URI Europe Conference in the land of Orpheus and Vanga

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When I got an Invitation as a coordinator of  URI CC “Euro-Asia” to participate in the URI Europe Conference “Moving interfaith work forward in Europe”(April 23-26th 2015, in Plovdiv/Bulgaria, I felt that I should/must go there. Firstly, I was attracted by the organizers’ words: “In this event we want to give European CCs a chance to meet personally, in order to strengthen the URI Europe network and enhance the impact of our interfaith work for peace, justice and healing…. make concrete plans and commitments for the next steps forward ”.  Secondly, my previous trip to Bulgaria was 25 years ago and I was very much impressed by the Nature, great Culture of this land and good people, I met then.

Well, My expectations were fulfilled and I came back home as an elephant loaded with good impressions, new ideas and plans. Many things have changed in the country-some to the better, while others-to the worse during  a quarter of  century. This is life…

The organizers of the Conference- an URI-Europe CC “BRIDGES” with a leading role of Petar Gramatikov  have done a great job to make dozens of big and small details of the Conference to be a success. Before the Conference they have given us an information  about the city Plovdiv as the cultural capital of Bulgaria and one of the most multicultural cities in Bulgaria. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe, dating back to 4000 BC. , so  we had a chance to visit  ruins of ancient Theater.Visit to the nearest mosque in Plovdiv with meeting a local mufti was very interesting for all of us too.

For me the Plovdiv Conference was a good example of the new ways Conference, for it comprised Diversity  in Oneness in all the  activities, serious and pleasant at a time,  without long talks and mentoring.  Sharing was the key principle of that gathering, and  every participant had a chance to share and to be heard.  I am very happy to having got a chance to hang Banner of Peace, proclaimed by the great Russian/International   peace-maker, writer , philosopher, spiritual  artist, Nikolai Roerich; so the whole Conference was blessed by this great symbol of Oneness in CULTURE, SCIENCE and RELIGION. Very impressive were morning Opening Ceremonies . So good that every activity was led by different persons,  and    we witnessed a good example of Leadership, when for this or that activity a different person becomes a Focus and the respected  URI leaders became active participants and even friends. In the future work of our CC we are going to use some examples of activities I have participated in: Opening Ceremonies, The journey we have travelled - getting to know each other (Appreciative Interviews), Weave us together,Open Space Sessions etc.  Unforgettable are the Cultural evenings with a  group of talented Bulgarian young singers , the next cultural program we had -was done by us-the Conference participants. Meeting in working groups – exchange and planning  future joint activity was one of the best results of the Conference.

During 3 days we all were in the atmosphere of friendship,  love, sharing and deeper cognizing the Interfaith world through communication with each other and participating  in general activities.  During that 3 days  we didn’t live  in the “Ivory Tower”, being separated from the rest of the world. I didn’t have a chance to learn about Nepal disaster on that  morning,  April 25, but seeing a sad face of Kiran Bahli , whom I met  early morning I realized that something had happened. Being safe in a spring Bulgaria we sent our prayers, thoughts of  support to Nepalese people.

Time flew fast… and soon some participants had to leave. We said “good buy” to them and they left one by one as instruments leaving the stage in the famous musical piece, so that to continue their wonderful life theme, devoted to service.

I had my own plans to visit some special spiritual places of Bulgaria afterwards and joined the rest of the group in the trip, organized by Petar, to Bachkovo Monastery, founded in the11th century not far from the modern Plovdiv.  The most impressive thing there, is that along with traditional  icons and frescos  some pictures of the ancient philosophers are exposed there as well. Moreover , there are frescos with pictures of different religions and even of some people, who were considered to be heretics.

The time came for me to say “good bye” to the friends and I took a bus bringing me to Smolyan-a town in the Rodopy mountains, to the land of Orpheus andEuridice. Many years ago Smolyan, situated in  the mountains, impressed me so much, although at that time I was aware only of the popular legend about Orpheus, but felt strong and inspiring energy of the place, standing near the statue, devoted to  the  great love of Orpheus and Euridice, spiritual and mundane at a time. Later on from esoteric knowledge I came to know that Orpheus is one of the most mystical figures in the world culture; little evidences are known, but many legends had been  created about his story, and  every legend has some truth behind it. According to the opinion of Helena Blavatskaya Orpheus was a Great Individuality, standing in the line along with  Egyptian Tot and Jewish Enokh, whose task was to bring Knowledge and wisdom to people through playing his lyre. There was no limit to his power when he played and sang. No one and nothing could resist him. Everything animate and inanimate followed him. He moved the rocks on the hillside and turned the courses of the rivers....

I was brave enough to visit the so called “Devil  throat”-a touristic place today, famous as a mountain grandeur cave, where according to the legend Orpheus lost his beloved. You will never forget that place with waterfalls and  bottomless abyss. In Smolyan there are 2 nice monuments devoted to  Love, depicting Orpheus and Euridice.  In  many places of Rodopy mountains one can see chapels of Paracletus, standing  as  symbols of Holy Spiritcoming epoch.

The next spiritual magnet for me was Rupite - a place, where a great spiritual woman of the 20th century- a blind Bulgarian prophetess and clairvoyant-VANGA lived and spent her last years, helping thousands of people with the  problems of physical and spiritual bodies. She is very much loved and known in Russia. Two years before she passed away in 1996, a Church devoted to St.Petka was erected close to her modest house according to her own design and vision. She wanted this Church to be devoted to St.Petka and to the idea of Compassion. There is, may be, no other Christian  Church of this kind in the world, and today not every person is able to comprehend it’s extraordinary form  and the  icons on the altar  and on the church pediment part.  As for me, I was aware of where I go to and what I would  see there. Reality even exceeded my  expectations.   There are not many places left on the Planet with such pure, strong but soft energies as here. Before coming here I experienced such kind of feelings only in the sacred land of my beloved Altai in Siberia and in Himalyas.

I wished I could spend more time in Rupite but had to leave after 2 wonderful days   in the place of the former volcano with termal hot springs, which Vanga had chosen herself. People come here for healing. Sofia was the last town of my trip before the flight home.  Bulgaria is the land of natural termal sources, which healing  waters I tried in Rupite and even in the center of the Bulgarian capital. My friend Todor met me and was a great guide in his hometown, he introduced me to his friends, who  are actually doing the same spiritual, social and  cultural  work as we do, devoting their life to  making a difference in the their beloved small Motherland –Bulgaria and in the big Motherland-the Planet Earth.

Back home I got a message from  Todor with photos of  the Victory DayCelebration on May 9 in Sofia. We all  are different in many ways but we all live on one Planet and only with our joint efforts we are able to spread Peace.

Galina Ermolina (Euro-Asia URI CC)