Caux Newsdesk
01 October 1991

'Democracy starts with me' was the theme of MOral Re-Armament's 1991 conference at Caux, Switzerland. Over seven weeks 2,160 people attended its sessions. Michael Smith reports:


Russians attending the Caux conference appealed for a spirit of repentance and forgiveness, rather than hatred and revenge, following the collapse of Soviet communism. Among the 324 participants from Eastern and Central Europe were 109 Soviet citizens.

`How can we turn liberation into moral renaissance and prevent civil war?' asked Alexander Tsipko, a senior member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. `We need a new kind of democratic consciousness. We don't want clericalism, but we do need people with a feeling of guilt and repentance, people who can think in terms of good and evil, not in terms of "us" and "them".

`Every step towards freedom has been marked with greater hatred,' warned Dr Tsipko. The new democratic movements were founded on an understandable hatred towards the past and the people who symbolized that past.

`We thought that with freedom we would become new, better people,' he continued. Yet they were still going through a profound spiritual crisis. `We all carry our personal responsibility and guilt. We are still marked by our Bolshevik past.'

Journalist and philosopher Vladimir Zelinsky also spoke of Russian `national guilt' while pointing out that the Russians themselves had been the first victims and greatest sufferers under communist tyranny. Now there was a danger of revenge, he warned. `The answer lies not in blaming others but in taking the blame on ourselves. This is the road to peace and forgiveness between the newly independent peoples after the fall of the Soviet empire.'

Dangers ahead
`We have been waiting for the end of the Soviet world,' said Moscow editor Denis Dragounsky. It was a world which could not be maintained by force of arms. `But once the disintegration of the Union has started, where will it stop?' he asked. `How can we avoid a break-up, with smaller and smaller regions and even cities claiming their independence?'

Gassan Gussejnov, a professor of philology at the Soviet Institute of World Literature in Moscow, also warned against the dangers of disintegration `where newly freed majorities might try to suppress the rights of minorities'. He wanted to `help free individuals from being puppets or soldiers in national struggles'.

Moscow teacher Dmitri Khanov, a founder member of the Russian Christian Democratic movement, saw the task ahead as building `a new Russia and surrounding commonwealth of neighbouring nations'. The last 74 years of dictatorship had been a `Babylonian captivity'. `I think of the thousands of martyrs who gave their lives, the millions of innocents killed and tortured. We cannot build in the years to come without understanding this bitter experience as fully as possible.' One lesson was that `you come to an abyss, a dead end, when you lose a sense of absolute values which can only be rooted in God'.

Addressing a group of media professionals, Khanov said that the lie of totalitarianism had now been replaced by a variety of new lies. Uncontrolled nationalisms, for instance, could lead to `civil war between dozens of national states struggling against each other'. And, still, there was the need to `oust the communist beast from political life', he said. `You cannot do that without turning to the deepest realities.

You feel the need to turn to God, to pray, to understand yourself.'
An article in the Soviet paper Izvestia, reporting the Caux conference, noted, `One of the remarkable aspects of the on-going meeting is the spirit of openness and honesty displayed. The speakers make no use of the age-old, wellused slogans and appeals, and strive to generalize and popularize a positive experience that can be helpful on the road to individual moral rearmament.'


The switch to the market economy in eastern Germany represented one of the most rapid changes in human history, said Dr Falk Hammer, a lecturer in industrial management from Dresden. Making an urgent appeal for Western capital investment, he warned that if the market economy did not bear fruit soon, or in a socially acceptable way, `the dangers to the democratization process in Eastern Europe as a whole will be great'. He was addressing the Caux industrial conference on `Moral foundations for the market economy'.

Rapidly rising unemployment, short-time working or temporary work in jobcreation schemes had affected nearly 40 per cent of the workforce in eastern Germany, touching almost every family, he said. The last comparable crisis was the great depression of the 1920s and '30s - and that had had `catastrophic political effects'. For many the family remained `a backstop in coping with this crisis'. But now the family was under pressure, the divorce rate was rising and the last year had seen a 30 per cent drop in births. While the consequences of failure could not be overestimated, success could be `the key to a healthy, united Europe'.

