Jens Wilhelmsen: IofC values as a practical tool for change

Tools for Changemakers 2019

30/07/2019
Jens Wilhelmsen

 

After fighting against the German occupation of his country, Norway, Jens Wilhelmsen worked with Initiatives of Change (IofC) in Germany and Japan. In over 70 years of fulltime work for IofC on three continents, his focus has been on trustbuilding and reconciliation. Nicole Walther met him at the Caux Forum 2019, where he spoke at the opening of the Tools for Changemakers conference.

 

Image
Jens Wilhelmsen

 

Jens Wilhelmsen was not the only person to feel a strong sense of hopelessness and dissatisfaction after the end of World War II and as the cold war began. He was losing hope that Europe would reconcile. But instead of slipping into political and personal lethargy, he came across the IofC standards of living: honesty, unselfishness, love and purity of intention. Because he could not change society around him, he used them as a tool to change himself. This gave him energy: ‘At least there is something I can do!’

Jens sat on his bed with four sheets of paper, one for every value, and started to write down all the situations where he had failed to be honest, unselfish, loving or pure. ‘As the list grew longer I had alarming thoughts: I had fooled my stepfather, stolen money and told lies to my friends in order to put myself in a good light.’ Even though it was terrifying to tell the truth to all these people, he decided to do so: ‘I had to come off my pedestal.’ As a result, his friendships got more real and he was able to reconcile with members of his family.

Jens says these standards are not a panacea and cannot instantaneously solve everything, but they ‘stir up the pieces and cause the patterns to change’. He sees such change as essential in the current social and political context, where Europe is seeing a rise in nationalism and time is running out to address the climate crisis.

‘The European Union was built on reconciliation as a promise of a pattern of nations against nationalism,’ he says. ‘At the moment economics has taken the upper hand over reconciliation. This is due to a demand for increased living standards.’ With prosperity as the focus of Europe’s society and actions, unity has been lost and nationalism rises. This pattern has to be broken, and Jens believes the four IofC values can be a powerful tool in that process.

The values of honesty, unselfishness, love and purity should not to be seen as a dogma, he says, but as a tool to frame actions related, for example, to the future of Europe and the environmental crisis. ‘They are an attempt at summing up ethics and a practical searchlight to find a better path.’

 

Text: Nicole Walter

Photos : Nicole Walther and Leela Channer

Featured Story
Off

related stories

Sabica Pardesi

Learning to be a Peacemaker 2020

"I am really thankful to the person who introduced me to the Initiatives for Change programme "Learning to be a Peacemaker". It was life-changing in so many ways. It opened my eyes to things we know i...

SCreenshot keywords T4C 2020

Tools for Changemakers 2020 – Shaping the future together through dialogue

Can you truly listen? What if we all had the power to make our communities more cohesive and inclusive by starting to deeply listen to each other? The Tools for Changemakers conference was a three-day...

Irina Fedorenko CDES 2020 screenshot

Caux Dialogue on Environment and Security 2020

The Caux Dialogue on Environment and Security aimed high in its first online edition, with more than 15 sessions and a cumulative total of 450 participants. Experts discussed the connection between se...

CL 2020 piano at the opening

Creative Leadership – Together for Change

The Creative Leadership conference took participants on a six-day journey of personal inquiry to discover what creative leadership is and what kind of leaders they are. More than 120 passionate change...

ELB 2020 livestream panel 2 with camera

Ethical Leadership in Business – Leadership for a resilient economy

The Ethical Leadership in Business conference, on 25 and 26 June 2020, kicked off the first Caux Forum Online. It offered a diversified experience with panels livestreamed from the Caux Palace, networ...

Summer Academy 2020 screenshot participants cropped credit: Alan Channer

Summer Academy 2020: expansive possibilities for the future

The effusive feedback from participants in the five-day 2020 Summer Academy on Land, Climate and Security vindicated the difficult decision to take the course online. Four months ago, this had seemed ...

CDLS 2019 Chau Duncan

Retooling the wheel for regenerative investment

Chau Tang-Duncan, co-founder and chief operating officer of Earthbanc, has been coming to Caux regularly since 2010. It was there that she first embraced the role she could have in connecting people a...

Karina Cheah

Overcoming the challenges of online dialogue groups

I have never been to Caux. I had also never moderated a dialogue group before, in or outside of the Caux Forum. As I faced the prospect of co-facilitating an online dialogue group in the Caux Dialogue...

Tony Rinaudo

Tony Rinaudo: For a better future in Niger

Why would an Australian farmer who moved to Africa in the 1980s be called ‘the forest-maker’? Tony Rinaudo, World Vision Australia's climate action advisor, told this year's Caux Dialogue on Environme...

CDES teaser theme square

Land and Security in Sub-Saharan Africa: assessing the risks and seeking a response

As part of the Caux Forum Online 2020, Initiatives of Change Switzerland and the Human Security Division of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs organized a video-conference in French on ‘L...

Caux Palace view night

Climate and the economy in the post-COVID world

As pandemic-related lockdowns and travel restrictions slowly begin to ease and a return to normal life seems nearer at hand, we are at a critical juncture as to how we choose to act towards our enviro...

Nazarene Mannie

My Learning Story: Nazrene Mannie

Nazrene Mannie is the Executive Director of the Global Apprenticeship Network (GAN) and talks about her learning experiences. Our interview series 'My Learning Story’ hopes to become a global learning...

Daniel Clements

From personal change to conference leadership: Daniel Clements

Daniel Clements, the coordinator for this year’s Creative Leadership conference, would not have become involved with Initiatives of Change Switzerand without his father, who recommended that he attend...

Sezan Eyrich

‘[Borders] are actually quite fragile – they are only built on the idea that we cannot connect to ourselves and to others’

In 2018, Sezan Eyrich spent a semester in Warsaw, studying political science and searching for a comfortable way to discuss political issues. When a friend recommended the Tool for Change Young Ambass...

COVID 19 slider EN square

The Caux Forum is going online!

Our team together with the international IofC Network is working hard to give you an online 2020 Caux Forum, trying to get you as close as possible to the “Caux experience”. Although we will not be ab...