wishing_tree_issOn 27 November, 2010, the International Student Chaplaincy as well as Islam & Dialogue hosted the one day international student conference “From Crisis to Hope – the Challenges of the Earth Charter” in the Institute for Social Studies in The Hague. The event brought together some 100 students from different universities, nationalities, and faith traditions. After last year’s conference focused on the Charter for Compassion, this year’s theme centered on the Earth Charter as a shared ethical framework that inspires and challenges people from different cultural, religious and spiritual traditions.

Michael Slaby, Porgram Manager at the Soetendorp Institute gave the opening key note address, gave an introduction to the Earth Charter's inclusive ethical vision for sustainable development and highlighted achievements of the global Earth Charter Initiative - the network of more than 5.000 organizations worldwide that have endorsed the Charter and committed themselves to help spread the document and implement its goals and principles. "Speaking from my own experience of being part of the Earth Charter Initiative since 2001, one of the most remarkable things about the Earth Charter is that it speaks to the heart" said Slaby - "The Earth Charter presents an alternative to the quite common gloom and doom scenarios prevalent in environmental discourses, but rather presents a positive vision of safeguarding a flourishing, awe-inspiring and beautiful Earth community. From a spiritual perspective this subtle shift of focus makes a huge difference."

working_session_issHis global overview was complemented with presentation of action projects from Friends of the Earth Middle East about protecting and restoring the Jordan river that is facing massive environmental problems, as well from WWF Kenia about protecting a natural reserve that is home for millions of animals that facing massive water shortages. 

The group then split up into working sessions on different topics where lively discussions came up about our interrelated global challenges. Michael Slaby hosted a working session on the systemic crisis that we are facing that was co-facilitated by Harish Madho from the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University. One key finding of the group was that the internet provides a powerful tool to connect grass root organizations in southern and nothern countries, so that global alliances can be forged to hold corporations accountable for their social and environmental misconduct in developing countries that most of the times go unnoticed in the countries from which these multinations operate. 

soetendorp_issRabbi Soetendorp then gave a moving closing speech where he shared experiences from participating in international and intercultural Commitee that drafted the Earth Charter. "If we come together as the babies as which we once were born, and we meet as baby to fellow human baby, nothing is lost, we can foster peace and reconciliation in the conflicts we are currently seeing in the world, such as in the Middle East."

The Soetendorp Institute


Jacob Soetendorp Institute for Human Values
Van Wijngaerdenstraat 21
2596 TW The Hague
The Netherlands