Visit Staf Ecolearning Camp to The Netherlands


October 12-13 , 2015 Ferry Sutrisna Wijaya pr, A. Sarwanto SJ, Alexander Iskandar and Shierly Megawati visited Tilburg. The purpose of the visit was to connect again and continue the training in ecological consciousness/spirituality that had been started already during earlier visits of Elly in Ecocamp Bandung, in 2013 and 2014.

The program consisted of introduction to the history and happenings around De Gaarde Udenhout, The Netherlands, ( 1999 -2011), a visit to the place where De Gaarde in Udenhout was and an encounter between a group of us of the circle of De Gaarde, co workers, board etc. to share our experiences. The team of Ecocamp Bandung shared with us how they have started Eco learning Camp in 2013 and work with the inspiration and learnings of De Gaarde ( and other sources) in Bandung now.

Before the group left Tilburg, Ferry Sutrisna asked me to write about this wonderful and surprising event.

October 13, 2015

Quite a group of the circle of De Gaarde had responded to the invitation to come and meet the group of Ecocamp Bandung and to exchange our experience and learnings in our care and concern for the future of life on Earth.

Ect 2

Those who are part of the story of De Gaarde ( 1999-2009) started to share their story of how they got to know it, participated in and how what we know now how those years are still so much a part of our life now. One by one  through special moments if we became part of the circle It was as a wake up call, an invitation. And no one who came could have been missed, we all had and have a very special contribution and role in this great story.


In front of Molenhoefstraat 7, Udenhout. 13-10-2015. De Gaarde now given back to the Earth. Nature takes over! Though this place is now deserted. Now De Gaarde is in our hearts and souls. And the story continues.

We were so surprised how much we are changed and have grown through this experience and how this story is still part of our everyday life. We are pioneers in our own ways. We shared a meal together and continued the getting to know our friends from Bandung.

The story of Eco-Learning Camp, in Bandung.

Our inspirations and experiences of all those years in De Gaarde are shared and taken up in an experiment at the other end of the world, in Eco-learning Camp in Bandung, Indonesia.

Alex and Shierly shared about the beginnings of Eco Camp in Indonesia. In 2002 their second child was born and this event was the beginning of a remarkable process of waking up. ‘What can we offer this child” was the question of Shierly. “Good education” was their answer together. Together with Fr. Ferry Sutrisna they started Eco-spirit camp. A project a Bandung, where they offered programs to children to play in nature, to work on character building and to help children to reconnect with nature and Earth. Places were offered, as a 600 hectare ancient forest at the outskirts of Bandung. Based on these experiences Ferry Sutrisna, pr. wrote in 2012 his dissertation for a Ph. D. in “ Ecological Values in Education” .

In 2012 Ferry Sutrisna, wrote an E-mail to Elly Verrijt asking for ways to learn from my experience and for materials. He got my address from a Jesuit priest, ecologist with whom I had already worked together in retreats since 2010.. He also asked me to give a workshop for the board, staff, volunteers of Eco-spirit camp. It was quite a group that gathered in September 2013 in Bandung. The DVD The Universe Story from Brian Swimme, the Shambhala Warrior Story as passed on by Joanna Macy and told by an Indonesia Sufi Story teller, the words on conveying a cosmic vision to children for their future, through words of Thomas Berry and some sharing about the story of De Gaarde brought to them a broadened vision and set a whole range of happenings in motion. When hearing about the Gaarde they “saw” a Gaarde in Indonesia. It was the right time and the right moment. Not long after that Eco-Learning camp Foundation was born, founded by Ferry Sutrisna and Shierly Megawati and many others. A piece of land was obtained and within a year the first energy neutral building of Indonesia surrounded by a herbal garden and permaculture garden was realized. Many organizations, corporations have sponsored and are still involved in the running of this megaproject.


Ferry Sutrisna, a priest and architect gave a presentation about the project, the many ways in which the principles of green building are put in practice and  the first programs that have been developed. Alex Iskandar, who teaches at several universities ( Quantum Physics) explained about the program and the components of the eco-learning camps. In meantime they have fifteen years of experience.

