In the year 2000, the Institute of Sathya Sai Education proposed a conference to be held in Puttaparthi, South India, during 25-29 September 2000. This conference was themed Strengthening Values Education: Innovative Approaches to Teacher Education for Peace and International Understanding. It was principally about Education in Human Values, something which happens in many countries around the world. There had been some developments in the area of Human Values Education, Water Education, Sanitation Education, and collaboration with UN Habitat.
Co-sponsors of this Conference were UNESCO and Flinders University, of South Australia.
Those who took their cue from the publication of The Findings, took it into their heads to hamper the activities of Sai Baba and his institutions with a certain mischief. Mischief certainly happened, for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) withdrew from the Conference, rescinded their sponsorship relations and later issued an apology for the withdrawal. Flinders University also withdrew their co-sponsorship.
Questions were raised as to WHY this withdrawal occurred. Was it for reasons due propagation of material by those critical of Sai Baba and alleged sexual impropriety by Sai Baba? Was it for cultural reasons? Or was it for some other, internal, administrivia reason by UNESCO? There are many claims for the cause of the withdrawal and there have been Media Advisories issued by UNESCO. This page will then taken overview of events and what UNESCO released as the reasons therefore, and what others said the reasons were.
Here is the (first?) (apparently the second) withdrawal notice by UNESCO_APEID on this matter.
Note of Withdrawal 8 September 2000
UNESCO-ACEID Withdraws from Co-sponsorship of Puttaparthi Conference on Values Education
To All Intended Participants
This message supersedes my previous note of withdrawal dated 25 August 2000:
After careful consideration and consultation, UNESCO-ACEID and the Flinders University Institute of International Education have decided to withdraw as co-sponsors of the Conference on Strengthening Values Education: Innovative Approaches to Teacher Education for Peace and International Understanding to be held in Puttaparthi, India, 25-29 September 2000.
UNESCO therefore has no further association whatsoever with this Conference.
Zhou Nanzhou, UNESCO-ACEID
What happened here? What information was put in front of Mr Zhou Nanzhou to cause a withdrawal?
Barry Pittard advises that certain information was put in front of UNESCO:
As one of a group involved in getting UNESCO (Paris) to investigate various allegations against Sathya Sai Baba, I know that UNESCO, in a timely way, notified his apex leadership of its Media Advisory and cancellation, along with the University of Flinders, Adelaide, Australia, of its participation in the September 2001 education conference at Puttaparthi.
Barry Pittard goes on to say that this was an intensive process:
Our submissions involved several months of intense activity, until UNESCO and the Vice-Chancellor of Flinders University heeded our many and rigorously detailed submissions, including sworn affidavits. UNESCO also checked with the French Government and the French National Police (the Sureté).
An intensive process to stifle the participation of a worldwide Education Development Agency sponsored by the United Nations, from participating in and furthering the spread and development of Human Values Education in schools.
This was the task of Barry Pittard and his confreres and this was his aim. Barry Pittard and his confreres do not believe that Truth, Right Conduct, Love, Peace and Non-violence are inherent within the human person, and are not to be elicited. (Educare simply means to elicit what is within). Education in Human Values and Innovative Approaches to Teacher Education for Peace and International Understanding, according to Barry Pittard and his confreres, is not a good thing.
Heed that conclusion. Barry Pittard and his Sai Expose confreres decided that Innovative Approaches to Teacher Education for Peace and International Understanding is a bad thing, and no one should participate. The world should not know about this.
On the other hand, Barry Pittard writes: (site currently blocked by host)
(Baba) ... he has done an immense amount of good in the wider society.
One has to question what their purpose is, what their goal is. If they are saying that "he has done an immense amount of good in the wider society", then why would they take action to prevent international cooperation and approaches to teacher education for peace and international understanding?
In September of 2000, UNESCO published a further, detailed note of withdrawal:
UNESCO WITHDRAWS FROM CONFERENCE 15 September 2000
Paris, September 15 - UNESCO has decided it will no longer sponsor nor take part in a conference it had been due to co-organize with the Institute of Sathya Sai Education (ISSE, Thailand) and The Flinders University Institute of International Education (Australia), in Puttaparthi, India, from September 25 to 29. The decision means UNESCO is no longer associated in any way - through sponsorship, organization or participation of any kind - with the conference on Strengthening Values Education: Innovative Approaches to Teacher Education for Peace and International Understanding.
UNESCO's withdrawal was prompted by several factors. Certain decisions were taken by the ISSE without consultation, such as plans to hold some of the sessions at the Ashram of the Sathya Sai movement in Puttaparthi, and the inclusion of some speakers in the conference programme without their previous consent. Furthermore, the Organization is deeply concerned about widely-reported allegations of sexual abuse involving youths and children that have been levelled at the leader of the movement in question, Sathya Sai Baba. Whilst it is not for UNESCO to pronounce itself in this regard, the Organization restates its firm moral and practical commitment to combating the sexual exploitation of children, in application of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires States to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and violence.
