Breakthroughs Online
July 2012Issue No. 16



As a nation we are experiencing a summer of extreme heat, violent storms, wild fires, drought in some places and floods in others. We are grateful for the many people working to restore power lines, fighting the fires and cleaning up after these disasters. There is a lot of resilience and community spirit when we face these challenges together.

How can we carry that spirit of teamwork into the political and economic life of our nation? Bridging divides of race, class, religion and politics to find solutions that work for all. Rob Corcoran writes in his commentary, "America works best when we recognize that individual enterprise and responsibility go together with a shared commitment to building our national community."

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Take action locally but think globally  
By Randy Ruffin
Dr. Omnia Marzouk
Dr. Omnia Marzouk (photo: Karen Elliott Greisdorf) 

"The greatest strength of Initiatives of Change is people who start with themselves and take action locally but think globally," said Dr. Omnia Marzouk, International President of Initiatives of Change, speaking at the Swiss Embassy in Washington, DC, at an occasion to celebrate 20 years of the Caux Scholars Program and raise funds for the 2012 class.  

Switzerland's Ambassador to the United States, HE Manuel Sager spoke of the shared aims of Swiss Foreign policy and IofC in areas of good governance, fostering democracy, healing wounded memory and reconciliation.

Dr. Omnia Marzouk, an Egyptian, is Associate Medical Director at Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool, England. Having recently returned from Egypt, where she witnessed the first round of voting in the Presidential elections, Dr. Marzouk commented on the "heated debates" that had taken place and "the patient lines to register votes," saying that "the outside world may be more interested in results, but the process is just as important as the outcome." She was, she said, "quietly optimistic" about her country's future.  

Dr. Marzouk spoke of two IofC areas of focus that are particularly important to underpin democracy and peacebuilding efforts in the 21st century: "Developing a culture of ethical leadership, decision-making based on moral integrity and service necessary for good governance" and "Building trust and reconciliation across national, religious, ethnic and cultural divides to enhance peace and social cohesion"

Speaking of the Caux Scholars Program and the 368 alumni from 88 countries, she told of an Egyptian graduate of the 2010 program who had returned last year as program assistant: "He took part in the revolution last year and was imprisoned during the early days; he is now facilitating grassroots workshops on dialogue and citizenship between young people with very diverse views, whether Salafists, Muslim brothers, liberal and conservative Muslim women, and others, to help the reconciliation and building work needed at this point - an encouraging seed of hope for the future of Egypt."

The event at the Swiss Embassy was part of a series of visits that Dr. Marzouk made during her week in the US. Meetings were arranged with the United States Institute for Peace, World Vision, the Islamic Society of North America and with H.E. Kim Beazley, Australia's ambassador to the US where Dr. Marzouk earned her medical degree. More informal time was spent with the Muslim/Evangelical Christian dialogue group that has met in Richmond over the past six years.

Read the complete story here
A haven of peace and inspiration  
By Dick Ruffin

2012 Caux Forum
Micheline Calmy-Rey speaking with Forum attendees from Burma
(photo: Adriana Borra)


Micheline Calmy-Rey, twice President of the Swiss Federation, told participants in the  Fifth Caux Forum for Human Security, that dialogue represents the political realism necessary to resolve global challenges. With her was Swiss Ambassador Claude Altermatt, representing the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, who described the Caux center as "a haven of peace and inspiration."


The Forum, which brought together over 250 people from 50 countries, including many Americans, underlined that finally the security of people, whether in wealthy nations like the United States or in poor countries in Africa, requires good governance, inclusive economies, sustainable living and the healing of memories.


The latter was illustrated powerfully by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and two Aboriginal leaders. Rudd spoke of his  public apology in 2008 on behalf of the Australian government to the "stolen generations", referring to the thousands of aboriginal children forcibly removal from their families. The apology, he said, was offered without any assurance that it would be accepted. It was, and this led to processes of healing that are being implemented and monitored year by year.


Jackie Huggins, an Aboriginal historian, never thought this could happen. Speaking to the former Prime Minister, she said "Thank you so much for giving us our dignity back."


Rudd made clear that credit should go to four generations of Aboriginal leaders who had fought on these issues. "We whites are perhaps slow learners," he said. "There comes a time in the life of a people or a culture when telling the truth is not a bad strategy." Referring to the history of healing processes in which Caux had played a part, he said, "Everything is possible if we have the heart to do it. Never underestimate your power as civil society. You can knock down walls over time."


Also attending were a small but significant delegation from Burma/Myanmar and 20 leaders from French-speaking countries of Central and West Africa. The latter were brought by the Swiss government for a workshop on healing the past. It was the third such delegation.


Insights and lessons learned from the five forums will be made available to people in government and civil society and to Breakthroughs readers interested in the outcomes of the Caux Forums.


Read the complete story here.
Watch Kevin Rudd's public apology in 2008 

The politics of reconciliation 

Rajmohan Gandhi and John W Franklin
John W. Franklin and Rajmohan Gandhi
(photo: Rob Corcoran) 

"A reconciled America may not be possible if the world is outside our thoughts," Rajmohan Gandhi told a national symposium in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last month. He called on Americans to disprove the thesis that "fear is a better bet than hope" and cautioned against looking for the "most rewarding enemy," whether Islam or China, for political advantage.

