A diverse group of 70 local and global Transformation Agents explored new ways to bring about “Integral Peace”
Every year, the Autumn Equinox, 21 September, is celebrated as International Peace Day by the United Nations.
On 17 and 18 September 2016, the first Integral Peace Festival was convened jointly by Trans4m and Theatre of Transformation. It was hosted at “Home for Humanity”, (the rural campus of Trans4m) in the verdant valley of Haut Valromey, an hour’s drive from Geneva and Lyon.
The festival brought together about 70 diverse and distinguished participants from all continents, with Arjuna Hiffler Mani serving as MC, and Rama Mani and Alexander Schieffer as hosts. A third of the participants came from the local Valromey region, a third were international guests living and working in the Geneva and Lyon areas, and a third travelled in from other countries to join the festival. Participants spanned four generations: with a baby of six months and many lively children ranging from three to twelve years at one end of the age spectrum, and, at the other end, four agelessly active octogenarians sharing their wisdom and poetry with us. The dynamic participation of university students enlivened the interactions, with five students from Erasmus University, Rotterdam, where Arjuna studies, six from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, where both Rama and Alexander teach, and four from the Graduate Institute and University of Geneva, where Rama also teaches.
The Integral Design of Peace
The Peace festival’s program followed an integral design. It began with
- “Sowing peace” – honoring community and nature, continued with
- “Minding Peace”, exploring knowledge generation and wisdom seeking, followed by
- “Cultivating peace” through art and culture, pausing a delicious moment for
- “Savouring peace” around a shared pot-luck meal,
- “Envisioning peace” an interactive dialogue to imagine and craft a peaceful future
- “Celebrating peace” with a participatory session of music, poetry, dance and dialogue with all participants
Sowing Peace: Honouring Community and Nature
Thunder clouds, chilly rain (and a few confused GPS machines) confounded the original schedule, and demanded creative adjustments to the program as the day unfolded. What mattered most was to nurture and deepen the vibrant, intimate and inclusive spirit of community that was generated from the start between the diverse participants. The festival began with informal conversations while enjoying the food brought by all participants, with local organic dishes spiced up by global cuisine from all continents.
In the first session of Sowing Peace to honour community and nature, the opening circle of introductions in the outdoor pavilion planned to last a half hour, extended spontaneously to almost two hours, despite the cold winds blowing around the pavilion. Everyone huddled together with infinite patience and avid interest to hear each of the individuals sharing their particular concern, passion or contribution for societal transformation. The festival had barely begun, yet people repeatedly expressed how enriched by and deeply connected to each other they already felt. The spirit of Home for Humanity, of inclusion and unity in celebration of diversity, was already tangible.
Minding Peace: Regenerating Knowledge, Seeking Wisdom
Due to strong rains, the planned session of planting fruit trees and flowering seeds around the peace tree was postponed to the end of the festival.
Participants gathered in the Library of Home for Humanity, for the session on Minding Peace. There, Alexander and an impressive panel of five Trans4m Junior Fellows introduced the audience to Trans4m’s integral approach to transformative education.
As Trans4m’s co-founder Alexander Schieffer first provided an overview of Trans4m’s Integral model, and how it works in practice in diverse cultures to effect societal renewal and transformation in these times of social fragmentation and economic breakdown.
Trans4m Junior Fellows then shared how they act as transformation agents. They each presented their formative experiences of working on the ground with Trans4m’s innovative partner organisations on all continents, and writing their integral theses to generate new knowledge under Alexander’s supervision.
Moritz Merz will shortly leave for a transformative internship with Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka, focusing on community-based integral education.
Desta Kebede shared the integral approach and community impact of his company, Desta’s Coffee (“the happiest coffee in the world”) operating as an Integral Enterprise between Ethiopia and Europe.
Maxime Bertocchi shared the fruits of his fellowship with Trans4m Geneva shaping the Trans4m Junior Fellowship itself as a tool for societal transformation and producing a captivating film. Maxime also presented the work of those Junior Fellows unable to be present, who interned with Trans4m partners, such as for example Anne Sophie Koehn with SINAL in Brazil, Silvan Büchler with Sadhana School India and Zarah Kronbach with CORO India.
Gabriel Cretier, a former student and partner of Trans4m, presented IGNITE, an initiative for conscious business that he co-founded with students at the Swiss University of St. Gallen, demonstrated how students can actively shape an alternative future.
A thought-provoking and lively interactive dialogue with the audience followed. Participants were struck by the Trans4m session, which illustrated vividly how students, already during their undergraduate studies, can generate new ways of thinking, knowing, being and doing, and contribute to creating an integral and peaceful world.
Cultivating Peace through Art and Culture
Following a moment to enjoy a multi-cuisine meal, participants congregated again in the Library to acknowledge the role of art and culture in cultivating peace, in a powerful performance by Paul Grant and Rama Mani. Paul Grant is an internationally renowned maestro of Sitar as well as Santoor and Tabla who has mastered the musical traditions of India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan. Paul accompanied Rama’s dramatic enactment of the stories of peace builders in countries in conflict who had used art and culture as a vehicle for peacebuilding. These stories depicted real-life people Rama has encountered and collaborated with in Afghanistan, Rwanda, Nepal, Peru, Cambodia, and Palestine. As artists and cultural agents, they found ways to use their artistic talents to transform conflict, foster reconciliation after genocide, preserve cultural artifacts through warfare, or revive cultural traditions after mass atrocities. The décor of the stage where Rama and Paul performed was embellished by artworks by several of the artists represented in Rama’s enacted testimonies, like Wari Zarate from Peru, Ashmina Ranjeet from Nepal and Vann Nath from Cambodia.
