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A dream big enough to awaken millions

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Let not the vision of a movement of transformation and healing across the face of the earth be lost

The rash of recent student protests on universities across the US and other countries is a reminder of the self-generating power of a movement whose time has come.  

Anti-semitism and violence, where it has happened, must be condemned. But what we have seen, at root, are spontaneous outbursts of moral outrage against the inhumanity of what is being inflicted on Palestinians – with a demand that their universities divest themselves of any connection with arms manufacturers whose products are being used against the people of Gaza.  

Frank Buchman (the ‘initiator’ of Moral Re-Armament/Initiatives of Change) evidently didn’t want to get people into movement but was more interested in getting ‘movement into people’. 

I understand that. Neither Buchman nor most of us who followed his practices have been concerned with signing up members for an organisation (despite the fact that legal constraints now require most Initiatives of Change bodies to do so).  More than membership, IofC still is about a quality of lived faith and intention, a commitment to be part of change. (See p406, Frank Buchman: A life.  In fact, this biography has over 90 references to the Oxford Group/MRA as a ‘movement’, some in Buchman’s own words).

With full respect to Buchman, I have long held that the work of IofC is instigating a movement - a movement whose impetus comes from a dynamic of change at a very basic level, within, between and among people of all backgrounds:

  • within people, a movement of conscience, compassion and spiritual aliveness, transforming motives, attitudes and behaviours in day-to-day living.  
  • between people, a movement of trust built through honest conversation, breaking down hostility and prejudice through apology and forgiveness. 
  • a movement among people, forming teams and networks to work for transformation and healing in their communities and the world around them. 

In December 1939, as Europe plunged into war, Buchman made an international broadcast from the USA saying, ‘There is still time for a selfish, fear-driven world to listen to the living God.’ Citing messages from thousands of ‘listening parties’ around the world linked through MRA, he held up a vision of ‘a hundred million listening’. (In Britain alone 25,000 people were reportedly involved in such groups led by Mayors and Provosts of towns across the UK).  See ‘Listening Millions’, page 116, Remaking the World.

Sounds like a movement to me.  

It stirred something within people. In Norway, and several European countries, taxation authorities reported a trend of tax-payers voluntarily paying up missed taxes in response to MRA’s insistence on ‘absolute honesty’.  (p240 ‘Norway Ablaze’ Frank Buchman: A life).

At the end of the World War II, an extraordinary movement between people saw powerful experiences of forgiveness and reconciliation between bitter enemies, such as France and Germany, Japan and Korea.

Then in decades following, a movement among thousands of people brought social transformation and hope, the cessation of hateful conflict and a search for ethical leadership, in places as diverse as the docklands of Rio de Janeiro to former slave trading centres in America, from anti-apartheid campaigners in South Africa to corporate executives in Japanese multinationals

We hear some contemporary voices not so different from Buchman’s: 

‘It seems to me that a regular practice of contemplation makes it almost inevitable that our politics are going to change. Our snug socioeconomic perspective will be slowly taken away from us,’ writes American Franciscan priest Richard Rohr. ‘Our necessary “no” to injustice and all forms of un-love will actually become even more clear and urgent in the silence…’

And Oxford scholar/psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist, surveying the world’s grim situation, says that if we can bring together science and reason with intuition and imagination, ‘there is the possibility for something unforeseen can happen: which is a revolution in the human spirit… The practical problems won’t be solved by simply practical solutions.  They also need to be coupled to a renewal of a spiritual dimension to our lives. I think the signs are that that is very much craved by the young, and the old; that this is a time of hope, because we can all play a part.’ 

Are they dreaming?

Martin Luther King Jnr declared ‘I have a dream...’ And it fuelled a revolution.  Sometimes we need a dream big enough to awaken millions to a new consciousness they are really looking for.  

The movement may come through other agencies, other voices, other inspiring messengers. Yet - while Initiatives of Change runs programmes, conferences, forums and training -- let not the vision of a movement of transformation and healing across the face of the earth be lost. Millions, in fact, are waiting for it.  

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