Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Caux Scholars class of 2016 have written letters back to the Caux Scholars community. Many describe what they took away from the program and how they are applying what they learned in their lives now. We share their letters with you.
 

Didace Kamana

My name is Didace Kamana and I am a student at American University in Washington DC. I have been a priest since 2008 in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Byumba in my home country of Rwanda. The moral commitment for peace which animates my life flows from my personal witness of the Rwanda genocide. Knowing of the Genocide by the pain, suffering and humiliation of my family as well as other Rwandans, advocating for and making peace is vital for me. The politicization of ethnicity, violent conflicts, wars and genocide that ruined both my family and country -- and which continues to afflict my continent and the planet -- results from failing and flawed ideologies countenancing conflict as a necessary means to self-interested ends.
 
In addition to my experience as a Rwandan, I have witnessed similar pain from neighboring countries such as Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, and Kenya. As a pastoral minister, I learned the importance of challenging dominant narratives leading to stereotypes, hatred, and divisions in our society. For five years, I participated in the restorative justice process through prison ministry in the Rwandan traditional courts --Gacaca. During this time, I also designed youth events for peace at local, national and regional levels, and provided research assistance to the Rwandan Catholic Bishops' Conference on Justice and Peace Commissions. My past short training at the Nairobi Peace Initiative for Africa and Christian Organization Research and Advisory Trust of Africa, helped me as a practitioner and implementer of principles of peace and reconciliation. I graduated with a Master's Degree of Arts in Theology (MA), focusing on Ethics, Peace-building and Reconciliation at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago (CTU). I am currently enrolled at the American University School of International Service, where I am continuing to reflect upon and to study the root causes of genocide and wars. My life's path has witnessed the journey from being a victim and survivor to living a vocation of healing others who have suffered (what is termed a wounded healer). After more than 15 years of reflection upon these experiences, I am determined to play a role for advancing the cause of peace in Rwandan and world society.
 
Before going to Caux, my expectations were to share with other scholars my own experience as well as to learn of theirs as well.  I was uplifted by stories of their survival in different conflict zones.  Because of this, the CSP permitted me to pursue my research while involving the community in outreach events, particularly involving awareness-raising activities emphasizing teamwork and collaborative peace activities, both at my school (American University Community), and at my Church (Saint Teresa of Avila Catholic Church).
 
It is my great pleasure to thank all those whose kindness and generosity helped me to be part of this wonderful program. I have learned from Caux many skills important to conflict resolution, trauma healing and peacebuilding. I look forward to further reflection and growth stemming from my continued engagement with other Caux Scholars' and the entire Caux community.
 
The Caux Scholars Program (CSP) aims at breaking down stereotypes, challenging one's worldviews, and equipping Scholars with effective peace building strategies. For the Class of 2016 the main themes were justice, conflict transformation, trauma, dialogue, and reconciliation. We were 20 scholars whose depth of experience and perspective was incomparable: we came from Syria, Egypt, Qatar, Rwanda, Burundi, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Brazil, Mexico, Armenia, Ukraine, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina, UK, and the USA. Again, the diversity of these participants continues to provide fodder for personal reflection. 
 
The gravity of conditions in these contexts was compellingly brought to bear within the CSP learning environment, with each scholar sharing with one another through the lens of their own "home" conflict. We absorbed the training and content we received on trauma healing and restorative and transformative justice, led by the CSP Academic Director, Dr. Carl Stauffer, and guest lecturer, Dr. Gladston Xavier. In addition, the organizers -- Jitka Hromek-Vaitla, (Program Director) and Kiprono Kemboi (Program Coordinator) -- were the excellent resources. They created a lively and peaceful environment conducive to sharing our personal and lived experiences. Presentations were based on the theme "Conflict Where I Came From". 
 
Our faculty encouraged the formation of teamwork and learning by using community trust building exercises fostering a spontaneous willingness to engage in dialogue. During our first three days, we reflected on some fundamental concepts such as identity, culture, power, conflict style, conflict analysis, conflict transformation and peacebuilding.  All the above concepts were well linked with narratives. I learned how identity, culture and power dynamic can shape violent conflict through narratives. It is crucial in conflict analysis and peacebuilding to take into consideration two important components: narrative and conflict.
 
During the second week, we explored through workshops several concepts regarding justice such as retributive justice, distributive justice, collective justice, restorative justice in healing and peacebuilding processes. I appreciated our faculty's restorative justice approach in peacebuilding and healing processes. I learned about the strength and challenges of restorative justice in peacebuilding (from the example of Sout-African Truth Commissions, Sierra Leone and elsewhere).
 
The different presentations were informative and relevant, most importantly for me, Ahmed and Ehsan's presentations about the violent Syrian conflict. These presentations reminded me how far human beings can go to reach the highest levels of depravity in the killing and destroying of human lives and property (their common home). They highlighted the commonly known situation in Syria for being horrible and tragic. However, they emphasized that some of the media is biased and bends coverage to political, business or other interests. Many gross human rights abuses, committed by many groups (Russia, US, ISIS, Syrian Government, rebel groups, and so on) are involved in these conflicts, but under reported or deprived of context. They note a dominant narrative, speeded by media, that the external forces' interventions are used to defeat ISIS. However, the reality is that these external forces are causing the Syrian people to suffer many abuses against their humanity.
 
But all was not so grim. In Geneva, we enjoyed visiting five international organizations (UN, UNICEF, UNHCR, CAUX Initiative of Change and ICRC).  I learned about their successes, challenges and failures. For example, while visiting the UNICEF, I discovered how it is not easy to agree with some governments regarding children rights abuses-or promoting children rights. While visiting the UNCHR, I learned how frustrating it is to convince European's governments to commit to assisting the refugees. Many of these countries are sightless of the refugee crisis in Europe and are antiimmigration. They look at refugees and migrants as a source of problems rather than an opportunity, in some instances creating narratives of terrorism to reinforce the idea that the refugees represent harm rather than a resource to be cultivated. Visiting the ICRC, I had an opportunity to see its huge role in helping Rwandan children to reunite with their families after their separation during and after the 1994 Rwanda genocide. I was moved by stories of various tragedies and those who were aided by the ICRC's intervention.
 
Finally, the most important opportunity was an insightful meeting I had with a Rwandan young man who left home in 1994.  We were blessed to share our stories about war and genocide. I was struck by my colleague's disbelief that Rwanda had changed for the better. My compassion for my colleague grew when I realized how his painful experiences affected him his perspective and framework of reality. He is still struggling with healing his past, horrifying memories. Indeed, because of this, he is not ready to go back to Rwanda, even if his family members are living there.  Here, I realized 
how narrative theory may offer him a means of healing. 
 
My time in Caux was fruitful. Not only did I gain crucially relevant material and experiences to support my continued learning, I truly consider my decision to attend Caux to be one of the best moves I've made in life. Its lessons and friendships are forever to affect my life. 
 
