Tools for Changemakers 2019

Rebuilding Trust in Europe: An Overview

20/07/2019
Tools for Changemakers 2019

Caux is a place where we put the people at the center, and that is what is necessary for Europe.

Barbara Hintermann, 14 July 2019

The first edition of the ‘Tools for Changemakers’ conference took place from 14-18 July 2019 at the Caux Forum. It was based on the conclusions from the conference ‘Addressing Europe’s Unfinished Business’ and marked the beginning of a new three-year conference cycle on Europe. This year the focus was on the links between personal and collective identity from a human-centred approach. The aim was to show how to jointly rewrite a collective history based on justice and facts in order to confront rising populism and nationalism in Europe.

 

T4C sunset Caux Terrace

 

Deconstructing our personal identity            

The first two days of the conference tackled the topic of identity as a factor of inclusion and exclusion. Whilst it gives certain groups a feeling of belonging, it is also used as justification for xenophobia and rejection of others. Senator Bogdan Klich, Leader of the Opposition in the Polish Senate and Vice-President of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, also highlighted the link between the rise in nationalism, the exclusion of certain groups and the erosion of democratic systems. 

‘We must begin to go towards the people we disagree with, mistrust or fear,’ said Jens J. Wilhelmsen, who works for the Initiatives of Change movement. The process must involve all the generations, notably young leaders, and all cultures and religions to strengthen transnational movements for democracy and human rights. These ideas were at the heart of two parallel conference programmes: ‘Learning to be a Peacemaker’ and the Young Ambassadors Programme 2019.   

Sharing stories was used as a tool to encourage participants to think about their own journey and to deepen their connections with others. Mounir Beltaifa, Vice-President of Initiatives of Change International and Founder of Bridgers One, Agnes Otzelberger, trainer and facilitator, and Louie Gardiner, Director of Presence In Action (PIA) CIC Collective and Potent 6 addressed the topic of identity from the point of view of their own personal change. Understanding that we are dependent on others and our environment, is a first step towards humility and honesty but also towards a more liberated and fulfilling life. 

 

Jens Wilhelmsen

 

I’ve learnt for the first time that to heal I need the other; to heal I need my enemy.

Arshalouys Tenbelian, 16 July 2019

 

Exploring our relationships with others – our shared story

The second conference theme focused on how our feelings develop and our identity in relation to others.

‘No one is born hating, you learn how to hate; and as you learn how to hate, you can learn how to un-hate’ said Arshalouys Tenbelian, who is Armenian, a communications specialist and Co-President of the Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish peace initiative. At the Caux Forum in 2017 she met Burak Han Çevik, a Turkish immigration lawyer who works for the Consular Office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Netherlands. Their meeting and discussions let her transform her hate and for the first time ever make friends with a Turk, ‘an enemy’. This year they have worked together on the Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish Dialogue, a programme which seeks to question our prejudices in order to build peace. 

Art was also used throughout the conference to address our relationship with our past and with others. The British artist Lynne Barker explored the concept of identity and traditions through dolls as the expression of a community’s myths and values (‘National Costume Dolls Project’) while Mark Isserles explored the topic of memory in his show ‘We must save the children.’ Through songs, testimony and photos, the show tells the story of his Hungarian Jewish grand-parents journey up until their arrival in Caux in 1944. 

 

Marc Isserle

 

Re-writing a collective story 

‘We need to develop and tell a new story’ said John Bond, Secretary of Initiatives of Change International and writer, when introducing the conference’s third theme. 
After showing the impact that our personal identity has on our experiences as well as the influence others have on it, the plenary on Wednesday 17 July focused on the importance of rewriting a collective story.

‘The world lives through our stories, coming together to form a dominant narrative’ explained Jean Brown, Founder of Creators of Peace. Together with Anne-Claire Frank-Seisay, also from Creators of Peace, she led ‘Advocating for a new story,’ one of the five training tracks. They highlighted the potential of every individual in the creation of a new story. By practising deep listening and exchanging perspectives, it becomes possible to promote integrity and honesty about the past and defend peace. The values at the heart of this rewriting process are forgiveness, justice and listening.

The other training tracks focused on theatre with Olena Rosstalna and Olha Boiko, ‘Presence in Action’ with Louie Gardiner and Su Riddell, 'Sustaining your spark' with Agnes Otzelberger and 'Working with difference' with Neil Oliver to equip participants with new tools for building trust and social cohesion in their communities.

 

Jean Brown

 

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.

Maya Angelou

 

‘Change begins with me.’ 

The first edition of the ‘Tools for Changemakers’ conference shone a spotlight on the potential of every individual to promote peace. ‘Change begins with me’: change begins with working on our own identity and our past; how we tell it, how we live with it as well as pursuing it. Change is also intrinsically linked to our relationships with others. ‘Rewriting a common story’ is therefore necessary to develop solidarity at the local, national and international levels. The second edition of the conference will continue to look at this theme whilst concentrating on dialogue. 

 

 

 

Report: Apolline Foedit
Photos: Leela Channer

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