Breakthroughs Online
September 2010Issue No. 5

It appears we are becoming more polarized as a nation. At least the media would have us believe so. News stories highlight the resentment at growing economic disparities, fears about uncontrolled immigration, and anger over mosque building.  


It's good to know that many communities are standing together rather than pulling apart. Muslims and evangelical Christians have been engaged in sustained dialogue in Richmond for more than six years. In its latest newsletter, Everyday Democracy, one of America's leading facilitators of participatory democracy, carries a chapter from Rob Corcoran's Trustbuilding, which tells the story in detail.


As peace talks begin between Israelis and Palestinians amidst some skepticism, Rabbi Marc Gopin writes of an inspiring initiative to generate income for economically disadvantaged Palestinians and Middle Eastern peacemakers.


We feature the IofC conference center in Caux, Switzerland. Senior Americans, including Rev. Otis Moss, took part in the Caux Forum for Human Security. The Caux Scholars Program completed its eighteenth year and the European launch of Trustbuilding included a public seminar. Since 1946 Caux has been known as "a home for the world." Its mission - change the world starting with change in our own lives - is a great antidote for a culture of blame.


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Moss Addresses Caux Forum for Human Security 

Rev. Otis Moss, a close associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at the third annual Caux Forum for Human Security on just governance, in a context of non-violence. Emphasizing the inclusive nature of the civil rights movement, he said that it called into action tens of thousands of men and women of all generations and ages including children. "Just governance must be inter-generational," he said. "A government can be measured by how it treats children, the poor, the aged and the most vulnerable in society." Read the complete story here.


The forum drew participants from more than fifty countries, including the King and Queen of Bunyoro-Kitara in Uganda. They discussed the themes of Healing Memory, Just Governance, Living Sustainably and Inclusive Economics. Reports on each of these "streams" were presented by teams of Caux Scholars.


Katherine Marshall, a Senior Fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, in her blog for the Washington Post's "On Faith" section, reports on an inspiring encounter in Caux with Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye from Nigeria.


The forum issued a statement in support of a "call to action" to mobilize a global "coalition of conscience" around practical strategies for addressing human security concerns. It will be disseminated widely, inviting the participation of individuals, civil society, governments, and the private sector.

The Caux Scholars Program 2010

"The program exceeded my expectations in every conceivable way," says Ruan Pethiyagoda, a Sri Lankan studying journalism at the University of Seattle, WA. He was one of 19 students representing 16 countries who participated in this year's Caux Scholars Program.

Ruan learned about CSP through a graduate, Sonali Samarasinghe Wickrematunge, '96, an investigative journalist and editor from Sri Lanka whose husband, an outspoken editor, was assassinated in January of 2009. Ruan knew him as a friend and mentor and had worked with him on the paper, so he felt the need to leave the country following this tragic event. 

How had he underestimated CSP? Ruan went on to say:

-  "I was blown away by the depth and breadth of experience of our instructors, and how their teaching styles complemented each other. More so, I was stunned at how involved and engaged they were with us, even outside of the classroom environment.

-  I understood in theory, but underestimated in practice, the value of the Caux environment as a venue for spurring safe and frank dialogue and learning.

-  Distinct from the natural beauty of the environment, the way both the Scholars program, and the Caux management were structured, allowed us to bond with people of a diverse range of experiences.

-  I did not expect such an incredibly diverse and well informed group of peers as we had, especially given how little I had known of the program and IofC.

For all these reasons, I found the content we were taught, and the various perspectives that arose during teaching, to be incredibly insightful". . .

Read the complete story here.
Caux Scholars Pay Tribute to Barry Hart 

Dr. Barry Hart is stepping down after 14 years as academic director of the Caux Scholars Program. He has served on the faculty since the program began in 1991 and became its academic director in 1997. Dr. Hart, who serves as academic director and professor of Trauma, Identity and Conflict Studies at Eastern Mennonite University's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, has developed the curriculum and enlisted the faculty for CSP each year. He has taught hundreds of students about peacebuilding, restorative justice, issues of identity, and trauma healing, and he has been deeply engaged with their lives in ways they will never forget. . .

Read the complete story here.

Trust is Social Capital 
'Trust is the social capital on which our democratic institutions depend,' said Rob Corcoran at the European launching of his book Trustbuilding at the Caux Conference Centre. 'The most-needed reforms in our communities and nations require levels of political courage and trust-based collaboration that can only be achieved by individuals who have the vision, integrity, and persistence to call out the best in others and sustain deep and long-term efforts.' 

Corcoran told the international audience: 'Without trust, true collaboration is unattainable. Without trust, we can't get to real reform. Without trust - particularly trust across racial, cultural, or religious divides - it will be virtually impossible to generate the will to tackle the daunting challenges facing our communities, our nations, and the world.'

