#MySacredStory: Afsaneh Seifinaji, Iran
Caux Scholars Program Alumni 2018
My name is Afsaneh. I am 28 years old and from Iran, a land of deep controversy. I have been a peace agent for the past four years, starting with the utopian motto of wanting to change the world and ending up trying to change myself as the most important step.
I have been fortunate to meditate with monks in remote communities in Thailand for weeks, share my thoughts at United Nations, and meet prominent political figures. In the end, I understand the best way to make a change is to work in my own communities to see how my experiences can create positive outcomes. That’s how I began to facilitate peace workshops in my home city, Tehran, and to reach out to as many people as I can to deliver the message of peace and conflict resolution.
Due to these peace initiatives, I was honored to receive a scholarship and become a part of the Caux Scholars Program. This extraordinary program gave me the chance to meet outstanding political figures, obtain training from the most professional academic professors, and live in a palace named in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, The Great Gatsby. I truly enjoyed life in the mountains in front of Lake Geneva. Even now, I close my eyes at times and reimagine all the amazing feelings that I experienced there and think to myself: Was is all real?!
After four weeks of constant learning, I came down from the mountain feeling like a totally different person. This change was even visible for the people in my family and friends circle. I have renewed faith and now feel more determined to be the agent of positive change in my home communities. I came back to Iran with an amazing source of knowledge that will be used in my practice and interaction with others. I have learned to believe in the importance of every small measure and the vital role of finding local counterparts to develop nonviolent and conflict transformation workshops.
Along with the significant amount of knowledge I gained, I have a whole new level of respect for persons from each and every nation in the world. I have created relationships with so many amazing people in Caux with different nationalities and I carry love and respect for them. Surprisingly, during the program, my closest friendships were with scholars from Saudi Arabia and the U.S. and whenever I hear news about these countries, I think about my amazing friends and how much I miss them.
After coming back to Iran, I have begun work on my own project, Iran Peace Tour 3. As the coordinator of the World Peace Initiative Foundation in Iran, I branched out and created the Iran Peace Tour, an annual series of workshops on peace building and trustbuilding. This year, I will use the material from the Caux Scholars Program as well as an “Inner Peace” trainer from Bulgaria to train 300 Iranians during the tour. I am so excited about this project and hope to mobilize resources for this ongoing work. It is quite challenging to find local supporters because most NGOs in Iran do not value the importance of inner peace to achieve a peaceful state in our country. But after my magical summer at Caux, I feel determined and able. I know I will have an outstanding impact on the members of my communities as I hear the words of Dr. Carl Stauffer (CSP Academic Director) ring out: “We are meant to ignite…”