The UNESCO-ACEID Conference coordinators disocciated themselves from the Conference and further clarified the reasons for their withdrawal:~ the taking of decisions without reference to UNESCO-ACEID; the plan to hold some sessions of the Conference in the Ashram of the Sathya Sai Movement; the inclusion of speakers in the conference program without UNESCO-ACEID's previous consent, and widely-reported allegations of sexual abuse involving youths and children that have been levelled at the leader of the movement in question, Sathya Sai Baba.
UNESCO-ACEID as an international organisation and agency of the United Nations has for many years been organising international conferences on developments in Education, initiative in education of children, and thus, they are antithetical to any exploitation or abuse of children, as outlined in their notice of withdrawal.
Some time later, the Indian Representative to the UNESCO wrote [in part]:
The media Advisory dated September 15th 2000 and viewable at the address: www.unesco.org/education/highlights/media_advisory is posted to explain UNESCO's inability to participate in a Conference organised by the Institute of Sathya Sai Education [Thailand]. In doing so, it attempts to gravely tarnish the reputation Sathya Sai movement by casting aspersion on the personal integrity and character of its leader, based on hearsay, and unconfirmed press reports.
Shri Sathya Sai Baba is a highly respected spiritual leader and publics figure in India and abroad. It is well known that the life and message of Shri Sathya Sai Baba has been devoted to promoting peace, non-violence social harmony and is a moving force behind numerous philanthropic social projects. In this context, it is pertinent to mention that the UN Human Settlements Project [UN-HABITAT] launched a major education initiative three years ago, using human values approach propounded by Shri Sathya Sai Baba, to introduce a value-based water education programme through the national curriculum in Africa. The initiative has been widely accepted at high political levels and among educationists in Africa and is now being replicated by the UN-HABITAT and the Asian Development Bank in Asia and the Pacific. You will agree that issuance of a casual and negligent press release by UNESCO cannot but do disservice to such valuable projects.
Government of India considers Shri Sathya Sai Baba and his movement a national asset and takes strong exception to UNESCO press release, which spreads wholly unfounded and unsubstantiated allegation against Shri Sathya Sai Baba.
I would therefore request you to take immediate steps to remove the objectionable press advisory from the UNESCO website. I would also appreciate an expression of regret for the damage caused to one of India's revered public figures, without first verifying the facts and any consultation with Indian authorities.
That is the letter from India's permanent representative to the UNESCO. Strong letter, is it not? Naturally, the UNESCO hurried to give a reply. Here it is, in part. The letter is from Assistant Director General of UNESCO.
I do appreciate this concern and wish to inform you that following your personal intervention, the media advisory in question was immediately withdrawn from the archives of the UNESCO's web site for education.
I should also like to take this opportunity to say how much the Organisation regrets this unfortunate incident and to reiterate to you, on behalf of the Director General, that the Organisation attaches the greatest importance to the varied forms of fruitful collaboration that we have enjoyed with your country for many years.
I hope this letter will set your mind at rest and dispel any misunderstanding.
Here is the evidence:
It is clear that UNESCO-ACEID back-pedalled considerably on the issue of the widely-reported allegations of sexual abuse involving youths and children that have been levelled at the leader of the movement in question, Sathya Sai Baba. It is now resolved that the allegations were just that, allegations, which were not investigated in depth, and not borne out with legal proceedings against Sathya Sai Baba, nor the Sathya Sai Movement.
Allegations are just that. Allegations. They have no substance in any legal jurisdiction until charges are laid the process moves to a formal court hearing. Despite many invitations to lay charges, despite many claims of abuse, not one instance of abuse has been brought to the courts in India. Therefore, UNESCO-ACEID had to back-pedal due lack of evidence. Doubtless they were mail-bombed relentlessly with spurious claims of abuse.
On 25 May, 1947, Sai Baba wrote a letter to his brother Seshama Raju (which in in fact addressed to 'all who are devoted to Me'). That letter was an exposition of the specific signs of maha-atmas, great souls, and their tasks. In that letter, Baba wrote:~
It is not the way of the great to swell when people offer worship and shrink when people cool off. As a matter of fact, no sacred text lays down rules to regulate the lives of the great, prescribing habits and attitudes they must adopt. They themselves know the path they must take. Their wisdom regulates and makes their acts holy. Self-reliance and beneficial activity - these two are their special marks.
.... .... .... ....
Have you not heard of dogs that howl at the stars? How long can they go on? Authenticity will soon win.
... .... .... ....
I will not give up My Mission nor My determination. I SHALL carry them out. I treat with equanimity, the honour or dishonour that may result. Internally, I am totally unconcerned. I act, but solely in the outer world. If I talk and move about, it is entirely for the sake of the outer world, and for making the people realise the advent of Divinity. Other than this, I have no concern with anything.
Sai Baba uses a telling metaphor in his letter to his brother: Does anyone heed dogs barking at the moon? Of what significance is it? None, for it has no significance. It is the idle activity of animals with no capacity of discrimination. Sai Baba highlighted two things: The good will carry on with their work regardless of obstacles, and AUTHENTICITY WILL WIN. As Sathya Sai Baba wrote, in 1947, authenticity will always win. I do hope you will share this expression of regret by an important UN body with others whom you know and that slowly the word would spread so that negative propaganda would be laid to rest once and for all, as it indeed must be.