During the public lecture, Corcoran asked the audience, 'Where does trust need to be built in your community? Where has trust broken down?' Later he asked, 'What history has not been acknowledged in your community? Whose voice has not been heard? What are the unhealed wounds?' 'The Richmond-based program of Hope in the Cities, rooted in Initiatives of Change, has tried to answer such questions over nearly two decades', he said. Reconciliation is an achievable goal, and personal responsibility is a means of achieving that goal. . .

Read the complete story here.

A Song for the World

It was a musical odyssey. The veteran country and western group, the Colwell Brothers from California, now in their seventies, had last performed in Caux in 1961. Their first visit had been in 1953. Now they were back, with composer, pianist and xylophone player Herb Allen, to give a barnstorming performance before a packed international audience on August 14.

Allen and the Colwells were the musical founders of Up With People, which has involved 20,000 young people in 36 countries. Many in the audience had not been born at the time of the Colwells' last visit. Yet they took the musicians to their hearts, won by the sheer vitality and versatility of the three brothers, Steve (lead and rhythm guitar), Paul (lead guitar, mandolin and banjo) and Ralph (bass guitar), and joined by their physician brother Ted on rhythm guitar.

Begining with country-western and bluegrass songs, the musical journey took the audience to Europe, Africa, the Far East, and Latin America. The Colwells sang in a number of different languages and dialects. Herb Allen, who had first met the Colwells at Caux in 1953, gave a dazzling performance on xylophone of The Flight of the Bumblebee.


Read the complete story here.

"Business is business": A practical path to justice and an independent Palestine


By Marc Gopin


The creation of an independent Palestine has been a dream dashed many times, but there may be a practical path forward emerging from a surprising place. I often heard the phrase 'business is business' growing up in the 1960s among gritty American Jewish immigrants; my father said it all the time. It reflected old Jewish instincts to do whatever it takes to survive and feed "the family," even when it meant dealing with people who disliked you - a lot.

What floored me is when my Palestinian partner, Aziz Abu Sarah, with whom I recently founded MEJDI, a social enterprise organization which aims to generate income for economically disadvantaged Palestinians and Middle Eastern peacemakers through tourism and market creation for indigenous goods, told me exactly the same words from his father! I have been shocked by the positive reception in my right wing family to the idea of honest business as a bridge. And every time I asked Aziz, "Are you sure your family is ok with Jews and Arabs doing business given their terrible troubles? They know how Jewish I am?" The answer came, "Business is business."


There is a lot of good news on the business front. Saudi Arabia has announced a 400 million dollar project for Ramallah; many Western countries are pouring in huge funds for the private sector. But my partners and I at MEJDI want more. We argue that more is needed to place justice at the centre of Palestine's future, and to discourage an investor tendency to make a few wealthy and most miserable. All the incoming funds are good, but we should explicitly support socially responsible business in Palestine. Here is an example of what we are doing. . .


Read the complete commentary here.
Dr. Marc Gopin is James H. Laue Professor and Director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University.

IofC and Faith


By David Ruffin


This past week I began my Masters of Divinity at Harvard. Though it's officially a program of preparation for ministry, like many of my colleagues I come with an open heart to discover what my sense of ministry's fullest expression may be - not only in terms of my gifts, passions and convictions, but also in the context of the world's rapidly changing needs. While leaving my performance career and returning to school (especially for the vocational trajectory I'm exploring) can be daunting, I feel I'm picking up on a journey started long ago. 


Growing up around Initiatives of Change, I experienced an extremely rare kind of community. Before I was old enough to imagine it otherwise, I was surrounded by people of every age, color, ethnicity, nationality, etc., brought together by the deeply shared conviction to take personal responsibility for making the world the more peaceful place they envisioned. These individuals were inspired by one another's commitment and stories, but also very much guided by their faith. The amazing thing is that their faith traditions were, and still are, different. But the role of faith remains central to most of those involved.


In our increasingly secular society, more and more of my peers are questioning the need for religious belief, and even looking down on those who do embrace religion. Others, I realize, are clinging more fervently than ever to fundamentalist views that breed distrust and fear. As I witness the increasing domination of Christianity, for example, by certain more extreme groups in my country, I relate very much to the skepticism that many of my friends feel toward organized religion. But when I ask them if we must "throw out the baby with the bath water," the answer I usually get back is..."no." My deepening sense is that this growing "spiritual but not religious" crowd needs real community, and even ministry, too".


Read the complete story here.

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In This Issue
Moss at CFHS
Caux Scholars Program
Barry Hart Retires
Trust is Social Capital
A Song for the World
Business is Business
IofC and Faith
Upcoming Events
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Trustbuilding Book Tour and Workshop Dates
Sep 16: American University, Washington, DC 
Sep 23: VCU Barnes & Noble, Richmond, VA
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Imam and Pastor
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