In the past year, since September 2014, 6000 visitors came to Ecocamp, in programs of a few hours to a few days. They recently finished an Ecological leadership training for 51 teachers ( 10 days) from all parts of Indonesia. And they have trained children for ecological leadership. ( Children of Earth program) The Shambhala Warriors are the students who get a training to help conduct the many programs and groups for the children.


The team showed some movies with snapshots of the programs. It was such a deep experience together: of amazement, of seeing what can happen when the time is ripe and so many people connect to work for a better future. It is remarkable that such deep processes of change happen in such a short time.

The Story continues

On our way home from Schiphol to Tilburg Shierly said: “De Gaarde has a child in Indonesia”. Yes and that child has grown up, finds an own expression of the insights and learnings of a new Earth consciousness, now in the context of the history, culture and Community of Life in Indonesia. Again we see that once each of us responds to the invitation of Mother Earth and the challenge of this moment there is all the guidance and help to move on. And like it happened in De Gaarde before, it continues now here in Indonesia, while all of us, each in our own ways,  gifts and consciousness  are bound together in a common commitment. Though De Gaarde in its physical way does not exist anymore, deep in our hearts there is a Gaarde, a haven of consciousness and love for life and Earth. We carry it within us, wherever we are and go.

We ended the evening with a meaningful ritual, guided by Alex. Like in the workshops they give there, we gave each other a bracelet and put it on, as to affirm our common concern and commitment. So we brought together the Old and the New Gaarde, …..and the Story continues…


Nov. 2015, Elly Verrijt

Laudato Si: Call for Ecological Conversion


A Call for ‘Call for Ecological Conversion’



A summary of Pope Francis’ plea for humanity, as expressed in his new encyclical, Laudato Si.


VATICAN CITY — In his encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis has issued a lengthy warning on the “destruction of the human environment” that draws on theology and “the best scientific research available today” to challenge all people to be better stewards of creation.

The six-chapter, 184-page document, whose subtitle is “The Care for Our Common Home,” also uses environmental concerns to provoke wider discussions on the deeper questions of human existence, as well as the need to safeguard all creation and all people, however poor, small or vulnerable.

“What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” is the question at the heart of a document that the Pope directs at all people, not only Catholics.

The encyclical, which has a chapter dedicated to the “human roots of the ecological crisis,” clearly accepts the science of anthropogenic climate change — the first such papal document to so overtly endorse the science. But at the same time, it says the Church has “no reason to offer a definitive opinion,” knowing that “honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views.”

The encyclical frequently speaks on behalf of the poor, while often chastising governments for poor governance and businesses for placing “speculation and the pursuit of financial gain” ahead of the common good.

As per tradition, the encyclical takes its title from its opening words — “Laudato si, mi Signore” — (Praise be to you, my Lord). The words come from the canticle of St. Francis of Assisi that “reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us,” the Pope writes.

wildflowers beaty 1

He then cites further words of his namesake on creation, stressing that “rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.”

The Pope often refers to teachings on the environment from his recent predecessors, as well as Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I. And, throughout, he draws on previous papal and Church documents, as well as the teachings of some of the doctors of the Church: Sts. Thomas Aquinas, Benedict, Thérèse of Lisieux and Bonaventure. The 20th-century theologian Romano Guardini, a favorite of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, is frequently cited, as are statements from various bishops’ conferences.

Rejecting ‘A Throwaway Culture’

Calling on the “whole human family” to seek a sustainable and integral development, the Pope urgently appeals for a “new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.” In the face of this, Francis criticizes “obstructionist attitudes” and calls for a “new and universal solidarity.”

The encyclical’s first chapter presents the crisis affecting the environment, saying that the Earth “is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth” and that its environmental problems are “closely linked to a throwaway culture.”

Climate change, it goes on to say, is a “global problem with serious implications” that represents “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” It notes other factors, such as volcanic activity, variations in the Earth’s orbit and axis and the solar cycle, but adds that “a number of scientific studies” show that “greenhouse gases” are released “mainly as a result of human activity.” This unsettled issue is shaping up as a main criticism by analysts.

“If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us,” the encyclical says, adding that the “worst impact” will probably be felt in developing countries. It goes on to call for the drastic reduction of carbon dioxide and other polluting gases, substituting fossil fuels and developing renewable energy.