In post script, I am engaged in peacebuilding and conflict resolution initiatives within both the American University and Saint Teresa Catholic church communities. In addition, I am currently participating in a Community Trust-building fellowship program (Richmond, VA) associated with the Caux Initiative of Change focusing on discussing racial issues. Lastly, I'm happy to inform you of my recent return from the Rome Model UN where I shared my thoughts on sustainable development and peace issues with many other delegates. All these activities flow from my Caux experience, a legacy I can only hope will continue to grow. 
 

Indee Thotawattage

My name is Indee Thotawattage, a 26-year old Sri Lankan who grew up an expat in the Gulf. My life journey has taken me from working with internally displaced people in northern Sri Lanka to working with international college students in the capital city of Qatar. These diverse encounters have shown me the interconnectedness of our world. My undergraduate background is in culture and politics, and throughout my studies, I have been deeply engrossed with the intricacies of soft power, linkages between peace and justice, the human cost of war, and the resilience of the human spirit. (Indee is center)

Our world today is filled with deep division and discrimination, racism and resentment, poverty and pettiness, a laundry list of negativity. And yet, we share the same sky, the same sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening. We are born of love, we have the capacity to love and to be loved. This desire to show love toward my neighbor and to be a peacebuilder is how I wound up taking a funicular up the mountain to the Caux Palace, a place that would be both home and sanctuary for a month during the summer of 2016. 
 
In my current role in student development at an American branch campus in the Gulf, I am working toward creating a leadership framework that will enable my students - undergraduates pursuing journalism and communication studies - to explore identity, culture, value systems, and social justice and weave these into their journey of becoming principled leaders. CSP invigorated me to dedicate my time in service to others, and as I embark on this learning journey with my students, I am attempting to infuse that magic of Caux into my daily work.
 
One of the most powerful elements of my CSP experience was the diversity and richness in perspectives that the other scholars brought to our group. A Burundian scholar fled political turmoil in his homeland to grow up in a refugee camp in Tanzania before seeking asylum in the US. He is now a senior about to graduate from Berea College in Kentucky with a degree in Peace and Social Justice Studies, and plans to work on behalf of marginalized immigrant communities in the US. A Syrian scholar currently living in Turkey works for a consortium of NGOs. His work includes daily border crossings into Syria to care for his fellow citizens. Last summer, just before he came to CSP, his wife had given birth to a beautiful baby girl but instead of spending time with his family, he decided to first serve his country by participating in CSP and expanding his skillset as a peacebuilder in order to build a peaceful and just future for his daughter. A Pakistani scholar works for an NGO focusing on sexual and reproductive health in her home country. Her goal is to equip and empower children, parents and teachers on bodily rights through education and information awareness. The list is endless and I continue to be in awe that I had the privilege to live and learn with these wonderful scholars doing incredible, and difficult, work within their communities around the globe.
 
Caux functions in thought-provoking ways and an example of that is the service shifts. Each person who attends Caux has to sign up to do a service shift; these range from working in the kitchen to serving in the coffee shop to watering the gardens. Some of my fondest memories of CSP will be peeling umpteen kilos of potatoes in the Caux kitchen to feed 500 hungry conference participants, all the while sharing love and laughter with my fellow 'potato-peelers' who hailed from the UK, Syria and Switzerland.
 
When I first heard of Caux, it was described to me as this mountain that contained magic, a special place with the power to be transformed. Throughout the month during CSP, the other scholars and I shared hugs and tears, words of wisdom and encouragement, we discussed peacebuilding theories, we examined practical case studies, and finally, when it came time to come down that mountain, I believe that each of us had been transformed for the better.
 
I am still processing all that I learned last summer at Caux. I am incorporating the lessons learnt that summer into my current role working with my students on leadership development and social justice programming. I still keep in touch with my fellow class of CSP 2016 and they share with me that they too are using the tools they learnt at Caux in their current jobs.
 
Several months have now passed since my CSP experience, but the lessons learnt and the friendships forged all remain in my heart. Yes, Caux certainly has magic. But the magic doesn't lie in the walls of the palace, it lies in the people who journey up the mountain. And within me, I have found some of that magic. And within all of the scholars, I felt that magic.
 
I'm happy to announce that I will be returning to Caux, as the Summer Coordinator for CSP 2017. My hope is to take the lessons learnt from last summer and use them to inspire and help another group of young people be transformed.

 

Suchith AbeyewickremeMy name is Suchith Abeyewickreme. I'm a Sri Lankan working as an international trainer in peace buidling, interfaith dialogue and ethics education for children. I was a participant in Caux Scholars Program 2016 and happily share some of my reflections from my CSP experience. 

I grew up in Sri Lanka, where for the first 26 years of my life, we went through an armed conflict due to ethno-political issues. While my direct exposure to armed violence was limited, growing up in a polarised society, with heightened tensions had a big impact on me.  As I grew up, start to travel in my 20s and develop more critical awareness about the context I was living in the more I realized my responsibility towards contributing to transform our society to one that is more peaceful with awareness of my own biases and privilege.  The Caux Scholars Program has been a powerful experience to strengthen my work in peace building especially through its focus towards restorative-justice. Since the end of the armed conflict, Sri Lanka's strongest need has been to further reconciliation and social cohesion, yet not enough work has happened in this area. CSP provided me an opportunity to learn more about similar post-conflict realities through the experience sharing by other participants and the case studies we explored together. 
 
During the CSP experience, I was reflecting on my own take on justice. Coming from the majority and more powerful group in terms of the conflict divide, in the back of my mind I had a thought that the calls for justice was a foreign agenda and an external imposition. 
 
Our discussions at CSP helped me to surface this bias and to develop a more holistic attitude towards justice. Our deliberations on restorative practices towards justice helped me understand how justice seeking can be owned locally and enabled through more compassionate and holistic approaches. I also reflected about the importance for us to continue to understand our own biases and develop a reflective practice as we engaged in peace building work. 
Since CSP, I'm currently volunteering with the Walpola Rahula Institute in Sri Lanka to implement an Inter-Religious Dialogue programme titled 'Dialogue for Social Healing' to further healing in Sri Lankan society partnering with institutions related to Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Islamic traditions. I am also volunteering with Initiatives of Change to help organize the Towards an Inclusive Peace Forum at Caux this summer with a focus towards community based approaches to address violent extremism. 
 
I share my appreciation and gratitude to all those who contribute to make the Caux Scholars Program a transformative learning experience for people like me. 

 

Millie GaricMy name is Millie GaricMy story is about a little girl who was born in a country that went through a war. I have been living in Switzerland since I was a child, but I was born in Bosnia. I have also spent most of my life saying that I don't care about the war that happened when I was a child, that I don't remember anything, and that I fully distance myself from it. The anger and intolerance I would see when visiting my hometown would be something I would always condemn, but never try to understand.
 
