Reasons for Hope
01 June 2005
Reasons for Hope conference in Liverpool, UK, focussed on healing history, the power of honest dialogue, and how the skills of asylum seekers and refugees could be used for the benefit of all.
FEBRUARY'S Reasons for Hope conference in Liverpool, UK, focussed on healing history, the power of honest dialogue, and how the skills of asylum seekers and refugees could be used for the benefit of all. It was organized by IofC's Hope in the Cities (HiC) programme and Liverpool Hope University.
Speakers included the university's Rector and Chief Executive, Gerald Pillay; Dauod Zaarora, Director of the North of England Refugee Council; and Barrie Brazier, Manager of Nottingham Race Equality Council.
Particular highlights were Letlapa Mphahlele, a former commander of the South African People's Liberation Army, who told of his reconciliation with the mother of a girl who was killed by his army, and the Reverend Tee Turner, HiC's Outreach Director in Richmond, Virginia. He spoke of coming to terms with the past: 'The power of history can either tangle you up or set you free,' he said.
Dialogue is central to the work that HiC does on both sides of the Atlantic, building trust and helping to bring divided communities together. Delegates were given the opportunity to experience dialogue during the afternoon, an aspect that organizer Gerald Henderson felt made the day unique: 'Most conferences are just presentations and although you have some dialogue it's usually led by an expert. Hope in the Cities wants people to work together to find solutions, to make allies and not enemies.'
One participant said of the dialogue she had attended, 'It enabled us to not just look outside ourselves, but also to explore within, our thought processes, belief systems and behaviour.'
'WHEN I came here on Friday, I didn't have any white friends,' said a participant at the end of the first module of the 2005 Connecting Communities Fellowship Program in Richmond, Virginia, USA. 'Now I do.'
The Connecting Communities Fellowship Program, now in its second year, offers training in an 'integrated approach to community change', based on the work of IofC and Hope in the Cities. The programme is divided into five modules, each taking place over a weekend.
This year's participants represent a wide range of communities-white and black, high wealth and low wealth, young and old, former prisoners and deputy sheriffs, youth leaders and university faculty, grassroots organizers and business people. When one participant introduced himself as 'a registered Republican', an African American community leader responded, 'I don't think I've ever met a Republican before!'
As the group began to wrestle with the idea of personal responsibility and change leading to community change, emotions came to the fore. 'I'm tired of silly games and relationship-building and getting to know each other!' said one participant half way through the first weekend. 'My community is in crisis and I need to help it change now!' The next day she said, 'I'm still impatient, but I'm beginning to see how this can help me.'
Another participant spoke of connecting not only with people of varied racial and ethnic back-grounds, but also with people with a rich diversity of life experiences. 'Exposure to the inner diversity that isn't immediately obvious on the surface will help me in my work to defeat stereotypes, break down hidden barriers and help build community.'
EVERY YEAR thousands of high schoolers from around the US come to Washington DC to learn how government really works. They meet with congressional leaders, listen to top academics, hold mock legislative sessions, and participate in training sessions.
The National Young Leaders Conference, which runs week-long conferences for high school students throughout the year, has asked IofC to provide workshops on conflict resolution. The workshops introduce students to the 'Take 5' method: starting with oneself, walking in the other's shoes, having an honest conversation, taking the first step and sharing one's story. A second workshop equips students with the strategic skills and practical methods to make their vision a reality.
To date over 350 students have been trained.
YOUNG CAMBODIANS have launched an initiative to build bridges with young Vietnamese, archaeology graduate Phlong Pisith told a recent Life Matters course run by IofC in Melbourne, Australia.
'We are the younger generation of Cambodians, born to parents who continue to bear hatred in their hearts and show, by their behaviour, feelings they have harboured for decades,' he said. He believed that the youth of the two countries, which had had a turbulent relationship through history, could make a difference. The first 'relationship-building dialogue' had taken place in Vietnam in November; the second was due to take place in Cambodia.
Another Cambodian on the course described how she had begun to build a relationship with her father, who had estranged himself from her for 18 years.
A Chinese artist spoke of how he wanted to use his gifts to raise awareness of the environmental issues facing his homeland. To do this, he realized, he had to live with integrity. As one step, he had decided to ask forgiveness of two women who had been his girlfriends for the same year, without knowing of each other's existence!