurovilians coming back to Auroville from abroad or wanting to move out from their parents’ home. She will help Christian to further elaborate the program. She also has good contacts with the housing group which should be a partner in the program.
11. Auroville/AVI couch surfing:
Bryan proposed to start a website which makes addresses of people available, who would be willing to host Aurovilians and AVI people traveling. The Findhorn community has something similar. Bryan will contact Manoj to discuss this idea.
12. Participation of Aurovilians in AVI meetings:
We appreciated a lot the presence of Aurovilians in the meeting and the quality of their presentations. In order to reduce travel expenses and the environmental impact Skype conferences could be organized, but it was emphasized that the living presence is of great value. There are many films about Auroville already, so instead of planning for another new film, it would perhaps make more sense to invest in sending Aurovilians abroad for special events.
Aurovilians at the meeting also expressed their great appreciation for AVI´s work, for some of them it has been a first time experience with AVI.
13. Presentation of Joss:
Joss came to speak to us about recent developments in the SEDAB project (Sustainable Enterprise Development for the Auroville Bioregion). He referred to the presentation he has given to the IAC in Auroville recently (see point 6).
He said it is good to go to places like Ethiopia or Russia to share our experience but Auroville’s own development cannot be secured without supporting the development of the neighbouring rural area.
First efforts were made already 20 years ago, but during the last five years efforts have been strengthened, and the SEDAB project has been elaborated by people like Bhavana, Uma, Ram and himself. The project, involving the holistic sustainable development of 36 villages in the Auroville Bioregion, has been granted full support by the Ministry of Rural Development, including the sum of 5 crores. It is part of a bigger Integral Rural Development (IRD) scheme, which has been initiated by Sam Pitroda, head of the Indian Knowledge Commission. It will involve about 200 villages and a funding of Rs 50 crores. It is based on the original vision of the Indian Ex-President Dr. Abdul Kalam, called PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas), and will give Auroville the status of a “universe city of expertise”, a center of excellence and a training center. This might also be the best way to solve visa issues in future.
According to Mr. Jairam Ramesh, Minister for Rural Development, it is the best protection for Auroville to work with the bioregion and find out what the people there really want. Contacts to Tamil Nadu authorities have also been strengthened and there is growing support for Auroville, which is now integrated in a 5-year rural development plan for Tamil Nadu.
Auroville has a good reputation in Delhi and Chennai for its big input into bettering peoples` lives, so it should build on this. The aim now is to set up an active Rural Development Board in the Auroville Townhall to show Delhi that Auroville is serious.
Asked how AVI could help, Joss said that people who have good skills in management are urgently needed and, of course, general support, also “political support” inside Auroville, for the SEDAB and IRD projects, is very welcome. Dr. Henk Thomas from the Stichting de Zaaier has visited Adyar Poonga in Chennai, Nadukuppam School and Pitchandikulam and has been instrumental in providing funding for an Auroville rural development secretariat, which is also involved in developing a greenbelt masterplan.
Key Note address of the Ethiopian President
Dear Invited Guests; Dear Friends from Auroville and from around the world:
It gives me great honor and pleasure to address this meeting and I would like to thank the organizers for inviting me to give the key note address. And I would like to welcome you all to Ethiopia and hope that your visit will be productive and that you will enjoy our world famous Ethiopian hospitality. The friendship between Ethiopia and Auroville goes back four decades when Auroville was established. Sri Aurobindo, whose great spiritual work for the evolution of humanity is the basis for Auroville's establishment, was one of the first spiritual leaders from around the world, in the 1930s, who had realized the importance of Ethiopia's fight against imperialism and the repercussions it was to have both for the African Continent and for the world at large. He wrote a poem praising Haile Selassie and the Ethiopian people for their heroic struggle against colonial domination.
The founder of Auroville, Mirra Alfassa, called the Mother, on receiving the greetings and support for the Auroville project from Emperor Haile Selassie and the Bishop Dioskoros, blessed the future collaboration between Auroville and the African countries. It was indeed our pleasure to meet and interact with the group from the Auroville International Africa Education Centre.