This session brought to life Theatre of Transformation, the transformative process developed by Rama, based on her extensive experience in peacebuilding, security and governance, to catalyze creative responses to global crises. Rama has been fortunate to collaborate in her Theatre of Transformation performances with eminent musicians and artists like Paul Grant who share a deep dedication to peace, justice and transformation.
The performance culminated with an invocation by Rama, accompanied by Paul’s soul-stirring sitar music, inviting us all to unleash our inherent creativity, and envision the future we wish to co-create on earth.
Envisioning and Celebrating Peace
Uplifted by the visions, sounds and stories of co-creative peacebuilding, participants savored more delectable food and drinks peppered with conversation. Then, we gathered in a circle around the living and dining room, to share a concluding dialogue. Now everyone expressed in their unique voice and way their key “take-aways” of the day. They also shared their ideas or inspirations on how to further the journey of humanity towards peace. Some expressed themselves with poetry, song and dance.
This inspiring moment of listening to the rich choir of “peace voices” around the circle provided a natural prelude to the final musical celebration of the evening. Now, participants took turns in singing, playing the guitar, piano or darbuka, reciting poetry and rapping. Some of those who enchanted us with their poetry and music included our distinguished guests and dear friends, Wolfgang Somary (poet-musician-banker and all-round renaissance man from Zurich), Chipo Chung (stage and television actress and peace activist from Harare and London), Jean-Francois and Virginie Bret (musician and psychologist from Roanne), Ismael Boerner (musician and composer from Valromey), and Arjuna Hiffler Mani (poet, rap musician and philosopher).
Interspersed with the musical offerings were many joyful exchanges, deep conversations, profound insights, and the grounding of new yet deep friendships between the diverse participants.
In the wee hours, as the full moon emerged from her cloudy sheath and illuminated the night sky, the remaining guests gathered in the moonlight and were led by Veronique in shamanic chants for peace on earth.
Rumour has it that the last guests, notably the students from St Gallen and Rotterdam, only retired when the sun began to rise…
…The Day After…. Trans4m Junior Fellow Forum and Integral Peace Dialogue
Trans4m Junior Fellow’s Forum
On the following morning (after an abbreviated sleep for the Trans4m Junior fellows after their night of peacebuilding revelry!) Trans4m’s first annual meeting of its Junior Fellows took place. The five physically present Junior Fellows were virtually joined by Trans4m’s other Junior Fellows in Brazil (Anne Sophie Koehn), Brussels (Zarah Kronbach), and Berlin (Nora Wilhelm) – as well as by Thais Corral from Brazil, member of Trans4m’s Global Wisdom Council.
Together, they explored with Alexander Schieffer how the next developmental stages of the Junior Fellowship could be shaped. They exchanged their experiences and feedback on the impact and benefit of the fellowship on each of their lives. They concluded with a shared desire for evolving the Junior Fellowship into an even stronger “engine for change”.
Integral Dialogue on the Shape of the Future
At 12.00 High Noon, a circle of about 30 participants who had stayed overnight in the valley, reconvened for an integral dialogue over brunch. They were joined by four new guests who had driven in through the fog from Coppet (Ambassadors Anda and Traian Filip) and Morges (Jacqueline Cote and Alain). The group comprised a harmonious balance of youthful and enterprising university students embarking on their life journeys, mid-career and senior professionals with considerable and diversified experience in their life paths, and highly experienced and distinguished senior citizens with an entire lifetime of wisdom at their fingertips.
With our imaginations charged by the enchanting music of Paul Grant on the sitar, the assembled circle took on the task of engaging in an integral dialogue on the future. Together, they explored visionary ideas for shaping our shared future, and shared poignant personal insights into new pathways for peace.
For example, Anteia Win from Rotterdam’s Erasmus University College shared how her parents made a deliberate decision to adopt a dying child instead of a healthy child from their country of origin Burma, and the formative impact this had on her of how each such individual decision counts in shaping a peaceful world.
The session also included an award ceremony of the Peace Dove, an award that recognises and honours innovative contributions to peace on earth. The Peace Dove was handed over to musician Paul Grant and his wife Liliane de Toledo, in recognition of their combined contribution to fostering transformation through music, culture and spirituality, through their cultural association Shanti, as well as their support to development initiatives in India. The exquisite golden statue of the dove was handed over to the new laureates by previous recipients, the Rising Women Rising World initiative, represented by Chipo Chung and Rama Mani, in the presence of the Peace Dove project’s initiator Swiss artist Vera Koppehel. The Peace Dove’s previous recipients include World Future Council founder, Jakob von Uexkull and Ibrahim Abouleish, founder of Sekem in Egypt, one of Trans4m’s integral partner organisations. Vera Koppehel conceived of the Peace Dove to honour the life and work of visionary Rudolf Steiner, and envisaged that the dove would be handed over and “migrate”, on a regular basis, to initiatives, organizations or individuals whose work is dedicated to “Peace on Earth”.
The integral dialogue concluded with a powerful “harvest” of personal and collective intentions, and ideas to strengthen and connect the various initiatives presented by the participants. Our MC, Arjuna, closed the circle poignantly by noting that with all the inspiration received over the two days, this is not an end but a beginning.
To bring the peace festival to a fitting close, the remaining participants, buoyed by the will and energy of the students from St Gallen and Rotterdam, returned to nature. Under the warmth of the sun that had returned at last to the Valromey, they energetically dug deep holes and planted four cherry trees near the Peace Willow on the pastures of Home for Humanity. Each tree represents one of the four integral dimensions of peace: nature and community; culture and creativity; science and education; and enterprise, economics and politics – with the life sustaining force of love in their shared center. The curious cows of the valley grazed near by and mooed their deep appreciation to the tree planters – and to everyone who had gathered over the two days to sow, mind, cultivate, envision, savour and celebrate peace together.