Bearing Witness to the Earth

Bearing Witness to the Earth                                                                                                                     Eco-retreat in the area of the Rhenish open-pit mining,  17 – 21 August 2022                    door Svenja Hollweg

Svenja Hollweg is gestalttherapeut. Zij nam deel aan de Bearing Witness retraites van Bernie Glassman in New York en Auschwitz en is steward bij de Zen Peacemakers kring van interreligieuze dialoog en vredeswerk. Ze zal Zenpeacemakersjukai ontvangen tijdens deze retraite.

We are living in the midst of an unprecedented multiple and global crisis that threatens entire livelihoods and leads to irreparable consequences for the planet. It moves me to this Bearing Witness to the Earth, to the “wounded field” of this old Region between Colone and Aachen, at the biggest Europene open pit mine – just to dwell there and sit and walk there together in the spirit of not-knowing and to bear witness how the world is, in which we live.

Roshi Frank De Waele and I, Svenja Shinsen Hollweg from Germany, warmly invite you to walk with us together. We will do so, as I am familiar with from other Bearing Witness retreats, such as Auschwitz or Lampedusa – which has profoundly changed my life. This Bearing Witness to the Earth retreat is in the spirit of the 3 tenets of the Zen Peacemakers: Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and the actions that arise from it.

This complex (environmental) crisis moves a lot of people in these times and pushes us all in some way. But – and I ask myself this again and again when I observe the current decisions of “carry on as before” – how aware are we really of this disastrous destruction? What is really our Relation to the beauty and to the suffering of our nature?                                                                   El Gore already formulated this crisis as a spiritual one: “The more deeply I search for the roots of the global environmental crisis, the more I am convinced that it is an outer manifestation of an inner crisis that is, for lack of a better word, spiritual…”

The contemplation of a spiritual crisis has brought me to the question: how am I really in relationship with this beautiful earth, with others, with myself? The ecosystem is by far more than a technical given that you could screw on like a machine and it works again. There are no more quick answers to this.

What are we going to do?                                                                                                                 Bearing witness to the state of the earth and how we humans relate to that state is one of our main intentions for the 5 days in August together with our small group of maximum 30 people.  We will walk, meditate and share in Council-Circles at places around the huge field of the mine We will meet people which live in the villages that are to be dredged, talking and hearing the people who are being resettled and losing their homes because of the mining. We will listen to their stories.                                                                                                                                              Also we will hold some interfaith ceremonies on site, we will be an international, interfaith and diverse group, we will remember and honor extinct animal and plant species from the Red List as well as the names of the resettled villages. We will go with what is, with the situations that arise on the ground and encounter what there is to encounter.                                                      Our basic accommodation is a simple and good workers accommodation in Elsdorf – 1 kilometre away from the Hambach open pit mine. There we will sleep in 2-3 bed rooms and eat vegetarian-biological food. From there we will take a bus to different places of the open pit mine.

Registration and further Information                                                                                                   If you are interested in the Ecoretreat or have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me, I am looking forward to an exchange with you. You can find even more information, including background on the Bearing Witness practice, on our website


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