In 2015, in Caux, I got to attend a presentation about the Bosnian war, and then it hit me: I did feel something. It came out suddenly, and I was crying a river without even knowing exactly why. This was a big discovery for me. I understood there was something deep inside that I wasn't fully aware of, but that surely influenced my way of thinking and perceiving. Therefore, I understood there was a lot to work on. My motivation to join the Caux Scholars Program came from there.  I knew that I wanted to do something good for the world, but I also knew it wouldn't be possible to help other people before helping myself first. Before understanding myself. It was frightening, because I knew I would deal with something dark, and I would have to do that in front of other people (I wouldn't define myself as someone who opens up easily. In fact, I'm quite the opposite.).
 
When the program started, I found myself surrounded by 19 amazing people from 18 different countries. All of them had their own inner and outer conflicts to deal with. From day 1, I understood we were all starting a journey that would take us to different places, but we were in it together. Besides the fact that Caux has its own magic and it just makes you want to open up and express your emotions, our program added quite a lot to it.  Hearing about atrocities that have happened or are happening in my classmates' countries, seeing their pain and their motivation to do something about it gave me a lot to think about. First, I was disappointed. I wondered where is the humanity? Is there hope for us? When politicians, leaders, groups see what's happening and how many children are dying, but they still don't stop the violence, can we really expect to make things better? How can we talk about working with the emotional/human side, if that side maybe doesn't even exist in them? It got worse when I had to face my own country's demons. After doing a lot of research and talking to people who had great knowledge about the Yugoslav wars, I realized hatred had been among these populations for centuries. Also hearing people saying "it is impossible, we have always hated each other and nothing will ever make it possible to live together in real peace" just broke my heart. I was wondering, was hatred in my genes? And the anger that I often felt, maybe it would never go away. Maybe that was how I was supposed to be. This, of course, made me miserable. Why did I have to come from there? Why couldn't I be one happy American kid with a wonderful and carefree childhood? I had to carry this burden of admitting that yes, I was part of a population that had violence and hatred in its whole history. Then, when I was able to express all these thoughts out loud,  I felt like my heart opened and allowed me to really see the anger I was carrying inside. 
 
Learning about what happens emotionally and cognitively when people survive a conflict, or the different ways people react to traumas and how traumas can be passed through generations helped me understand why my own anger was there. And when I really understood it, I was able to let go of it. Caux Scholars Program made me realize that my story is not a curse, but a blessing. Because, after understanding my own conflicts, I got the power to help other people who are going through similar situations.
 
CSP also defined my career path. I decided I want to work with refugees, help them to process traumas and integrate culturally. I am working on a project in Ukraine right now. Its goal is to teach educators and caregivers how to deal with conflict peacefully, and how to spread this knowledge on to future generations. Because CSP helped me understand how much these skills are needed in today's world.
 
As conclusion, I must say it is not really possible to express my gratitude to CSP because it's hard to put it in words. It has to be lived firsthand, and I really recommend it with all my heart. 

 

Lisa YaskoI am Lisa Yasko from Ukraine. I write these lines after six months since my Caux journey has passed.  Last summer, Caux Scholar Program dramatically changed my life.  It was really far away from calling it as an 'easy experience'.  It was one of the most personally challenging moments of my life. I still don't know where exactly will it lead me but I already know - it shook my life as an earthquake, opened my personal borders, showed me my limits, problems and also strengths. I took a lot of risks as a result of reflections during CSP. This was even reflected in my relationships with people I love, my friends and my family. 
 
I am grateful that in 2015, I have got to know about Caux Scholar Program and it had felt like it was something I wanted to do. And a year later, in July 2016 I was seating in a multicultural class of Caux Scholar Program, speaking about my goals and motivation.  I spoke about two goals which I wanted to achieve in the end of my CSP journey this year - learning to live in present time and get back my wings of a bird that used to fly.
 
Now as I am writing this and reflecting on my life during the past half of the year, I am able to be honest about what to write down and about what the Caux Scholar Program really meant to me.
CSP definitely set my wings alive. But frankly speaking, this journey was not easy as I had to overcome a lot of personal challenges, challenge my comfort zone, take risks to trust life the way it goes and don't put my "firm hand of decision and action" to everything I do in a great hurry. During the third week of the program, I suddenly felt very insecure as my "stable rational thinking" felt chaotic and I decided just to let it go which  felt very dangerous. But my music perception helped me, and I started to wake up...wake up from routine, stress, violence that happens in my home country Ukraine every day.  In Caux, I composed a song which brought me alive and allowed me to gain my flying wings back.  When I was a student, I used to compose a lot of music but in recent years I lost "that feeling when you want to sing".  But now without a doubt, I can say - I reached the goals I set in the beginning of Caux Scholar Program and now I am fully present in the present time and am more open for just living and not only planning future. It is a different wave... that tends to touch some high strings of my soul, freedom and life.
 
Honestly, I also became confident that in some way, Caux Scholar Program gave me more thoughts and tools to make a change in the world than School of Government in Oxford, where I am currently studying.  Stories from Caux Scholars made me reflect a lot on peacebuilding, reconciliations processes and actions that matter in 21th century. I will never forget personal stories of my classmates from Syria and Rwanda. I was impressed by the strength of faith in love and peace of these people, regardless the level of hatred that exist in their societies.
 
Caux Scholar Program should happen in your life if you seek to find keys for the new air of your life.
Summer 2016 was my Swiss peace building journey filled with beauty, reflections and some new pages of the book of my life.  And here is a part of lyrics from the song I wrote. As my artistic reflection of Caux journey it speaks a bit louder than any words I can write here. 
 
Morning flower
I want to find
My next step, I hold you tight
You bring me hope
Leaving my fears alone
Come on, my friend
I took it as risk
Come on, my friend
Hear music beat
 
I turn to the next page of the story 
away from my past 
and such a beautiful story 
comes into my life
 
In the midnight of the journey from darkness to light 
I hear the melody so strong 
it shows me where I belong
 
Chorus
And as a morning flower I wake up 
As a morning ray of sun I shine
I see the world without any boarders
I want to keep it alive
And give it a light
 
 
Muhammad Dawood SheikhGreetings from Pakistan!! My first and last love. My name is Muhammad Dawood Sheikh.
 
Hailing from a country suffering from extremism and terrorism but labeled as terrorist state by international community is a dilemma of our staggering diplomacy with the world. We lost 80,000 lives including civilians in war on terror and still fighting this war to combat extremism and terrorism. Pakistan has a population of 180 million people and according to UNDP report; youth is 62.3 % of the whole population.  Unfortunately youth are being exploited by extremist forces, and they are the fuel for the vicious activism of terrorists.
 