Werner Hauenherm, Technical Director for gas distribution in `the new federal states', saw eastern Germany as `a unique pilot project' for the changes that needed to come elsewhere. `Suddenly we are a lot better off than our East European friends, but perhaps you can learn from us and make fewer mistakes.'

Dr Hauenherm spoke of Germany's `debt of gratitude' to her neighbours for their understanding and acceptance of reunification, despite her painful history. But he also warned against xenophobia, right-wing violence and `crooks and thieves' hurrying to exploit the gullible.

Fr Edward Kimman SJ, Professor of Business Ethics at the Free University of Amsterdam, spoke of the need for 'self -regulation from the grass roots' if the market economy was to work. `It is not enough to respect government decisions. It is also a matter of individual values, conscience and freely-arrived-at agreements between social partners.'

Fr Kimman listed four founding principles of the modern economy: freedom, equality, property rights and security as guaranteed by an independent judiciary and policing system. In the West it had taken many generations for these moral principles `to become part of our ethical landscape and mental frame'. Today, countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet republics needed to incorporate similar principles in their leap to the market.


Tom Burke, a special advisor to Britain's Environment Secretary Michael Heseltine, challenged businessmen attending the Caux industrial conference to take responsibility for the environment.

`Science can help to provide the needed technology, governments can set the stage and provide the framework of law, campaigning groups and the media can mobilize public opinion,' said Burke. But it was the business community as a whole - industry, commerce, finance, and investors - who alone could achieve a `sustainable development' which would not jeopardize the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Population growth, he continued, was a `forceful foot on the accelerator of change'. A young person entering the workforce today would see the world's population double in his or her working life, from five to 10 billion people.

The challenge was to pass on to future generations the same amount of natural and manmade capital per head as we ourselves had received. `We face not an individual moral imperative but a generational moral imperative, a duty to future generations. Otherwise as a species we may not have a future.'

Listing `external tools' - from persuasion to coercion - which might be used to `alter people's choices', he also underlined the importance of `internal tools - the role of conscience, ethics and moral values'.

Awareness of environmental issues had already transformed the actions of millions of people in their daily lives, with the emergence of the green consumer, the green voter and the green investor. In the UK, for instance, five million people - 10 per cent of the population - were involved in environmental groups.

Preserving creation
Addressing 40 scientists, industrialists and politicians, at a forum on `the preservation of creation', Dr Paul Laufs, deputy leader of the Christian Democrats in the German parliament, said that it had taken a hundred years to curb the social effects of capitalism. `Now we need to make it conscious of its ecological responsibilities.'

Efforts to safeguard the environment `must be infused with a vision of the sacred', said Victor Weisskopf, Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. `Science and technology are not enough to deal with the human predicament. Faith is also extremely important.' Many scientists had had a `profound experience of awe and reverence before the Universe. The sacredness of nature is in the heart of every true scientist, whether he knows it or not.'


Young people need to be encouraged to say no to casual sex in order to halt the spread of Aids, a doctor and a nursing professor told a forum for people in the health-care professions.

'Anti-drug campaigns have always told teenagers to say no to drugs. But when it comes to casual sex they are not taught to say no,' said Dr Yaw Adu-Sarkodie, a Ghanaian doctor who specializes in genito-urinary diseases. Instead teenagers were being told to use condoms and reduce the number of sexual partners `and everything will be all right'. Yet intervention programmes which relied solely on the message of safe sex were failing and the Aids epidemic was spreading.

Between five and 10 million people worldwide were now infected with the HIV virus according to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, he said. By the year 2000, 40 million people could be HIV positive and up to 20 million might have Aids, 90 per cent of them in Asia and Africa.

`Our generation must wake up to the relationship between health and moral issues,' said Dr Elisabeth Hamrin, Professor of Nursing Science at Linkoping University in Sweden. A WHO programme on HIV for nurses stressed that `even in the face of real danger from infection, people may resist change'.

In Sweden, continued Dr Hamrin, many had their sexual debut before the age of 15. `One can ask how that will affect coming family life. There is a missing factor in the sexual freedom of my country today - the freedom to choose to live a satisfying life based on purity, where sexuality is related to family life.'

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