What happens when 40 people from 20 countries discover India
Last year I was in North-East India. There
I saw how desperately my country needs to help all our communities,
cultures and races appreciate each other. I felt this could be
true for many areas of the world.
As a result, I decided to co-ordinate a course
called "An Experiment in Learning to Live Together".
It took place at Asia Plateau, the MRA centre in Western India.
We invited widely, and 40 people attended from 20 countries.
It proved to be a road we all walked together,
sharing not only the joys and beauty of the journey but the pain
and struggles of one another.
It was not an easy experiment. Some came
from situations of great suffering. Their very presence challenged
all complacency. As Mr V C Viswanathan from New Delhi put it,
"The future of the world depends on the choices each of us
make, the values we live by, and our willingness to listen and
obey the still, small voice within, which urges us to take responsibility.
We cannot change our yesterdays but we can change our tomorrows.
We cannot wipe out the painful memories of injuries we and our
people have done to others. But we can ask forgiveness, and dedicate
ourselves to healing the hurts."
The first six weeks of the course were mainly
spent at Asia Plateau. We taught each other about our countries,
our religions and our culture. Distinguished Indians came and
spoke. We discovered the joy of working together and serving
in the kitchen. We met industrial workers and managers who came
to Asia Plateau for a seminar on Creative Leadership. In a neighbouring
village we worked with villagers to improve an approach road to
the water hole, then spent the evening swapping songs with them.
We had many glimpses of a global community
being built. A Taiwanese said that she had learnt so much because
"here people are colour-blind". A Korean spoke bitterly
on arrival about the way Japan had treated her country; but before
she left, she and the Japanese participant had found wholehearted
reconciliation. A Tibetan headmaster said, "Coming to this
course meant missing religious ceremonies which are very important
to us Tibetans. But I don't regret my decision." An Australian
said, "I have been totally blown away by the past six weeks!"
After the time at Asia Plateau we set out
on a 6000 km journey to Bangalore, Salem, Hyderabad and Jamshedpur,
meeting a vast range of people. Some went to Varnasi while the
rest went to Delhi, Calcutta or Bhopal. Everywhere people opened
their homes and hearts and went out of their way to make us part
of their family. Many said Jamshedpur was the cherry on the cake.
There they saw how ideas learnt in the Creative Leadership seminars
at Asia Plateau had been incorporated into management training
in the industries, had improved worker-manager relationships and
had inspired a range of rural development projects.
Often during their travels the course participants
told of new insights they had gained through the course. Insights
If we search for truth, we must start with
honesty in our own lives. Instead of constant self-protection,
I have learnt to accept criticism. I have discovered new dimensions
to my character.
Elspeth Herring, Australia
We need forgiveness in Cambodia. That
is the way we will turn enemies into friends so that we can all
work to solve our problems. Lord Buddha said, "Hatred does
not cease by hatred, conquer the angry man with love, conquer
the miser with generosity, conquer the liar with truth."
Chiv You Meng, Cambodia
I came to the course with many expectations,
but at first was disappointed and frustrated. Then I realised
it is easy to be critical. I had to ask myself, 'Am I going to
be a bystander or try to make a difference?' During our travels,
living with Indian families, I have been touched by their sincerity
and hospitality. Although India has more poverty than Taiwan,
the spirit here has a lot to teach us. My time in India has made
me feel responsible to care for the people in Mainland China.
Hsu Show Feng, Taiwan
I have come to understand that freedom comes
with responsibility. To live is to grow, and to grow is to change,
and to grow fully involves changing many times for the better.
This is possible if you have a direction to follow and the determination
to stick to it with discipline and divine help.
Duma Nqono, South Africa
One night a friend told me that he had cheated
in his exams, then had decided to be honest. I thought of my
professor and my cheating in his exam. I couldn't get rid of
the thought. I felt ashamed and sorry. So I have written him
a letter of apology.
In my heart I discovered hatred towards Japan.
After a Japanese friend apologised to us for the hurts her country
had inflicted on Korea, I was able to change and to love the Japanese.
I have written to a Japanese friend I had lost touch with, and
he has written back.
Park Young Ho, Korea
I have found this an enriching, painful and
challenging time. I found it hard to interact with people from
other parts of the world. There were many fears and conflicts
within me and I wanted to be free. I prayed hard, crying to God.
One night I had a deep spiritual experience. I felt a warm electricity
in my whole being. I felt at peace. After this I prayed every
day for strength and learning. In times of quiet I have begun
to see what I should do about my life.
It was not easy to decide to stay for the
second phase of the course. But my great grandfather, Chief Walking
Buffalo, said that you learn from people, from God and even from
trees; trees make room to grow side by side without crowding.
The beauty of this country made me see beauty inside myself that
I didn't know was there.
Stoney First Nation, Canada