Joining the 6th Spirit of Humanity Forum in Iceland, on behalf of the Home for Humanity movement, was a life-changing experience for me as a young Cameroonian peacebuilder traveling to Europe for the first time.
The Spirit of Humanity forum took the form of a transformative retreat with the theme "Healing a World in Crisis: Leading with Authenticity and Love," through the 1st – 3rd of June 2023. It hosted 120 participants from around the world ranging from leaders, practitioners, professionals, thinkers and change-makers from diverse fields. The choice of theme, given our current divided earth, was timely and resonated deeply with all the participants. As it was well pointed out by sister Jayanti, Director of Brahma Kumaris, the retreat fostered an atmosphere of dialogue, the art of listening and silence.
VISIT AT THE PRESIDENT'S RESIDENCE
Participants came with open minds, the energy was palpable, and everyone was eager to learn, connect, and contribute to the conversation.
AN EXPERIENTIAL GROUP-SHARING
It should be noted that as a Masters Student in International Relations and Governance, I was more used to standard academic-style conferences. I was a first-timer in a ‘retreat style’ event, especially one without a pre-defined agenda. Hence exercises such as breathing/meditation and the ‘Who are you’ exercise was new to me, yet demonstrated the magnificent connection between body, mind, and feelings. They allowed me to understand the strength that lies within myself to find the answers and to heal my body and speak life to it.
The engagement with Social Presencing Theatre (associated with Theory U and the Presencing Institute at MIT) was also very new to me, and very powerful. As shared by a UN official, “It is so peaceful and reassuring to imagine a world where one can rely on the other for support through life’s challenges.”
VISIT AT THE PRESIDENT'S RESIDENCE - Guðni Th. Jóhannesson
A highlight of the SoH forum was our invitation to visit the residence of the President of Iceland, Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson. As an African working on conflict and governance, I was struck by the President’s grace and humility.
In his very informal, convivial speech, he stated; “Iceland is one of the most peaceful countries in the world. Genuine care for one another would restore the peace the world longs for.”
This was echoed throughout the forum, which had a strong emphasis on the importance of love and compassion in creating a better world. Diverse participants shared experiences that reminded us that despite our many differences, we all share a common humanity, and we must treat each other with kindness, empathy, and respect.
A stark issue that marked the Forum was the question of borders and unequal mobility, which severely hinder the experience of our ‘common humanity’. This directly affected me, and Muziwanele Thando Ngwenya, from Zimbabwe, my fellow team member in the Home for Humanity movement. For both of us the visa procedure was a frustrating, humiliating and painful one. In my case, I was very fortunate that the Swiss Embassy accorded me my visa with extremely cordial and speedy treatment after my initial application got stuck. However, the process was devastating for Muzie, who was finally refused a visa, after spending an entire week in the Embassy and being given assurances that the visa was forthcoming, on the purported claim that, “he will not return to his country after the Forum”. All this despite the strong letters of support he received from the SoH Director, the Co-Chair of the Home for Humanity Movement, former UN Under-Secretary-General Dr. Youssef Mahmoud.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM SHOULD NOT BE IGNORED
The retreat on the second day took an unexpected and emotional turn for everyone when a 3-minute video message from Muzie was aired. Through that, he expressed gratitude for the immense support he received from Spirit of Humanity and the Home for Humanity team for a visa to Iceland. He also articulated with deep authenticity his shock and pain. There was a charged atmosphere accompanied by silence and then shortly after participants started reacting to Muzie’s situation and the whole immigration system in the Global South. A female participant pointed out that the elephant in the room should not be ignored. Indeed, this entire situation highlighted further how our world is indeed in crisis and there is an urgent need for all Earth citizens to make intentional contributions to co-creating a regenerative future for all.
Language of Peace, Fríkirkjan, Reykjavík, Iceland
The forum drew its curtains on the 3rd of June with its final activity - Language of Peace held at Fríkirkjan in Reykjavík, a remarkable free church fostering interfaith and intercommunal harmony. Fourteen participants were selected to give a short speech or performance on Peace while reflecting on the transformative retreat.
A Song Performed by JONATHAN CHADWICK, Co-Host of Home for Humanity London
I was honored to be asked to speak alongside the former head of the International Red Cross, two senior UN officials working for the WFP and UN mission in Afghanistan, as well as other distinguished personalities. The event included a song performed by Jonathan Chadwick, co-host of Home for Humanity London, and a member of SoH forum organizing team. A highlight was a VIDEO by our team-mate Muzie who demonstrated true leadership in transforming the traumatic experience of his visa rejection into a renewed commitment to serving humanity. His creative video prepared in less than 24hrs, was broadcast during the final event, and we are proud to launch it publicly today. The event then culminated in a poignant performance by Rama Mani and a collective poetic conclusion by Alexander Schieffer, Co-Founders of the Home for Humanity movement.
Home for Humanity was honored to be a collaborating partner of the SoH forum, which contributed to deepening our relationship, and underlining all the synergies between us, as we gear up for the One Home Journey. Our special gratitude to Johanna Vilhjalmsdottir, SoH Director, Lotta Arbman, SoH Secretary, as well as Stefania Olafsdottir, Maureen Goodman, Mark Milton, and Sylvie and the entire organizing SoH Team. All in all, the 6th Spirit of Humanity Forum was an unforgettable experience. It was a reminder that, despite the many challenges we face, there is still hope for a better future. And it was a call to action, urging us all to lead with authenticity and love as we work to heal the world in crisis.
Written by Linda Leogah Forkwa,
with editorial inputs from Matilda Sangiorgio