A look at the worldwide activities of the
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
ISKCON Devotees Brave the Streets Of Soweto
Soweto, South Africa Although daily street fights here result in an average of three hundred deaths per month, Hare Krsna devotees headed by Giriraja Swami and Raghuvira dasa regularly come here at great personal risk to distribute large amounts of prasadam in the shantytowns and schools.
Hare Krishna Food for Life has thus become a familiar sight here in the largest black township in South Africa, located on the outskirts of Johannesburg.
Ajita-devi dasi, who is in charge of Food for Life in Johannesburg, comments, "In the beginning the Sowetans were very surprised to see us, as the only other nonblacks who dare enter are the military who patrol the streets in armored trucks. But now when we drive through Soweto, people enthusiastically greet us with 'Hare Krsna, Hare Rama.' "
The devotees also distribute books here and hold public festivals every few weeks.
Food for Life Flood Relief
Durban, South Africa During a recent flood disaster here, in which hundreds of persons lost their lives and thousands were left homeless, Hare Krishna Food for Life volunteers worked around the clock to help the homeless by distributing two thousand plates of prasadam daily. Supporters donated rice, beans, and other foodstuffs, as well as clothing and blankets, which the devotees also distributed throughout the disaster area.
Despite adverse weather and badly damaged roads, the devotees drove their Food for Life truck into many remote districts of Natal to reach the worst-hit areas, enabling thousands of people to have their first opportunity to taste prasadam and chant the names of Krsna.
Local newspapers praised the selfless work of the devotees, who were working in liaison with the Red Cross and the Kwazulu Health Department. Approximately fifty thousand plates of prasadam were distributed during the four weeks following the rains.
Devotees Meet Wife Of Ciskei's President
Bisho, Ciskei Three Hare, Krsna devotees recently spent three hours discussing the philosophy of Krsna consciousness with Mrs. Virginia Sebe, wife of the president of this independent country of 660,000 blacks, situated within the borders of South Africa.
Mrs. Sebe had invited the devotees Ajita-devi dasi, Kalpataru-devi dasi, and Vrajabhumi-devi dasi to distribute prasadam at an annual gathering of six thousand Ciskenians. At Mrs. Sebe's request the devotees chanted Hare Krsna to a traditional Xhosa tune and accompanied by Xhosa instruments. The chanting was televised nationwide on the evening news.
During their meeting with Mrs. Sebe, the devotees presented her with a set of Srila Prabhupada's books. She remarked, "The world would be at peace if everyone would follow these books."
Bhaktitirtha Swami, ISKCON Governing Body Commissioner for West Africa, discusses Krsna consciousness every Tuesday evening on a prime-time television talk show in Nigeria. He was originally scheduled to appear on the program for three months, but, responding to improved ratings and to viewer interest in the program, the station renewed his contract and extended his time on the air from thirty minutes to one hour.
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Bhaktitirtha Swami's motto for West Africa is, "If you can't grow it or make it, you don't need it." In that spirit, the temples under his jurisdiction make their own Deities, altars, drums, karatalas, dhotis, kurtas, cadars, beadbags, beads, oils, candles, incense, laminations, and other devotional paraphernalia. In Benin, Nigeria, the devotees recently acquired a large former post office building, which they will use for developing, expanding, and teaching cottage industries.
To help the people of West Africa incorporate Krsna consciousness into their lives, Bhaktitirtha Swami has started a Krsna conscious martial arts institute, an institute for cottage industries, and a Krsna conscious technical school.
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ISKCON is becoming very popular in West Africa and is constantly in the news. One of the leading magazines in Nigeria recently ran a cover story on the Hare Krsna movement. Articles about Krsna consciousness written by devotees regularly appear in newspapers and magazines in West Africa, which also like to run "words of wisdom" by Srila Prabhupada.
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Leaders of ISKCON temples in Nigeria recently presented several papers at a week-long national seminar aimed at quelling the tension between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria that has led to riots and the burning of many hotels and churches. The devotees' presentations were so well received that the devotees were the only group allowed to present papers every day. Although religious programs were banned from television after the riots, the devotees appeared frequently on television because they were seen as an important force for bringing about a better understanding between the conflicting groups.