We are appreciative also of the longstanding support of UNESCO for the Auroville project. We are particularly interested in the environmental and educational work done by Auroville and would greatly appreciate the establishment of a close working relationship between Auroville and Ethiopia in these important fields of endeavor. We are indeed pleased to hear that the Auroville presentation on primary education has been accepted by the Ethiopian National Conference on Education that will be held in December this year.
The collaboration with Auroville, with its successful work in the fields of environment and education and its outstanding expertise in afforestation, water conservation and alternative energy systems can be very educational for Ethiopia and other African countries where the land is still untouched and unpolluted. These African countries have already made impressive gains in the fields of environmental protection and education. The collaboration will thus be mutually beneficial and enriching from both sides.
We welcome the idea of creating an Auroville Centre for applied research and development in Ethiopia, as a place where people could focus on practical implementation of the ideals of human unity in diversity by translating the spiritual ideal into living practice. The collaboration can be further strengthened through student exchange and training programs as well as cultural exchange activities and I appreciate the establishment of the Africa House project in Auroville.
I wish you all a pleasant stay in Ethiopia and wish you all success in the realization of future projects leading to increased interaction between Ethiopia and Auroville.
God bless Ethiopia.
H.E. Ato Girma Woldegiorgis
AVI presentation by Christian Feuillette, Vice-Chairman of AVI
I am very glad today to speak to you in the name of Auroville International (AVI) and in the name of our chairman, Martin Littlewood, who unfortunately had health problems last week just before his departure and therefore could not come and be with us now.
First of all, I want to thank our friend Tekeste Berhan G. Kidan whose determination and dedication convinced us 2 years ago in our Amsterdam meeting to hold this present meeting and conference in Addis Ababa.
I want to thank also our strong Aurovilian lady Jöel Jaya Berggreen-Clausen. She has accomplished a tremendous work for the preparation of this conference. I understand now why her name Jaya means Victory.
My name is Christian Feuillette, a French by birth living for 42 years in the French-speaking part of Canada, le Québec, which has a strong national identity. I am chairman of AVI-Canada and vice-chairman of the AVI Board. I discovered Auroville in 1970, it was a desert of red earth at that time with only a handful of pioneers working there. I returned in 1987 when there was a luxuriant forest (2 millions of trees had been planted in between) with active communities, and I returned several other times since then. Since my first visit to India 40 ago years, I have worked in the Sri Aurobindo Center of Montreal, and for 10 years in AVI-Canada.
Before presenting to you the history and purpose of Auroville International, I want to tell you what has attracted me for so long (as my colleagues here and many others) to the ideals of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the inspiration and initiators of this dream of Auroville. For them, the aim of humanity is to become one, a living unity respectful of the diversity of national identities. And for that, human beings have to make a significant effort of conscious spiritual evolution. Because on the physical level, where we rely on mere appearances, we are divided, on the mental level, which is full of preconceived ideas, we are divided, on the vital level, which is full of irrational fears, we are divided, but on a deep level, that is the level of the soul, full of peace and silence, we are united, we are one. And to realize this concrete human unity, one of the major steps is the building of an international place where, as Tekeste put it in his book entitled Towards Tomorrow, « Beyond Mind, a Harmony and Oneness between Soul and Body, Spirit and Nature, Heaven and Earth» can be established.
This place is the city of Auroville, located in South India near Puducherry, a symbolic laboratory where maybe all the problems of the earth can be encountered but where new ways of living, working and relating to each other can also be developed.
In 1966 the Auroville project was unanimously approved by Unesco, which invited all the nations and NGOs to participate to the development of the city. The inauguration of Auroville took place on February 28th 1968, in the presence of representatives of 124 countries. The shape of the city is circular and divided in 4 zones : Cultural, Industrial, Residential and International. Auroville is now inhabited by 2250 persons comprising 45 nationalities, and gives employment to some 5000 people from the villages nearby. Even if the size of the population is far from the 50 000 planned, the expertise of Auroville is now recognized in the whole world in the following fields : organic farming, water management, appropriate building technology and architecture, renewable energy, reforestation and regeneration of soils, village development, health, education, and more.