The potential of youth to tackle major challenges facing humanities was hampered by lack of education and opportunities to find employment in developing countries like Pakistan. They are disproportionately impacted by challenges of poverty, hunger, extremism and unemployment. Their marginalization and exclusion in economic spheres have turned them into a 'scarred generation'. The situation becomes more complex when youth (15-29 years) in Pakistan, especially the unemployed/underemployed, are being recruited by the militants. According to a post-crisis need assessment document, inadequate livelihoods and the absence of sufficient employment opportunities in Pakistan have acted as two important crisis drivers causing involvement of youth in insurgencies.
My journey started when I was 14 years old and participated in World Social Forum. This Forum made me realize that the whole world is facing similar problems. My activism started when the first bomb blast rocked my peaceful city Lahore. As a young  man, I was scared during this tense situation. I felt that I had two options: one to sit idle and second to stand against this tyranny. I decided as Che Guevera said "Better to die standing, than to live on your knees."
 
I organized a large concert even though authorities were not willing to allow it due to security threats. Almost 4500 people attended this concert. I began interacting with thousands of young people to identify the root cause of extremism and terrorism. My passion to serve vulnerable youth motivated me to focus on this cause.  
 
Recognizing that Pakistan needs skilled and trained labor force for sustainable peace and development in the region, I established Young Development Trust in 2008.  This organization aims to decrease unemployment, radicalization, and terrorism through education, with a primary focus on vocational skills. My dream is to build a modern vocational university in Pakistan is already underway in Gujranwala, a town located at the crossroads of several industrial zones with an increasing unemployed youth population.  This university will not only equip young individuals with vocational skills but will also educate them about peace, human rights, and democracy. Despite facing initial resistance, I am committed to my vision. I initiated this project with limited resources and have since earned the support of several distinguished veterans from different fields in Pakistan who are partnering with us to bring this ambitious project to reality.
During this project, 20 young people living in Lahore originally from South Waziristan, contacted me and shared their vision. South Waziristan is a war hit area at the Pak-Afghan Border, known as a sanctuary of terrorists and a fertile land for recruitment of youth. I supported them to establish "Wanna Youth Movement", a non-political peace organization, which aims to promote peace education and to initiate a dialogue between Youth of Punjab and Khyberpakhtunkhawa. I was involved as a mediator in this dialogue even though that was my first experience.
 
My hard work has been recognized with a number of prestigious awards.  I am honored to receive the "Young Takeda Entrepreneurship award" of Japan and the Associate Fellowship of Royal Commonwealth Society, UK.  I have been awarded with prestigious Emerging leaders of Pakistan fellowship by US States Department and Atlantic Council thanks to this project. My life story will be incorporated in world famous library of Melk Abby after receiving recognition of an Architect of Future title AOF by Waldzell Foundation. Recently, Mr. Sharjeel Adnan Sheikh (Special Assistant to Prime Minister of Pakistan, State Minister) honored me in YDF reunion dinner due to my peace work and youth development services of the youth of my country.
 
Familiar of my peacebuilding work, a friend Dr. Patrick McNamara (CSP 1996 alumni) recommended the Caux Scholars Program to me. At first, I thought it would be a conventional or customary course, so I applied and was accepted. Jumping into the Caux Scholars Program changed my perspective. It introduced me to new concepts and differentiated between conflict management, conflict resolution and conflict transformation.  It was a life changing experience which provided me an opportunity to review my perspective about conflict and channelize my potential as a peacebuilder. This program helped me to explore my talent of being a mediator and polished my peace building skills.
CSP transformed my life and made me realize the strength of forgiveness. I was inspired by the stories of other class fellows as we exchanged our experiences. They were leaders in their own fields and passionate to bring a positive change. This program also connected me with world leaders and provided me an opportunity to interact and learn from the experiences of global personalities.
 
I am thankful to Caux Scholars Program for motivating me to work effectively in my community.  It brings immense joy to recall all the memories of such a magical. I express gratitude to Carl and Jitka for being great mentors and caring for us.
 
P.S: It makes me cry to see this ferocious situation going on in world, from Aleppo to Berlin and Turkey. This is my request to all readers, spread love and peace . Stop hating each other as we all are human beings. I believe in "love for all, hatred for none". If a few of us will start following it, believe me, you will see change around you and one day this world will become a peaceful place. It may be a utopia for some people but it is possible.

 

Katy PentzMy name is Katy Pentz and I am a student at Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee, Florida.  I would like to start by thanking you for your contributions to this program that allowed me to study peacebuilding at the Caux Palace in Switzerland; it was truly a pivotal part of my education.
 
I currently study International Affairs and Political Science, and I have a deep interest in Russian language and culture. This Spring semester I will intern with the International Rescue Committee to help resettle refugees in the Tallahassee community. After completing my degree in May of 2017, I intend to go to law school and ultimately work in the peacebuilding field. The Caux Scholars Program (CSP) has been central in focusing my interest and directing my future path.
 
Through CSP I formed an incredible network with peace builders and change-makers, young and old, from every corner of the world. I witnessed the impact of Caux on individuals and communities. 
Because I have experienced Caux, I have seen the inspirational glimmer of peace.
 
One of the most impactful parts of the Caux Scholars Program is that each scholar analyzes and presents on a conflict prevalent in their community. I found this to be a challenging assignment at first because, particularly compared to my peers, my direct exposure to violent conflict has been minimal. However, upon further reflection, I realized that I have seen the impacts of conflict in my community, when it is violent and when it is not. 
 
I presented on the issue of human trafficking in the agriculture sector of Florida, which was specific to my community. This presentation and the guidance I received from the program coordinators helped me realize the role that I could play in affecting this conflict. My presentation and the presentations of my peers taught me how to analyze and present on large scale problems on a local and international level.
 
In hindsight, I realized after completing CSP, some of the other conflicts I had considered but ultimately did not select due to their scope became a greater source of tension in the US this year than many people, including myself, expected. When the election results came in, many in the US were fearful of their future, but others felt it more secure than ever. While there are usually contentious elections in the United Sates, this year has felt different for many Americans. This year, the election rhetoric was steeped in hate, denial of personhood, and violence. Through Americans' inability to communicate effectively, that is with empathy and understanding, a divide has insulated people in bubbles away from others who disagree with them. 
 
If we fail to address our internal conflicts in the US, we will be doing ourselves an immense disservice. After the election, I have started to engage both Trump and Clinton supporters to have conversations about everything I was told not to as a child: money, religion, and politics. We have really started to think of the opposing political party as the "other", and each side is not faultless in driving the wedge between right and left, conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat. Coming into CSP, I worried about keeping the scope of conflicts in the United States relative to and respectful of the much more violent conflicts going on in the world today. I realize now, that a lack of violence in our community does not permit us to overlook the conflicts between groups in the US. In fact, communities should be more inclined to bridge divisions between them now to prevent an escalation of conflict in the future. CSP taught me that the peacebuilding work to be done in the US begins with the principles of empathy, honesty, and trust, and it requires not just community leaders and politicians, but everyone to be willing to engage and to be engaged in dialogue that challenges their beliefs.
 
