Workshop on Spiritual Values of Protected Areas in Europe
Island of Vilm, Germany 2-6 November 2011
The German Agency for Nature Conservation organized an international workshop on the spiritual values of protected areas of Europe, which took place in the International Academy for Nature Conservation in the Island of Vilm, Baltic Sea, from 2 to 6 November. In total, 26 experts from Germany, Spain, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Serbia and the Ukraine, all with a wide range of backgrounds in fields ranging from natural sciences to traditional art, philosophy and theology, attended the workshop, which was coordinated by Josep-Maria Mallarach, Silene Association.
During the workshop the natural sacred sites, current and past, found in many protected areas in Europe were discussed. As well, discussions took place regarding the spiritual values that can be found in almost all protected areas. Visitors experience the silence, beauty and peace of these sites, which can improve their inner well-being and restore and strengthen their emotional balance and inner peace. A dozen case studies of diverse types revealed how spiritual values have been decisive in conserving important natural areas in many parts of Europe, from the Arctic to the Mediterranean; these values have helped encourage greater popular backing for protected areas and have been beneficial in many novel ways for modern societies.
Work groups debated the scope of spiritual values and the challenges that have to be faced up to if spiritual values are to be integrated into the planning and management of protected natural areas. On the basis of the conclusions of the workshop on intrinsic and spiritual values held during the recent congress of the Europarc Federation, the work groups also debated the recommendations that should be put to managers of protected natural areas regarding the best ways to manage and communicate spiritual values.
Two visits were organized. One went to an ancient forest, unexploited for five centuries, of the strict preserve of the Vilm, while the other visited the Goor forest nature reserve on the neighbouring island of Rügen, where a guided walk offers visitors the chance to have a profound experience of a magnificent ancient forest.
See the programme.