It points to the “tragic rise in migrants,” escaping poverty caused by environmental degradation, and tackles shortages and the poor quality of water in many parts of the world, saying it is a “basic and universal human right” and that to deprive the poor of water denies them the “right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.” The loss of biodiversity and extinction of species are also mentioned.

It speaks of the decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society, citing the “unruly growth” of cities, the effects of technological innovations and the omnipresence of the media. The encyclical also focuses on global inequality and calls for a “true ecological approach” to hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.

Lack of Leadership

The encyclical draws attention to “weak responses” and a lack of leadership, noting, “It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been.” It criticizes a “superficial ecology which bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness.”

In Paragraph 60, Francis places the Church in between two ideological extremes: those who “doggedly uphold the myth of progress,” thinking that ecological problems will solve themselves, and those who view mankind as “no more than a threat, jeopardizing the global ecosystem.”

Early on, Laudato Si also rejects population control as a means of helping the environment, saying demographic growth is “fully compatible” with an integral and shared development.

“To blame population growth, instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues,” the encyclical says.

The document then draws on the “wisdom of biblical accounts” in relation to the environment and rejects the notion that, having been created in God’s image and given dominion over the Earth, mankind is justified in having “absolute domination over other creatures.” Furthermore, it says that when we see God reflected in all that exists, “our hearts are moved to praise the Lord for all his creatures and to worship him in union with them.”

In a later section, the document criticizes those who show “more zeal” in protecting other species than in defending human dignity or addressing “enormous inequalities in our midst.” Every act of cruelty “towards any creature is contrary to human dignity,” the Pope writes.

The Gaze of Jesus

Under the title “The Gaze of Jesus,” the document notes that Jesus lived in “full harmony with creation” and that the destiny of all creation is “bound up with the mystery of Christ.”

Chapter 3 is given over to what the encyclical calls technocracy — the dominance of technology over everyday life — and economic and political life. The Pope says this is reflected in architecture that “reflects the spirit of an age.”

He argues for a “bold cultural revolution,” in which society needs to slow down and look at reality in a different way.

Also in the chapter, it says modernity has been “marked by an excessive anthropocentricism” that actually obstructs ways of strengthening social bonds. It calls instead for “responsible stewardship” and says failure to acknowledge the worth of “a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities” makes it difficult to recognize that “everything is connected.”

Failure to protect the human embryo, it says, makes it impossible to teach concern for the vulnerable.

The document further decries a culture of relativism that objectifies others, and Francis stresses the need to protect employment, saying it is “essential” to “prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone.”

Laudato Si steps back from issuing a definitive statement on genetic modification, but it does say that a “number of significant difficulties” should not be “underestimated.” It also criticizes those who wish to impose limits on such research, while failing to “apply those same principles” to issues, specifically citing experimentation on human embryos.

Human Ecology

Chapter 4 is given over to “human ecology” and stresses the importance of “relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment.” It says it is “not a healthy attitude” to “cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.”

“The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home,” it says, “whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.”

Chapter 5 concerns “lines of approach and action,” in which the Pope proposes dialogue to achieve a “broad consensus” on action. He says there is an “urgent need of a true world political authority” to deal with these global problems and that the environment cannot be “adequately safeguarded or promoted by market forces.”

The final chapter discusses education and spirituality and invites everyone to “ecological conversion” and a “new lifestyle,” even through small actions, such as carpooling and turning off unnecessary lights.

“Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and mutual destruction,” it says. “If we can overcome individualism, we will truly be able to develop a different lifestyle and bring about significant changes in society.”

It also calls for “sobriety and humility.” And towards the end, it says the Eucharist is a “source of light and motivation for our concerns for the environment, directing us to be stewards of all creation.”

Closing Marian Reflection

Ending with a reflection on Mary, the Queen of All Creation, he says that “we can ask her to enable us to look at this world with eyes of wisdom,” as well as implore St. Joseph to “teach us how to show care” for the world.

The Pope ends with two prayers, one from Basil the Great and the other by Pope Francis himself, to close what he calls his lengthy, “joyful and troubling” encyclical.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.


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