Now let me speak specifically about AVI
Auroville International is a growing network of people throughout the world who share the aspiration of Auroville and work actively to promote its interests. It has 8 official centers (UK, France, USA, Germany, Canada, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden) with members, board of administrators, income tax receipt for donors, and about 20 liaison offices (Russia, Lithuania, Argentina, Chile, Italy, Japan, Ireland, Australia, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Israel, Switzerland, Brazil, Hong Kong, Norway, Singapore, Burkina Faso, Slovenia, South Korea) on all five continents. The name and the charter were registered in 1983, but in several countries including Canada, the work started almost at the same time as in Auroville.
The AVI associations help to keep people informed about developments in the city, support Auroville in all possible ways, act as a channel for funds to Auroville's projects, and sometimes develop and sponsor specific projects in Auroville, as the USA and Canada have done in the International Zone of Auroville. Some centers have regular activities among their members, readings, lectures, or even cultural and recreational activities that contribute to make a collective spirit. Also, it often happens that some AVI members choose the Auroville adventure and become Aurovilians.
Once a year, a general meeting takes place in a different country or in Auroville, where the AVI board of directors takes decisions on general issues. Thus we had recently our meetings in Brazil in 2004, in Barcelona, Spain in 2005, in Cape Town, South Africa in 2006, in Montreal, Canada, in 2007, in The Netherlands in 2009, and in India (in the State of Orissa) in 2010, and now in Addis Ababa in 2011.
These meetings are important, for they give opportunities to make presentations on the Auroville projects in different countries; also they build ties between us, so that we now feel ourselves really like a family. I have noticed also that in the Montreal meeting of 2007 something has changed in the atmosphere. It was as if the world came to our place and gave us a kind of recognition; and we were feeling therefore more related to the world, and because of that our presence in the world was more effective.
That is why we consider the AVI network as an essential part of Auroville's work, being its outreach into the world. So Auroville is not a small isolated point on the surface of the globe, but is related and present in the five continents through our associations.
To conclude, I express the hope that an AVI Ethiopia can be established so that we welcome it as part of our international organisation.
Messages from AVI liaisons Burkina Faso and South Africa
To our dear friends of Auroville International
Our heart-felt greetings to you from Burkina Faso in West Africa. Although we regret not being physically present among you, we are with you in spirit. With you all, with our Ethiopian brothers, with our dear Tekeste who thus opens the road of Africa's contribution to the great vision of Human Unity shared by us all. We wish that all your work may be guided by inspiration, and that it may become a milestone in concretely bringing the Earth and the African people together with the evolutionary aspiration that is materialised by Auroville.
As Nelson Mandela says, "We are at the dawn of the African century". Let us all join his wish through action and consecration.
[Signed:] the entire Aurovillage team in Burkina Faso
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Dear friends of Auroville, Ethiopia, and AVI,
The prophetic quote of Nelson Mandela chosen by our dear friends from Burkina Faso is for us another beautiful sign of the Oneness of Africa and Her people.
In a world in which divisions and contrasts are more starkly evident than ever, at a time when the evolutionary pressure is mounting by the day and nothing is left untouched by it, you are gathered once more on the soil of Africa. Mother Africa, as her people call her with love and reverence, the ancient continent that has seen the birth of the human race, may presently carry much of the painful burden of humanity's past; in Her lie untold strengths and splendid greatnesses that only wait to manifest their genius as Earth opens to the dawn of a greater Age.
We join hands with you in our shared aspirations towards a divinely transformed humanity, where we all move, individually and collectively, in happy Synergy with each other.