Whether you have already been down the mountain or you have yet to make the climb, I encourage you to attend a summer conference, apply for one of the many programs offered by Caux, or continue funding for the programs that provide an environment for change-makers and peace builders to learn from and grow with one another. 
 
I would like to thank the Caux Initiatives of Change USA and Switzerland and the Florida State University College of Social Sciences. To Jitka, Karl, Kiprono, and my fellow scholars, you have taught me lessons of understanding, empathy, self-love, and trust, and I will be forever grateful. 
 

Amos Izerimana

I have spent some time reflecting on my experience as a Caux Scholar this past summer, and I am constantly reminded of the "CAUX SPIRIT." It is a spirit that brings and keeps one at peace with everything and everyone. I am convinced of the need for such a spirit in everyone around the globe. As such, I would like to first extend my gratitude to everyone who make it possible for Initiatives of Change to exist.
 
My name is Amos Izerimana. I was born in the midst of a civil war in Burundi, which forced my family to live as refugees in Tanzania and later resettle in the United States. Reflection on my experience as a child refugee inspired me to seek change in the life circumstances of those who become displaced due to war. As a result, I am studying Peace and Social Justice, Political Science, and Sociology in order to strengthen my understanding of social change and human rights. I grew up in a Quaker community which allowed me to work with Innovations in Peacemaking International (IPI), a non-governmental organization in Louisville, Kentucky where I reside. Working with IPI also allowed me to contribute to an award-winning book titled "In the Line of Fire: Raising Kids in a Violent World."
 
During my four years in college, I was privileged to intern at the Peace Museum in Vienna and the International Network of Museums for Peace at The Hague. All of these opportunities taught me that peacebuilding requires creativity, so I was challenged with finding new and innovative ways to serve my community. The opportunity to participate in the Caux Scholars Program came as a blessing. Although I did anticipate to learn from the program, I received so much more than I expected. I was inspired by my peers who were all doing incredible things in their communities. My Syrian peers particularly motivated me to put more effort in the work I do for my community.
 
Being a participant at Caux did not only give me motivation but it also helped me grow as a person. I learned that only through truth-telling and reconciliation can communities heal, and restore relationships. This is a realization that is still at the heart of the work I do. Upon returning from Caux, I diligently took on responsibilities that would help me further develop my understanding of peacebuilding and find my place in the field. I retained a teaching assistantship in the Peace and Social Justice department at my school. In addition to my previous position as the Vice president of the African Students Association, I joined the Cosmopolitan Club's Executive board as a program coordinator. I also joined the judicial committee on campus, and have dedicated part of my time to a community organization I co-founded. The organization seeks to rebuild relationships among the Burundian community of Louisville and beyond. Now that I am graduating from college, I am looking for both career and graduate study options that would enable me to further explore the field of peacebuilding.
 
I would like to thank the CSP class of 2016 for having a tremendous impact in my life - from studying together to sharing each other's stories. I would like to thank Jitka and Dr. Carl for caring for me and being my mentors, not forgetting everyone who enabled me to be part of CSP. I hope that I can continue to serve IofC and CSP in every way possible.
 
 
Srijana NepalGreetings from Nepal!  My name is Srijana Nepal. As I begin to write this letter and reflect upon the most amazing experience of being a part of CSP, it brings immense joy to recall all the memories of such a magical place surrounded by world inspirational leaders. I am Srijana Nepal and am currently working in Nepal Peacebuilding Initiative as a Program Coordinator.  As a part of my job, I spent most of the time travelling to conflict/violence affected communities across the country gathering information, organizing dialogue sessions between the conflicting parties and training the community members and youth groups in conflict resolution and transformation. This work of bringing together the conflicting communities to address their grievances and trust building has helped in greater extent to restore social harmony.  
 
Even after the ten years of signing of Comprehensive Peace Accord, the country is grappling with identity based struggles and justice remains a distant and seemingly unachievable dream for conflict victims. The notion of restorative justice didn't seem to have penetrated in the society. The victims and practitioners are experiencing fatigue. Thanks to CSP that led me discover new avenues while working and dealing with violence affected people, trauma healing tools and exercises to mention a few. I have learned that working in peace building requires patience, commitment, skills and it is okay to be overwhelmed at times. The most important thing is to keep going. Now, I have renewed energy and dedication to continue working for peace and justice with added skills and knowledge.
 
The CSP experience in many ways was very fruitful for both personal and professional growth. I am able to integrate the learning at CSP while recently working in one of the violence affected district, Kailali. Kailali witnessed ethnically motivated violence that killed dozens of people including eight police officers after the promulgation of Constitution in Nepal. In this regards, we brought police officers and communities together with the aim of bridging gaps in trust and communication so that they can work together to forge better lines of communication and ultimately undermine the triggers of violence/conflict. The strategies, tools and tactics that I learned at CSP helped me in communication and better engagement with the community members and police officers in Kailali.
 
It was an astounding experience to meet and be connected with the world leaders who share similar visions and continue in their efforts of making the world a better place to live in. CSP provided me an opportunity to reflect on conflicts through different lens. The practical approaches such as exchange of stories and presentations from scholars, role-plays, trauma healing exercises, discussions made the CSP experience truly phenomenal. I was inspired by the zeal and passion of my fellow scholars representing from nineteen different conflict affected countries to continue working despite the enormous challenges in the field. I was deeply moved by the work, motivation and commitment of our Syrian scholars and their stories gave me hope in the collective struggle towards durable peace and social change.   
 
Caux, for me, was a place where I could find inner peace. It taught me the strength of forgiveness and has transformed me personally. With so much hatred going around the world, I would recommend everyone not to miss this life changing experience and trust me it's worth being a part of it. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supported and made CSP possible for me. Special thanks to Silver Zuber Fund, Caux Foundation, our amazing Program Director Jitka, Professor Carl and my CSP team for bestowing love and supporting me throughout the CSP journey. 
 
 
My name is Ihsan from Syria. I have over ten years of experience in the field of emergency relief, international protection, and humanitarian assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons in Syria. The result of the current conflict has impacted all aspects of our lives.
 
I worked as a volunteer within United Nations Programme for over three years and then as a UN Staff to provide protection and assistance to refugees who fled to Syria from different conflict areas.  Most recently, I started working with the refugee community and leading a group of 13 outreach refugee volunteers to mobilize the capacity of their community. We seek to address the dispersed nature of the refugee population by promoting direct contact with them and empowering refugees with skills to play a greater role in their own protection. In addition to providing insight into their community capacities and protection security, I hope to empower refugees to participate in a process of decision-making and providing humanitarian programs to meet their needs.
 
