Breakthroughs Online
March 2012Issue No. 14



For the past few weeks the Initiatives of Change office has been a hive of activity. Facilitators for the Unpacking the 2010 Census project have crowded into the conference room for brown bag lunches to report back on their presentations, share ideas and concerns and plan their next programs.


Some of us were among a lively audience in Washington, DC, for the premier of Writing a New History, a new film by Karen Elliott Greisdorf about a youth pilgrimage last summer to civil rights sites in the south. This project for racial reconciliation was a partnership with Eastern Mennonite University. 


An interracial group from Duke Divinity School visited Richmond to  experience a "walk through history" and consider the socioeconomic legacy of that history.


Cricket White has just returned from a planning meeting in Switzerland to coordinate the Caux summer conferences. She is heading up a training session there in August, The dynamics of being a changemaker. Meanwhile, selection committees for Caux Interns and the 2012 class of Caux Scholars are hard at work.  


For our readers, this is a good moment to make plans to be at Caux this summer.  


In this issue, Alex Wise, the IofC Board Chair, outlines his vision for IofC and his excitement at the opportunities that lie open to us.   


Please consider a gift to help carry forward these initiatives. 

Who is my Neighbor?  
Unpacking the 2010 Census
Unpacking the 2010 Census presentation (Photo: Rob Corcoran)

As the country struggles with the issues of economic inequity, the community in Richmond, Virginia, is learning more about the new realities of race, class and jurisdiction in the region. Forty facilitators have been trained to present a new DVD, Unpacking the 2010 Census and lead the community in dialogue.

Nineteen groups have so far requested programs and more are registering each day. Presentations are scheduled at H.O.M.E.(Housing Opportunities Made Equal), Goochland Free Clinic, Richmond Public Library, Richmond Public Schools, three area universities, and a number of churches and synagogues. 


Kathleen Barrett, CEO of St. Joseph's Villa that serves the at-risk populations, writes, "Today we had a packed board room. I wanted to let you know how outstanding the facilitators were. Thank you again for making this program available." 


This multi-media DVD Unpacking the 2010 Census: New Realities of Race, Class, and Jurisdiction was conceived, researched and designed by Dr. John V. Moeser, a renowned urban planning expert, Senior Fellow at the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement at the University of Richmond, and a member of the Hope in the Cities Council. 


The Census project was launched in partnership with the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities and is supported by a grant from The Community Foundation


"The lack of regional cooperation and trust about increasingly shared problems is the biggest obstacle," wrote one program participant in the follow-up survey. Others noted the lack of political will and courageous leadership in each of the jurisdictions. While many remarked on the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest citizens of the city of Richmond, others were surprised by the extent of poverty in the suburbs and the degree to which poverty includes people of all ethnicities. Participants appreciated the statistical analysis and requested more time for discussion. 


If the national conversation on economic inequality is to move beyond the abstract more people need to look at their communities and ask themselves, "Who is my neighbor?" and "What is my responsibility?" This Richmond program could provide a national model.


Read the complete story here.   

For more information and to schedule a presentation 


One participant described the presentation in his blog.   

Confronting a Difficult History 

The audience in dialogue at Busboys & Poets (Photo: Karen Elliott Greisdorf)

Sometimes the best way to move forward is to take a step back. Writing a New History, a new film produced by Karen Elliott Greisdorf, tells the story of 18 youth from Philadelphia, MS, who did just that last summer as they journeyed on a civil rights youth pilgrimage through Jackson, MS, Memphis, TN, and Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma, AL.

The youth pilgrimage was spearheaded by Barbara "Sha" Jackson of Coming To The Table, a program of the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University. The curriculum for the trip was developed by Tee Turner and Cricket White of Hope in the Cities in Richmond, VA.
The documentary premiered to a diverse, standing-room-only audience as part of the monthly A.C.T.O.R. (A Continuing Talk On Race) dialogue program hosted by Busboys & Poets, a popular community gathering spot and restaurant in Washington, DC.

In introducing the film, Karen said, "As we explored the hidden history as well as the headlines of the civil rights movement, it was a privilege to witness the relationships deepening among the youth as they questioned how acts of injustice and justice had unfolded and what relevance it held for them more than 40 years later."

Sha and Karen described how the pilgrimage came together in ways they could never have planned. They were committed to putting together an interracial group and in the end most of the young people, black and white, were from the same high school in Philadelphia, MS, where three civil right workers were killed in June 1964.