Addressing the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation national symposium on "The Politics of Reconciliation" the noted peacebuilder, biographer and former president of Initiatives of Change International said America is "linked inextricably and in a thousand different ways with the rest of the world; what is America if not the world itself in a unique, wonderful and hope-giving form?"
This third annual symposium drew academics, civic leaders and community organizers from across the country to a city that in recent years has begun to uncover the story of the 1921 race riot - the worst in US history - when a white mob destroyed the thriving black business community. Staff members of the IofC program Hope in the Cities have been involved in the planning each year and have participated in panels and workshops.  

Rob Corcoran, IofC's national director, who serves on the JHF Center 's national advisory committee, facilitated a packed workshop where he interviewed Rev "Tee" Turner, the Hope in the Cities director of reconciliation programs, and Alex Wise, the IofC board chair, on how they built trust across racial, political and class differences. Alex is a life-long Republican and the descendent of a Virginia governor and Confederate general. Tee is an African American pastor and community worker. Alex remarked that for him it meant letting go of some myths.  "For example, I always believed that if you just worked hard anyone could make it in America.  I learned from Tee that this is simply not true for many people."  

Beverly Tatum, the president of Spelman College, provided a powerful analysis of the meaning of reconciliation: "You can forgive and walk away, but you can't reconcile without a commitment to continuing the relationship." In an anxiety-ridden time caused by the rapid pace of change and economic insecurity, Tatum said, "The critical question for us as leaders is: How is the circle being drawn? Who is inside it? Who is outside it? What can I do to make the circle bigger and more inclusive?"

Read the complete story here
Full text of Rajmohan Gandhi's speech

For more read Rob Corcoran's blog A question for leaders: how is the circle being drawn?
The courage to face facts

Rob Corcoran cropped
Rob Corcoran is the National Director of Initiatives of Change and founder of Hope in the Cities.

Cognitive dissonance is sometimes described as the mental conflict that people experience when they are presented with evidence that their beliefs or assumptions are wrong. In many ways America today is experiencing this dissonance. It threatens to derail our democratic process and our ability to respond constructively to major national and global challenges. When emotions conflict with facts, emotions tend to have the upper hand.

The rising economic clout and increasing political influence of China, Brazil, India and other nations challenges America's self-image as the world's per-eminent power. This is jarring for those whose belief in American exceptionalism is intrinsic to their sense of identity.

The fact that the majority of babies born in the US are from minority communities is disconcerting for people who grew up with a view of America as a predominantly Anglo culture. Yet Spanish settlers came to many parts of this continent hundreds of years before those of British or German stock (Native Americans, of course, were already here). And demands for a fence along the southern border fly in the face of data showing that the inflow from Mexico has declined steeply in recent years.

For many Americans the belief that we could maintain an economic system and lifestyle based on ever-increasing consumption is now in conflict with the reality of diminishing global resources. And the pursuit of happiness does not entitle us to live beyond our means. But we resist these truths.

In order to satisfy a theology in which government is always the enemy and the threat of world government is the ultimate bogeyman, climate change is denied despite overwhelming scientific evidence. In some extreme cases, sustainable urban development is portrayed as a UN conspiracy.

Facts that might be accepted if presented by one's own political party are discounted if they might redound to the credit of the opposing party. Thus the successful turnaround of the US motor industry is portrayed as irrelevant to the overall employment picture by Republicans because it was accomplished under Obama.

The liberal left is just as guilty of refusing to face inconvenient truths. Although it is obvious that some pension deals made by state and local governments with public employee unions, often in exchange for political backing, are unsustainable, and that Social Security and Medicare entitlements must be adjusted, Democrats have refused - at least in public - to acknowledge this reality. This dissonance results in a deep dishonesty with the American public.

On another level, few on the left have admitted the role that the embrace of relative morality played in America's widespread social and cultural disintegration as well as the collapse of ethics in the financial sector. Relativism is actually in conflict with rising social consciousness and with widely acknowledged values of respect, equality, and honesty.

Perhaps the biggest cause of dissonance is Americans' lack of understanding of the respective roles of government and the individual in our history. Absent a well-informed citizenry, extremists can fan the fires of discontent through talk radio and the 24-news cycle. E. J. Dionne, in his new book, Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent, notes that two irrepressible elements have been constant in America's story: "our love of individualism and our reverence for community... both of these values animate the consciousness and consciences of nearly all Americans." The problem comes when political parties insist that one trait explains our success as a nation and dominates our story.

America works best when we recognize that individual enterprise and responsibility go together with a shared commitment to building our national community. Leaders who can affirm these two traditions will help America face the future with courage and creativity.

First published on the international IofC website
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Thank you!
In This Issue
Take action locally but think globally
A haven of peace and inspiration
The politics of reconciliation
The courage to face facts
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2012 Caux Conferences

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The Imam & The Pastor 

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Initiatives of Change focuses on the link between personal and global change and seeks to inspire, equip, and engage individuals as trustbuilders. 

It starts with listening and responding to the still small voice within, applying values of integrity to everyday living, and taking risks to bridge divides.

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