2021: Initiatives of Change Switzerland – Opening Caux’s doors to a new chapter31/12/2021
As our series of 75 stories for 75 years of the Initiatives of Change conference centre in Caux draws to an end, the President of Initiatives of Change Switzerland, Christine Beerli, and its two Co-Director Generals, Stephanie Buri and Nick Foster, share their perspectives.
Christine Beerli: Timeless challenge
‘Building bridges over the world’s divides’ – this timeless challenge is the programme of Initiatives of Change Switzerland. All the moving personal stories that we have published during our anniversary year bear witness to people who reached out to each other in difficult situations and built bridges.
Bridgebuilders are needed everywhere!
In our lives today, the pandemic has forced us to communicate mostly by digital means and our nerves are often on edge. Listening, trying to understand and creating connections are of the greatest importance. IofC will not run out of work in the next 75 years – bridgebuilders are needed everywhere!
Nick Foster: Work together
My first real encounter with Initiatives of Change (IofC) was in London in 1992, through a weekly gathering of young people, called Making Britain a Home. We discussed what was happening in our lives, shared food and quiet, and discovered what did, and sometimes didn’t, make Britain a home.
The group was incredibly diverse and our discussions were life-changing and perspective-altering. I began to understand how privileged my experience of life was. The systemic prejudice others in the group met every day had played little part in my understanding of my country.
I went on to discover more of the world, and myself, through taking part with Erik and Sheila Andren in the Foundations for Freedom programme which was just starting in post-perestroika Europe and Russia. I grew more through these experiences and the resulting friendships than through all the formal education I had received. I felt a sense of belonging I hadn’t experienced before: even when I met new people in the IofC network it was like pulling on a familiar and comforting piece of clothing.
I am convinced that building trust across the world’s divides is the only way in which a viable future is possible.
In 2012, I started working with IofC Switzerland. I am convinced that building trust across the world’s divides, connected to individuals’ sense of purpose for their lives, is the only way in which a viable future is possible. The pandemic has shown us that that the written word, digital communication and the bubbles that form through social media all too readily breed mistrust and poor social and mental health.
I hope that in 2022 and beyond we can throw open the doors of Caux again, for deep exchange and personal transformation to take place. We really need each other – and our planet needs us to work together.
Stephanie Buri: The next chapter
75 years of stories, 75 years of encounters, 75 years of conferences, addressing the key issues of their times and bringing together people from all corners of the earth and all walks of life. Seventy-five years of rich, sometimes life-changing, interactions.
During this anniversary year we have told the stories of people whose lives were touched by Caux, one for each year. They include far-reaching encounters, such as those between French and Germans after World War II or between Somalis of warring communities in 2005; heart-stopping moments, such as in 1981, when Agnes Hofmeyr spoke from the stage with a man who had sanctioned her father’s murder; and stories from the corridors, offices and kitchens of the many volunteers who have made the conferences possible.
It is now up to all of us to write the next chapter of Caux and of its encounters.
There’s new love, a wedding and a marriage reborn. There’s the moments when new initiatives took flight – Hope in the Cities, addressing race, poverty and alienation in American cities; Creators of Peace, empowering women as agents of change; and the Caux Round Table, bringing together industrialists from Japan, the US and Europe. Young, old and middle-aged describe how an experience or encounter at Caux have changed the course of their lives.
It is now up to all of us to write the next chapter of Caux and of its encounters, which in the last two years have mostly been online. People have brought Caux home, and there is a real thirst for meeting again in new and sustainable ways. I look forward to writing this next chapter with you.
This story is the last in our series 75 Years of Stories about individuals who found new direction and inspiration through our conference centre at Caux, one for each year from 1946 to 2021.
If you would like to know more about the early years of Initiatives of Change and the conference centre in Caux please click here and visit the platform For A New World.
- Photo top: Cindy Bühler
- All other photos: Initiatives of Change Switzerland
75 Years of Stories: Meet the team!
When we launched the 75 Years of Stories series in February 2021 about 75 years of encounters at the Initiatives of Change conference centre in Caux, we had no idea what an adventure we had embarked o...
2020: Aad Burger – Struck by a virus
In 2020, the Caux Forum went online in response to the pandemic. Its organizers found that this made Caux accessible to people all over the world who could not have taken part in normal circumstances....
2019: Marc Isserles – ‘We must save the children’
During World War II, the Caux Palace (later the Initiatives of Change conference centre in Switerland) provided a refuge for Jews fleeing the Shoah. Over the years, some of them – or their descendants...
2018: Wael Boubaker – ‘Climate change should be top top top priority’
When Tunisian economics graduate Wael Boubaker joined the Caux Peace and Leadership Programme (CPLP) in 2018, he expected a conference which would look good on his CV, and some beautiful scenery. Inst...
2017: Tanaka Mhunduru – A home for the world
Tanaka Mhunduru from Zimbabwe is one of the organizers of the Caux Peace and Leadership Programme (CPLP), a one-month programme for young people from around the world. He first took part in 2017....
2016: Diana Damsa – ‘It made me feel I counted’
The Winter Gathering of 2016 was a special experience for Diana Damsa – not just because she experienced Caux in winter, but also because, for the first time in eight years, she had no responsibilitie...
2015: Lisbeth Lasserre – ‘The richness in art’
Lisbeth Lasserre came from Winterthur, where her grandparents, Hedy and Arthur Hahnloser, had built up a private collection of art at their home, Villa Flora. Amongst their artist friends were Bonnard...
2014: Catherine Guisan – Europe’s Unfinished Business
Catherine Guisan is Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota, USA. She has written two books on the ethical foundations of European integration. In 2014 she spoke at Caux’s first se...
2013: Tom Duncan – Restoring a healthy planet
2013 saw the first full-length Caux Dialogues on Land and Security (CDLS). These events, which took place at the Caux Conference and Seminar Centre, focus on the links between sustainable land managem...
2012: Merel Rumping – Going out on a limb
When Merel Rumping from the Netherlands first visited Caux in 2012, she had a goal in mind – ‘to explore how I could contribute to a more just world through my professional activities’....
2011: Lucette Schneider – Choices which make the magic of Caux
For many years, Lucette Schneider from Switzerland organized the team which gathered in the early mornings to wash, peel and chop vegetables for the kitchens of the Caux conference centre. ...
2010: Mohan Bhagwandas – Addressing the crisis of integrity
Mohan Bhagwandas is all too aware of his carbon footprint. In the 13 years from 2006 to 2019, he flew 17 times from his home city of Melbourne, Australia, to Switzerland to take part in the Caux confe...
2009: Rajmohan Gandhi – Bridges between India and Pakistan
25 distinguished Indians and Pakistanis came to Caux in 2009 with the aim of building bridges between their countries. The man who initiated the gathering was Rajmohan Gandhi, a grandson of Mahatma Ga...
2008: Learning to be a Peacemaker – ‘An eye-opener to the world’
2008 saw the launch of an unusual course on Islam’s approach to peacemaking for young Muslims and non-Muslims, devised by Imam Ajmal Masroor from the UK. The course’s coordinator, Peter Riddell, descr...