My assignments have demanded a broad range of transferable skills, involving the ability to work independently or in teams, multi-tasking, working with fast-changing priorities and having strong interpersonal capacity to deal with diverse ethnic, cultural and religious groups within UNHCR.  In addition, my responsibilities included liaising and coordinating with external organizations such as NGOs, as well as donors and local authorities.
 
My participation in the Caux Scholars Program was a dream that came true. After arriving to Caux and starting my first day in the program, I wondered why God granted me this amazing opportunity. I deeply appreciated the value of this gift. Caux Scholars Program is not just an academic program that teaches concept of peacebuilding and conflict transformation, but it  builds bridges between communities , enhances concept of trust, and enriches relations between communities. The course enabled me to realize how many people in world are honest leaders with distinctive and supportive characteristics.
 
CSP taught me about values of love, purity, unselfishness and honesty. I witnessed what can be done if we let our inner peace go into larger circles (our families, friends, relatives and society). Peace starts from us, from our minds, thoughts and beliefs. It is not only an academic concept that we learn and then apply into reality; it is something attached to our morals, faiths and thinking. Day after day, I experienced the gift of God.  Scholars and organizers of this program became one family which seeds were planted at Caux, but the tree is blossoming worldwide.
 
Throughout the program, I met individuals from different backgrounds, cultures, faiths who are inspiring youth leaders, outstanding community representatives, and executives of international organizations. This helped me to learn, exchange ideas, and receive motivation to overcome challenges and develop my skills to reach new goals. Furthermore, the program gave me a chance to participate in a humanitarian security conference where I learn new information in field of migration, reconciliation, dialogue, climate change and its relation to peace. During the summer conferences held in Caux, I was eager to pick up knowledge that will improve my capacity in bringing goodness to humankind.
 
In this critical time when violence increases on a daily basis, I was inspired by people who believe in power of peace and come to Caux to face their trauma. After the program, I began the journey down the mountain, returning to many challenges in Syria, but with having more energy to go forward. Furthermore, CSP enhanced my negotiation skills and enabled me to teach refugees about the importance of healing from violence and share copying mechanisms for overcoming trauma. 
 
Following the program, I became more motivated to continue my studies and learn more about strategies of peace, conflict resolutions and post conflict recovery. I want to merge my professional experience with my daily personal life, because hate, tension, dispute and intolerance are normal reactions and emotions. I want to implement the value of forgiveness and honesty into my daily life.
 
CSP sharpened my future objectives and brought my attention to new horizons. A new willingness was born inside of me to be a peacemaker and encouraging affected-population in a conflict that love, openness, happiness, trust and faithful should prevail among communities. I am thinking about how we can deal with each other as human-beings who care and support each other in solving conflicts.
 
As a peacemaker, I am advising people to keep hostilities and tensions away from their communities because hate and fighting from the sectarian violence will bring more misery and suffering to their country. We need to accept and deal with each other in open way regardless of religion, race, nationality, color, or faith. Removing animosities between individuals of community will create trust.
 
Finally, I do thank IofC organization for building and developing this great program, the Program Director Jitka who was a sister and mother for all scholars over the days of program. I also thank our Academic Director Dr. Carl for the methods and skills he used in giving lectures, seminars and addressing our traumas. 

 

Reuben J.B. LewisMy name is Reuben J.B. Lewis from Sierra Leone, West Africa, but  am currently based in Japan, finishing a PhD program at the School for International Development and Cooperation, Hiroshima University. I come from a country that was ravaged by more than a decade long civil war and from a sub-region (West Africa) that faces an uncertain future with religious crisis, resource conflict, terrorism, and political instability looming in the distance with many countries sharing a common fate. I lived through a brutal civil war and got affected by it which shaped my career path to work for peace and be involved in peace building projects across countries and continents. 
 
As a young peace-building practitioner, I worked with West Africa Network for Peace Building in Sierra Leone (WANEP) to build local capacities for conflict prevention in chiefdoms, districts and regions across Sierra Leone. I trained community early warning monitors to look into localize conflict context and build networks with appropriate authorities in responding to potential threats that may lead to violence or conflict. I represented Sierra Leone for many years in the Economic Community of West Africa States regional infrastructure for early warning and conflict prevention to shape regional policies towards addressing potential threats to conflict. Here in Japan, I  am involved with Hiroshima Peace builder Centre's Program for peace building as well as support a Global Education company to design peace education programs for high schools and promoting intercultural dialogue between Japanese and non-Japanese students.
 
However, working for peace requires commitments, professional skills, building stronger networks that goes beyond borders, innovations and problem solving methods that must be understood from different cultural perspectives in order to find common ground from which individual strengths, focus and direction can be realized. I do believe that the Caux Scholars Program offers just that. Caux is an astoundingly amazing place that offers a unique form of participatory learning and experience sharing and generates a level of interaction that enables individual transformation and empowerment. The Caux Scholars Program as a flagship program brings to life in one place a collective group of young people from all over the world who are striving for innovative ways to change communities, building peace and confronting the challenges of our time. I was truly inspired by fellow scholars who shared stories about conflict in their communities and the challenges they overcome every day to make their communities safe and in bringing social change. Their stories give me hope in the human spirit and in our collective struggle to make the world a better place.
 
At the end of the intensive CSP summer program, I came down the mountain feeling fulfilled and truly inspired. I built intellectual networks that are beneficial to my research on peace building as a result of my interactions with academics and practitioners. I am hoping to get more people in my native Sierra Leone to be a part of the CSP community and join the network of change makers that will impact on the transformative process in my country.
 
Having said this I want to thank Silver Zuber Fund, the Caux Foundation and the CSP team whose support and commitment made it possible for me to participate in the 2016 Caux Scholars Program. Every change maker around the world should be a part of the Caux community and I feel incredibly lucky to participate in the 2016 summer program and join a network of Caux Scholars spread across the globe. 

 

Zainab KhanI am Zainab Khan from Pakistan. Hailing from a country where family's honor is beyond every girl's dream has been a difficult journey. During my undergraduate studies, I got to explore a lot of fields in the development sector. While relearning new perspectives and exploring opportunities, I wasn't sure which field to choose, however one thing I was sure about was working in the development sector. This sector is vast! Starting from the education sector, working for peace building and conflict transformation and now working in the health sector, it has been an arduous journey altogether.
 
After coming back from Corrymeela, a Peace and Reconciliation center in Northern Ireland, I was settling back in Pakistan, when I came across the spectacular work which Initiatives of Change was doing, this was all amidst the bleak wind which was settling in my life. Little did I know that that this discovery of mine will help me find tranquility again. I applied for the Caux Scholars Program which was meant to take place in Panchgani, India in December 2015. I tried my best to take part in this program, but due to political tensions between the two countries, I could not travel to India.
 