With you all in Ubuntu,
[signed:] Jasmin & Aravinda, on behalf of the larger 'Auroville' family in the South of Africa
Address by Julian Lines, member of AVI Board and International Advisory Council
Honored Guests, Aurovilians and members of Auroville International
The day after His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited Auroville in January of 2009, I was appointed to the International Advisory Council of Auroville. It was a great privilege to join the ranks of Nobel Laureates, Industrialists and scholars in the service of this great experiment called Auroville, which translates from the French as “The City of Dawn”.
I serve on the council with four other members including Doudou Diene from Senegal, whose service to Unesco and the UN High Commission for Human Rights, instilled in him a wide vision calling for diversity and a commitment to search for the truth of things. He follows in the footsteps of M’Bow, also from Senegal and a former Director General of Unesco, who previously served on this Council.
We are all so pleased to finally fulfill in some small way Tekeste’s vision of sharing between Indian and Africa and Ethiopia in particular. Last year Tekeste and Shimilis joined members of the Governing Board, the International Advisory Council and planted trees at the proposed site of Africa House in Auroville’s International Zone. May these trees grow and flower along with our relationship and the manifestation of this dream we both share.
May our visit here open the minds and hearts of our African brothers and sisters to share with us, to visit Auroville and to each of us participate in any way we can in the healing and care of this precious planet Earth.
I would like to close a message from Dr. Karan Singh. A distinguished statesman, philosopher and environmentalist, Karan Singh serves as Chairman of Auroville’s Governing Board, and he writes to us the following:
I send you, in my personal capacity and also as Chairman of the Auroville Foundation, my warm greetings for the success of the Auroville International Conference in Addis Ababa. This is the first time that such a meeting is being held in Ethiopia, and I am sure it will help to spread the Message of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother in the African continent.
October 23, 2011
Contact person: Jaya
Taitu Hotel, Addis Ababa
A conference on developing an integral approach to collaboration between Auroville, an international township centered on the research on Human Unity, and African countries will be held at the Red Cross Center, at the Building College and at Taitu Hotel in Addis Ababa from October 24-29, 2011.
Auroville is located in Tamil Nadu State in Southern India. It was established in 1968 based on the vision and philosophy of the Indian freedom fighter, seer and poet Sri Aurobindo, to become a living laboratory for human unity. Since its inauguration it has been supported by the Indian government and UNESCO for its contributions in the fields of education, environment, health, water conservation and alternative energy systems. Presently 2250 people from all over the world live and work there, also supported by Auroville International, a growing network of people worldwide who feel inspired by the ideals of Auroville.
The conference will focus on presentations about Auroville´s research and field work which is directly relevant to sustainable development needs of the African continent. The presentations will be conducted in collaboration with UNESCO and the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City development.
A delegation of the Auroville-Ethiopian organizing team of the conference were granted a reception by the Ethiopian President Mr. Girma W/Giorgis and were given the opportunity to explain about Auroville´s achievements and willingness to share its experience. Mr. Girma granted a full hour of his precious time and will send a delegate to attend the conference.
The presentations by eminent academics and researchers will concentrate on the following topics: Auroville´s approach to education, with a special focus on primary education and education for rural areas, on social environmentalism including afforestation, on biodiversity, organic farming, traditional healing, including the conservation of traditional medicinal plants, on appropriate technology, renewable energy, water conservation and sanitation, appropriate building technology, small scale industries and other subject matters.
The conference will also deal with integral healthcare, introducing research and field work on malaria prevention / vector control and safe drinking water systems using Natural Probiotics with efficient organic, low cost methods. There will also be a presentation on Auroville´s integral health care system, where allopathic doctors collaborate closely with alternative healers, with a special focus on developing and promoting preventive health care methods.
The conference will conclude with an afternoon program on Friday 28 and Saturday 29, 2011 at Taitu Hotel with a small film festival viewing a selection of films shown at the Auroville Film Festival 2011 on the theme of Human Unity. Among the films shown there are several prize winners from different categories. A special international dinner will be served at the hotel on Saturday evening.
Photos courtesy Christian Feuillette