A sense of peace
Impressions from the Emergent Future conference at Asia Plateau, India - Part 225/04/2023
'Ultimately I'm a human being and I believe in equity for all who are currently marginalised.' Morenike Onajobi (28) is a passionate advocate for change. She actively supports and engages in a range of humanitarian causes, including women's rights, prison reform and the progression and equity of diverse young people from low socio-economic backgrounds. With a London upbringing and Nigerian heritage, Morenike specialises in employment law and works as an HR Business Partner for FTI Consulting. She also serves as the Company Secretary of Intermission Youth, the charity that introduced her to IofC Switzerland in 2012.
Morenike has been a council member for IofC Switzerland since May 2020, following her work as a trainer with the Caux Peace and Leadership Programme. In January 2023 she participated in the conference Emergent Future: Rethinking our World Together at the Indian IofC centre in Asia Plateau.
It was unfortunate that I only recently discovered India, as it truly is a beautiful place. The Indian IofC centre Asia Plateau feels very special. There is a real sense of peace and tranquility when you reach a place like this. As you drive up the mountain, you arrive at this amazing place that has been nurtured and developed since the 1960s. I remember my first impression on arriving there was one of stepping into a peaceful garden.
I decided to take part in the conference Emergent Future: Rethinking our World together conference because I am someone who is forward-looking. It is always interesting to know what is coming, to know what is happening in the world, who is finding themselves, who is noticing this person becoming a gem, an ally, a leader.
I often think that as a community we tend to dwell on our past mistakes and overlook our accomplishments. But if we look forward to what an emerging future could be, we have time to scope and create a perfect utopian world for ourselves.
For me this was one of the reasons why organising a conference about an emergent future was so important. It's a topic that has been gaining momentum, with tangible goals that we can work towards. I believe that it is essential to have something in this world that we can look forward to or work towards.
Reflecting on my time at Asia Plateau, there are several moments which have left a lasting impression on me.
One of those moments was 'Family Time'. From the beginning we were assigned to a group. We met up daily during the conference and this was our 'family'. The family names were based on the names of trees planted in Asia Plateau, and my group was named ‘Subabul’.
We were all from different backgrounds and life experiences, with nothing in society that would naturally bring us together. I always love those moments when we find ourselves speaking, laughing or even crying (on some days) with people who the world perceives as vastly different from us, yet we are so similar at the same time.
I had an amazing family group. We had really honest and interesting conversations, we held up the mirror to one another in moments of extreme vulnerability, but there was also so much hope. We shared stories with each other and are still connected today.
One encounter which was particularly inspiring to me was meeting two women who came to sing for us. Their music was used to tell stories of women's empowerment - a topic that is particularly close to my heart - and they were simply fantastic.
India has a long history of the treatment of women that is often highlighted and spoken about. However we often forget or fail to acknowledge the powerful women who stood strong and fought for their rights. We definitely need to pay homage to these women that the two artists sang about. The event was truly inspiring because it put so many things into perspective for me.
Music is an amazing medium to transcend languages and barriers. Although the two women didn't sing in English, I felt as though I could understand their message through the emotion in their music. We often focus on how we are different from each other, but its moments like these that remind us how similar we are.
And those stories they told us! I felt so humbled and proud to be there to experience that.
Music also played an important role when we visited the local IofC-inspired organisation Grampari, just a short walk away from Asia Plateau. We saw how much the village has been influenced by Asia Plateau, especially during Covid and lockdown. We discovered some of the sustainability elements that they have been able to develop, such as teaching children sanitation rules. It was very moving to hear people tell their stories and see how far the village had come over the years.
I suppose that is why I chose to share a song with the community as they reminded me of my forgotten gift and gave me hope. I realized in that moment how important music is in bringing peace, in bringing comfort and hope. So, I sang ‘A Change is Going to Come’ because I just felt so touched and amazed.
If I compare the two IofC centres, the Caux Palace in Switzerland and Asia Plateau in India, there are definitely similarities. Firstly, both centres are reached by driving up a hill. There seems to be a thing about putting IofC ‘homes’ on the top of hills, thus providing a unique perspective of their communities that allows them to support, look out for, and belong to them, which is truly amazing. Another similarity is that of community. Asia Plateau is a local place for people very much in the heart of Panchgani, which is similar to Caux, located close to Geneva.
As the youngest person on the board of IofC Switzerland, I bring a different perspective and believe in finding new and innovative ways to engage a younger audience. I believe that youth are the future and we need to engage with them, create space for them and bring them on board. I first went to Caux as a young person in 2012 at the age of 17 where I served the community by cleaning dishes, supporting the housekeepers and welcoming new arrivals. Asia Plateau is very much the same.
I like how people from India have been drawn to it and how it has solidified itself in the local community. I think we can learn a lot from them, while still continuing our strong global outreach.
If I had to summarize my time in India with five words, I would say: inspiring, peaceful, chaotic, fun, and honest. India is what it is. And I’ll tell you what: it won’t be my last time. I will definitely be going back!
I always love those moments when we find ourselves speaking, laughing or even crying (on some days) with people who the world perceives as vastly different from us, yet we are so similar at the same time.
Asia Plateau is the education centre for Initiatives of Change India. Since its inauguration, the centre has conducted more than 2,000 programmes on campus and offered a refuge for transformation and an incubator for inspired, collective and inclusive actions and personal and global change.
The conference Emergent Future: Rethinking our World Together reached out to social and thought leaders in an attempt to make sense of our ever-increasing complex world. It offered panel discussions and keynote speakers and provided space for questions, reflection and inspiration to seek direction for the future.
You would like to discover more impressions from the Emergent Future conference in Asia Plateau? Read Sebastian Hasse's inspiring story Where change can happen!