Luck did not leave my side, and I was offered to take this course in Switzerland. I could not give up this opportunity; hence I started working hard to make sure that I won't get disappointed again because of some external issues. Little did I know that this program will be so enriching and transformative; intense yet inspirational. My four week journey started with participants from conflicted zones of the world. Syria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Nepal, Mexico, Brazil, Armenia, Bosnia, Ukraine, Burundi and some from the seemingly powers, UK, Germany and the USA. It changed my perspective about how people coming from the apparent powerful countries also were conflicted in a lot of ways. This program gave me an entirely new perspective on life, and how a border doesn't define people but the fact that people are defined by their existing situations. Classroom learning gave me an opportunity to visualize conflicts of other people, and think about ways how these can be resolved; taught me elements of restorative justice and gave me an opportunity to reflect on conflicts back home.
 
I continue working for an NGO that works for Sexual and Reproductive Health in Pakistan. Aahung aims on developing the capacity of school teachers to integrate quality Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) into school curriculums. The intervention aims to empower adolescents by providing them quality Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) knowledge, information and skills. Talking about puberty and bodily rights is a massive challenge. This is mainly because parents are of the perception that there is no point of making children aware about puberty and bodily changes before time. However, what these parents don't understand is that children face many social and emotional challenges when they hit puberty, and that puberty is not solely associated with physical changes. Another problem is that in Pakistani culture, emotional expression is not given value; therefore children learn to deal with their own personal problems, without being able to voice out their concerns.Through CSE,we build the capacity of teachers where they create an enabling environment for children. Parents on the contrary come forth with the argument that making children aware in advance means planting thoughts into their minds which they can use otherwise. People of the community argue that we belong to a Muslim society and that our religion does not allow us to provide such information since it leads to promiscuity. We as a community need to transform our thinking so that we can protect our children, the future workforce and promise them a better future.  I cannot thank IofC and all those who made this journey possible for me. Four months down the lane, I can still sense the love and tranquility which I received in Caux, and I aim on continuing to find linkages between Reproductive Health and Conflict transformation, which are both important ends to the same rope. 
 

 

Martin HealeyMy name is Martin Healey, I am 22 years old, German and British, and have just completed my BA in International Relations this summer. Throughout my studies, I have learned a lot about politics, economics, law, and the linkages between these fields. However, even before university, I have had a lot of international experience through my voluntary work with the Non-Governmental Organization  Initiatives of Change (IofC). One summer, as I was helping out at the IofC conference center, I met some participants of the Caux Scholars Program and they left a lasting impression on me.
A few years and many encouraging conversations later, I applied to be part of this prestigious program and was overjoyed when I was accepted to the Class of 2016.
 
The CSP aims at breaking down stereotypes, challenging one's worldviews, and equipping Scholars with effective peace building strategies. For the Class of 2016, in particular, the main themes were justice, conflict transformation, trauma, dialogue, and reconciliation.
 
My CSP journey began very early on June 26 at Nuremberg Central Station. A few hours later, shortly after arriving in Montreux, I ran into some of my new classmates and together, we took the funicular up to Caux Palace, our home for the next four weeks. I believe all scholars would agree with me when I say that already on the first evening, as we started to get to know each other and exchanged stories and dreams, everybody realized that they were surrounded by a group of exceptional and truly inspirational personalities. This impression stayed with me to the last day and I always felt that I could learn so much from the other scholars. I was particularly inspired by the motivation and determination of the Syrian scholars, who are still working tirelessly within Syria in order to help those who are most vulnerable. Or by the capacity of one scholar to forgive those who have killed his family in a terrible war because of their ethnicity. Or by the devotion of those who fully dedicate their lives to their countries and their people. The sense of togetherness within our group, the fascinating stories and presentations, the funny moments we shared, and the discussions with the other scholars, our professors and the program director Jitka were what made the CSP such an amazing time and I would recommend the program based on this alone.
 
From our daily classes, I took away many new insights and practical tools. We have learned how to visualize conflicts to show who and what they are about, how to tackle them, and which important information is missing. We have also practiced various ways to address conflicts and, using the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-Apartheid South Africa as an example, talked about the need to not only end conflicts but to create the chance for a lasting peace through forgiveness and reconciliation.
 
Caux, for me personally, was a place where I could reflect and find peace. I came with many open questions and a restlessness caused by uncertainty. What should I do next? Where should I work? Which Master's should I pursue? I still do not have all the answers, but I have come to realize that uncertainty is not a bad thing but a normal part of life and this lesson is a lot more important.
 
I would like to thank all of you who have made it possible for me to take part in the CSP. I could not have done it without the support of my family, my friends, and the contributions of numerous sponsors. I am especially thankful to IofC Germany and its members who have put a lot of faith in me and through a generous contribution helped realize this dream come true.  
 
The CSP was a very valuable experience and I will do my best to make sure that many other young people can participate in the future. You can also help by supporting the work of IofC Germany or by contributing to the Caux Scholars Scholarship Funds.

 

Ahmed EkzayezMy name is Ahmed Ekzayez and I am working in LNGO delivering relief assistance to Syrian people inside Syria. The biggest challenge for me is the daily escalation in Syrian crisis which make it the greatest humanitarian crisis witnessed in generations. Humanitarian and protection needs have reached unprecedented levels and are projected to grow further as the conflict endures. The length, intensity and geographical impact of the conflict is now undermining the resilience capacities of households and communities, with critical consequences on hard-won development gains. While efforts are being made to secure a political solution, violence and its consequences continues to ravage the country and rob the Syrian people of safety, dignity and hope for a better future. After five years of working in Syrian crisis, I believe that the most important is to build sustainable dialogue between all parties in Syria and to increase effectiveness from relief aid. My goal is to increase dialogue between key governance stakeholders in Syria, promote human rights, and to introduce methodologies to improve community accountability. In this regards, I always seek to increase my skills and knowledge in all topics of peacebuilding. I was excited to apply for the Caux Scholars Program (CSP), but as the majority of Syrian people, we always fear visa rejections. I was very lucky to be one of the 19 professional participants where I experienced the strongest level of brotherhood and friendships. This makes CSP amazing environment for learning and ideal example for peace and reconciliation.
 
When I applied to CSP program, my primary motivation was to broaden my intellectual realm in a field that I aspired to be a part of. Other strong motives were to belong to a mixed community committed to multidisciplinary learning and to be in Switzerland, a country that has long fascinated me. Moreover, I was thrilled to be part of a distinctly global adventure.  I had to leave my 15 days old newborn baby in order to participate in the program.  I came to Caux with a lot of expectations and can easily say that I have gotten more than I expected about how to be peacemaker, and how to make positive change in my community.  
 
During the four weeks of this program, I have learned a lot about conflicts analysis, understanding of the factors that create and sustain conflicts, practical understanding of approaches to resolving conflicts - conflict prevention, negotiation and transitional justice, with highlighting of the contemporary applications of peacebuilding, justice and trauma healing in current and post-war settings internationally. These subjects are critical for the near future in Syria. The most important sessions were discussed during "Conflict Where I come From" presentations where various parallel and indigenous peacebuilding and justice efforts are studied and compared with the dominant global applications. It was very fruitful to get lesson learned from other crisis and how I can benefit from it in solving Syrian crisis.
 