Following the film screening the audience engaged in conversation around the question of what was meant by writing a "new" history. One table group concluded that it is not about writing a new history so much as acknowledging and embracing all of our history. Facing this history head-on is not easy. One audience member commented, "We are all wounded, but we just don't all recognize it."

Karen concluded, "While it is a journey back through time and a history that is not always easy to explore, it opens a conversation in which we all can take part."

Read the complete story here.  

Writing a New History is a 42 minute documentary and conversation starter available for community groups of all ages and middle school and high school students. It is narrated by Paula Young Shelton, author of Child of the Civil Rights Movement.

For further information on Writing a New History

The Contemporary Role of a Prophet   


2012 Duke Divinity School
John Stean experiences the slave trail (Photo: Rob Corcoran)

The vision of Richmond as a Center for Community Trustbuilding is growing. Requests for training and consultation have come from Texas, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Rhode Island.  In recent years groups like the students from Duke University Divinity School have made a "pilgrimages" to Richmond for programs facilitated by Hope in the Cities and hosted by Richmond Hill.

John B. Stean, III who hails from Long Island, New York, was among the Duke students who walked the city's Slave Trail this month and reflected on the power and pain of history. They took a bus tour from the inner city to the far suburbs to see the legacy of racial and economic segregation. And they grappled with the vision of building a reconciled community.

Reflecting on what he had seen and experienced, John asked himself: "What is the contemporary role of the prophet? This pilgrimage has brought me closer to the realization that we are in the presence of the types of injustice that make the words of the prophets resonate. So many aspects of our culture today remind me of the very culture that they spoke out against. I cannot remain silent.

"I can't be honest with myself or with God if I say this is just a random field trip. I have entered into a contract of accountability with God. If I have any integrity at all, from this point onward I am involved. There's no turning back from this."  

A fellow pilgrim shared a similar sentiment: "I feel like I am being entrusted with something massive. What it will look like I don't know, but the rest of my theology will be shaped by this vision."
Chris Rice, who directs the Divinity School's Center for Reconciliation which sponsored the pilgrimage, notes that there are communities that deform people - whether the slave  markets of 19th century or today's artificial suburbs - and it requires another sort of community to convert them. "Baptism is not enough. We have to ask what kind of community we want to be part of.  This is not an 'I' journey, it is a 'we' journey." 


Read the complete story here.  

India Again After 32 Years 

Charles Aquilina and Parthiban
Charles Aquilina with Parthiban at a ceremony to kick-off a campaign to plant 100,000 trees

Charles Aquilina is responsible for the Washington, DC, program of Initiatives of Change. He recently made a return visit to India and writes of his encounters.

It was a great privilege to be back in India again 32 years after I had worked there with Initiatives of Change for two and a half years. I saw many friends, some of whom I had first met as students and who are now heading companies employing tens of thousands, or are in senior positions in the financial sector, or book publishing. I was inspired by the initiatives they are taking.  


The main purpose of my trip was to support the Dialogue on Making Democracy Real at Asia Plateau, the Initiatives of Change center in the hills south of Mumbai, India. Two hundred people from 32 countries responded to this important initiative. A full report of the dialogue is available on-line but here are three personal highlights:  


The first was hearing from the Egyptians who made up the largest delegation. A young leader of the Tahrir Square revolution in Egypt reflected on Gandhi's advice to Nehru before Independence: "If you face the arrogance of power with the arrogance of revolution, their power will beat you,"' and concluded that humility in their struggle would be their strength.  


The second was witnessing Vijitha Yapa, one of the largest newspaper and book publishers from Sri Lanka, comparing notes with Vice President Dr. Riek Machar of South Sudan who attended with a delegation of 22 from his newly independent country, about initiatives of reconciliation following very damaging wars.  


And third was seeing this center, with its striking natural beauty, work its magic on VIPs and ordinary people alike, giving them the chance to share their deepest experiences and convictions during early morning sessions on Nurturing Democracy Wellsprings.  


Following the conference, I took a 30-hour train ride with an Indian participant, J S Parthibhan, to meet some of his friends in Salem, South India, including those who feature in the fine 12-minute film Banking on Change. This film is a must-see - a banker who gets out of his office to meet people in remote areas who would normally never venture into a Bank.  


