Saturday, November 18, 2006 (All day) to Wednesday, November 22, 2006 (All day)

Report by Bernard Margueritte

A conference in Panchgani is for me something out of the ordinary. You have the specific atmosphere of the place, evoking what we enjoy in Caux, but at the same time the profound Indian wisdom. They are so perfectly linked! It seems to me that it would be impossible to properly appreciate the place without the wisdom and that the Indian wisdom cannot be at its fullest in any other place…

It was therefore a special privilege for the ICF to be “officially” a partner of our Indian friends for this CIB conference. The conference was one of the best I ever attended. I was told also that our ICF session was excellent and we opened together ways of further cooperation, leading to a full ICF conference in Delhi and the establishment of an ICF-India chapter. We even toyed with the idea to see someday an ICF-India chapter working with our IofC friends in the country to start a kind of new Himmat.

What to say about the conference? I will try simply to summarize here the article I wrote when I came back from India for the Polish weekly Tygodnik Solidarnosc under the simple title: “Indyjska madrosc” (Indian wisdom). The main line was the conviction of all the 170 participants from 30 countries that we will not solve the problems of the world in any field if we do not restore (or implement) policies based upon a strict respect of values, be it in politics, business, farming (the IofC farmers group made a strong contribution to the conference) or in the media.

In 2020 India will have more than half of its population younger than 28. It is a formidable (in all senses of the word) challenge. Prabhat Kumar, former governor and minister, admitted: “India shines but has also gigantic areas of darkness”. Russi Lala reminded of the words of Ghandi “the means are as important as the goals” and quoted JN Tata, the founder of the Tata dynasty as saying: “I don’t want India to become a superpower, I want India to be a happy country”. The only way to achieve this is to build the future on values.

Our media panel continued on the same line, showing that we cannot hope to rebuild the dignity of the media and have a positive influence and impact on the evolution of society if the journalists do not want their life and their work directed by moral (and for many spiritual) values. We had on the panel four great people I had the pleasure to introduce, taking the opportunity of course to present at the beginning the principles, activities and goals of the ICF. Guy Berger, our remarkable friend from South Africa, spoke eloquently with the strength given to his words by his talent but also by respect due to someone, who spent many years in jail during apartheid. He lamented that we are witnessing the trivialization of the media agenda, devoting more and more time, space and money to irrelevant topics, instead of addressing the true concerns of this world, with the lack of social justice and poverty at the forefront. By the way Guy is ready to work with ICF in South Africa and is willing to come to Caux this year!

Richard Keeble, from Lincoln University, made a precise analysis of the methods used by much of the British media (even the best papers) to falsify the reality in order to convince the public to support the Iraq war. This is a lesson for the future. The more so that, because of this “media-centered, spectacular, consumerist and entertaining militarism” we end up with “the people taking part in a war through the consumption of the media”. Richard will also be a strong addition to the ICF in the UK.

We had as well excellent presentations made by Malgorzata Bonikowska, who spoke about the difficulties to build honest media in the post-communist countries, and— last but not least— by Harivansh, the chief editor of Prabhat Khabar, who presented with openness and courage the shortcomings of the Indian media. The meeting with Harivansh was for me personally one of the high points of the stay in Panchgani. When we spoke the first time about the ICF Harivansh immediately understood what it is all about and so to say “caught fire”. He is enthusiastic about the possibility to help build an ICF-India chapter and said he will come to Delhi from Jharkhand to help me next time.