In between classes, I was eager to attend five conferences ( Land and Security, Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy, Just Governance for Human Security, Addressing Europe's Unfinished Business, International Peacebuilders' Forum ). I interacted with the delegates who are grappling with real issues in a complex world, and providing more updates about Syrian crisis.  In addition, I participated in Caux Dialogue on Land and Security (CDLS) Fellowship where I presented my project: seeds of hope. The main goal for this project is to support livelihood and particularly agriculture activities in Syria.
 
While joining the program, I was aware that I wanted to pursue a career in peacebuilding as it is based at the intersection of my intellectual interests, aptitude and ambition. Over those weeks in Switzerland, the exposure that I was afforded in the field of peacebuilding, meeting exceptional colleagues who continue to be my fellow peacebuilders and friends around the world, I was given a platform for my peacebuilding career in Syria. Peacebuilding affords a huge array of opportunities and at many points in my career, I would look for inspiration. My next task that I remind myself of often is to build motivating stories of peacebuilding in Syria. There is no one path to success. I'm very proud of this experience in CSP. My task after CPS is to strengthening resilience to conflict in vulnerable communities and contributing towards stabilization efforts, and strengthening the skills of local and national leaders who are able to (re)build relationships across conflict divides, and by supporting local leaders and civil society activists in practical actions to reduce violence and improve the sense of safety of communities.
It's not easy task but this my responsibility as a Syrian.
 
I am trying to integrate my learning at CSP with my professional and personal life. I have learned so much from this training that will assist me in my workplace. I have already started using some of the strategies and tools in my community and they are working remarkably well. The first thing I am doing after CPS is to support civil society organizations to connect, share experiences, and be part of decision-making, as well as strengthening their ability to negotiate and advocate for solutions to conflict issues more effectively, both at the national and at the international level.
 
Every Syrian community has a group of local individuals who they turn to for leadership in solving problems and managing conflicts, so I strongly recommended to expand this great training to inside Syria and to be closer for the community. Finally, I'm grateful for IofC for this amazing experience, and as I promised you I will convey all this skills, tools for traumatized Syrian community.

 

Scott DarbyI'm Scott Darby from the UK. I grew up in a less than desirable neighborhood in the UK but thanks to having a great mum who provided a stable home environment and a chance meeting that resulted in me attending a leadership training program for young people (Learn2Lead), I ended up leaving behind the limited opportunities that were ahead of me and discovering a whole new world of
endless possibilities. Which I am still finding my way through.
 
I have decided to focus my life on preventing the causes of conflict rather than dealing with the symptoms of conflict. For this reason, although a great admirer of CSP, I had not applied for the program; choosing instead to follow my passion for the environment and focus my efforts on learning how to restore degraded land and increase agricultural productivity. This year though I felt called to attend the program and was lucky enough to be accepted. The CSP training I have received has allowed me to view the world from yet another perspective and while I would not feel confident in resolving an active conflict, I do feel that I now have the ability to contain and reduce a conflict if one erupted around me until more qualified and experienced individuals arrived that could hopefully resolve the conflict.
 
I currently find myself in Lebanon in the Middle East. I have a great love for the region. My next steps in life are to find a job in my profession that enables me to carry out my passion, which is land restoration. I want to bring life back to parts of the planet that are suffering from desertification and land degradation. In the long term, I hope that this land can once again be used to support humanity by providing food and other natural resources that are essential for people to live and until people have their basic needs met such as food, water and shelter, then they will struggle to find peace.
 
One of the programs that has inspired and helped me in my life to see beyond the visible horizon and aim for a greater calling is the  School for ChangeMakers (SfCM) . This is a program run in the UK between IofC UK and various Universities. The program welcomes young people from all aspects and walks of life and delivers a training program with tracks that cover skills in business, education, law, environment and ones calling in life (IofC track). This is coupled with community groups and guest speakers. All aspects of the training weekend are aimed at providing knowledge and skills in how we can personally make a change that will change the world around us. But this is not the true magic of the program, what makes it truly special is the love and unselfishness shown by the organizers Krish Raval (CSP 1993), Denny Braggins and SfCM Alumni; this resonates through the conference and brings out these traits in the participants and makes for a truly unique and special atmosphere that enables participants to feel safe and allows them to truly grow and see their full potential.

 

Akop GabrielyanMy name is Akop Gabrielyan. I am an alumni of CSP class 2016. Currently, I am a last-year Ph.D. student at Russian-Armenian (Slavonic) University, finalizing my dissertation in the field of international relations, more specifically, scrutinizing the role, influence and impact of INGOs to local activism in the South Caucasus. Simultaneously,  I was appointed as a Junior Research Fellow at my home university. At the same time, I work in international consulting entity affiliated with the Ministry of Economy and run my own youth NGO locally. It is hard to run all these things simultaneously. It is hard, but not impossible. I believe that everything depends on our determination, motivation, and readiness to abandon our own comfort zone - and that is exactly what I got from the Caux Scholars Program. (Photo: Akop, in the middle, with Dr. Carl Stauffer and Martin Healey)
 
The Caux Scholar Program 2016 was, by many means, exceptional. It was designed, prepared and run in the finest way so as participants, including myself, could have a chance to acquire and feel the real freedom, friendship, and professionalism - and all through this wonderful program. A unique event which created a sense of closest collaboration among participants from almost every continent. Largely, this happened thanks to the professionalism of our supervisors and lecturers, and an incredible combination of formal and informal learning events: workshops, meetings, visiting tours. One of the most memorable moments for me was the visit of UN office in Geneva. It was priceless to have a first-hand experience from people who work there, talk to them, describe your own ambitions to them and get their advice on how one can apply for their positions. The other example is the informal session which the participants had by the middle of the program. All of us had an opportunity to share own vision, concerns and expectations from the most important personal and background-related issues. It was a special feeling to understand that you are not alone in the universe with your problems.
 
Catching up on the study of the typology of human perception and attitude toward conflict, my fellow scholar Martin Healey and I had an idea for a project which we named a table of susceptibility to conflicts. The main purpose of our research is to understand how people from different backgrounds address conflict related issues in calm and storm (conflict intensifies) situations, and how their self-perception may correlate with the actual situations. The research is based on the Kraybill Conflict Response Inventory and four situational behavior types discussed in class. For that purpose, we distributed corresponding questionnaire among scholars and participants of different Caux conferences. We hope to mobilize our resources and publish a full article with a statistical analysis of the self-perception of people in conflict situations.
 
During CSP, I learned not only how to take what is important for me, but also how to give and contribute to others. And that is a priceless ability.  My personal plans for the coming years are simple. I want to contribute to my country as much as possible in the best professional manner.