On my way back home to Washington, DC, a layover in Cairo enabled me to see five of the Egyptians who had participated in the Democracy Dialogue in India and other friends. The crowning moment was a visit to a crowded and tense Tahrir Square accompanied by friends who had been part of the amazing events which unfolded there last year. 


Read the complete story here.  


In an additional article, Gary Storm, a retired Professor/Dean of Education and Human Services at the University of Illinois at
Springfield, writes about his participation in the Dialogue on Democracy.    

Shaping the Future

Alex Wise
Alex Wise (Photo: Karen Elliott Greisdorf)

H. Alexander Wise, the board chair of Initiatives of Change, has led a varied life as educator, public servant, lawyer, and social entrepreneur. Since 2007 he has lived in Memphis, TN where he currently serves as director of development for the Church Health Center. It was his vision to create the American Civil War Center in Richmond, VA, as a place of dialogue where the Union, Confederate, and African American stories could be told under one roof, and he served as the center's first president/CEO and chief fundraiser.

As the new board chair of Initiatives of Change, I am excited about the opportunities that lie open to us together if we have the wisdom, the courage, and the faith to grasp them.

Initiatives of Change has a record of achievement spread over eight decades and much of the globe. Documented contributions range from playing a role in Franco-German and U.S.-Japanese reconciliation after WWII, to helping improve the racial climate in Richmond, Virginia, the one-time capital of the Confederacy. 

These and other history-changing achievements happened because of those who committed themselves to living lives of conscience and self-giving service that inspired others to do likewise.

Today, the need to bind and heal is as great as ever, and I invite your help as we move strategically to grow our capacity to make a difference.

Since we cannot tackle every divide in our country, we have decided to focus our efforts in these key areas:

1. Racial reconciliation: Known as a national leader in this field and a flagship program of Initiatives of Change, Hope in the Cities has received a W.K. Kellogg grant to continue offering public programs for community leaders. In addition, we have successfully parlayed our experience into training for executives of Bon Secours Health System and other institutions, and we intend to develop this fee-for-service program for businesses, government agencies, and school districts to help support our operations.   

2. Economic renewal: In this decade, perhaps the most urgent challenge to our democracy is making our economy work for all, regardless of class, color, and creed.   A new initiative in Richmond, Virginia, Unpacking the 2010 Census: the new realities of race, class and jurisdiction is serving as the focus for honest conversation on this issue. This will provide a model for other regions of the country to generate greater understanding across the widening economic divides and constructive proposals to narrow them. The business community must be at the table in these discussions.

3. Religious understanding: A key concern for peace and security is building understanding between Muslims and Christians, and among other faiths. Our Washington-based team is skilled at engaging people of all faiths in the common challenge of living up to our professed values. We have effectively used two widely acclaimed IofC-produced films, The Imam and the Pastor and An African Answer, as touchstones of our continuing work in this field.

4. New  leadership: The Caux Scholars Program celebrates its 20th year of equipping next-generation leaders to take the IofC approach into leadership positions in a multitude of professions. A recent survey of alumni confirms the life-changing impact of the program and the experience gained to carry into real world situations. As Zeke Reich (CSP '04) of New York put it: "Nothing in my professional life would be the same without the inspiration and provocation of CSP - its vision of a connection between individual personal transformation and global social change has structured everything I've done since."    

On behalf of the board and staff of Initiatives of Change USA, I invite your feedback on IofC's direction, your active involvement in its work of trustbuilding, and your financial support. 
Hope you enjoyed this issue of Breakthroughs Online. Please share this newsletter with your friends and forward it to those you know have a passion for trustbuilding. Visit our website for more information.

Thank you!
In This Issue
Who is my Neighbor?
Confronting a Difficult History
The Contemporary Role of a Prophet
India Again After 32 Years
Shaping the Future
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2012 Caux Conferences

July 1-6: 
July 8-15: 
July 17-23: 
July 25-31: 
August 2-8: 

global update March 2012  

Read the latest  Global Update

This issue carries a report of the East African Youth Conference and the
Dialogue on Democracy
in India.

Trustbuilding Book Cover


Read author  

Rob Corcoran's latest blog,

 A Season for Letting go
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The Imam & The Pastor 

"The African model for finding peace amid the continent's warring communities"  

The Times (London)  

AAA flyer image An African Answer 

The second film about

the work of these two  

African peacemakers. 

Order the 2 DVD Packaged set 
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