A Cameroonian Peacebuilder’s Perspective on the Spirit of Humanity Forum in Reykjavik, Iceland
Being invited to join the 6th Spirit of Humanity Forum in Iceland, in my capacity as a Humanity Fellow and team member of the Home for Humanity planetary movement, was a life-changing experience for me as a young Cameroonian peacebuilder traveling to Europe for the first time.
The Spirit of Humanity Forum took the form of a transformative retreat with the theme “Healing a World in Crisis: Leading with Authenticity and Love”, through the 1st to 3rd of June 2023. It hosted 120 participants from around the world ranging from leaders, practitioners, professionals, thinkers and change-makers from diverse fields. The choice of theme, given our current divided Earth, was timely and resonated deeply with all participants. As it was well pointed out by Sister Jayanti, Director of Brahma Kumaris, the retreat fostered an atmosphere of dialogue, the art of listening and silence.
Participants came with open minds; the energy was palpable, and everyone was eager to learn, connect, and contribute to the conversation.
As an African graduate student of peace-building and international governance, there were two highlights that stood out for me at the SoH Forum as living exemplars of optimal leadership for global governance for a regenerative and inclusive future.
The first highlight was the online encounter with Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdóttir, in the form of an interview-conversation conducted by SoH director Jóhanna Viljálmsdóttir. Experiencing the authenticity, honesty and simplicity of a head of government who is, furthermore, only 47 years old and a woman, was a true inspiration. I was struck by how she insisted that she wanted to remain an ‘ordinary person’, accessible to everyone and doing normal things, despite being a Prime Minister, and that the day she felt she was changing she would stop politics.
Spirit of Humanity’s Director, Jóhanna Viljálmsdóttir with the Iceland Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdóttir
Home for Humanity Fellow, Linda Leogah Forkwa with Iceland’s President, Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson
The second highlight was our invitation to the residence of the President of Iceland, Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson. Here, I was struck by the President’s grace, humour and humility. In his very informal, convivial address to us all, he stated; “Iceland is one of the most peaceful countries in the world. Genuine care for one another would restore the peace the world longs for.”
The residence of the President of Iceland, Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson
This was echoed throughout the forum, which had a strong emphasis on the importance of love and compassion in creating a better world. Diverse participants shared experiences that reminded us that despite our many differences, we all share a common humanity, and we must treat each other with kindness, empathy, and respect.
Presencing those who are Absent – Naming The Elephant in the Room
A stark issue that marked the Forum was the question of borders and unequal mobility, which severely hinder the experience of our ‘common humanity’. This directly affected me, and Muziwanele Thando Ngwenya, from Zimbabwe, my fellow team member in the Home for Humanity movement. For both of us the visa procedure was a frustrating, humiliating and painful one. In my case, I was very fortunate that the Swiss Embassy accorded me my visa with extremely cordial and speedy treatment, after my initial application got stuck and an emergency request was made by Home for Humanity’s Co-Founders to Switzerland. However, the process was devastating for Muzie, whose visa was refused on the grounds that they suspected he would not return to his home country – despite the strong letters of support and endorsement submitted with his visa application from the SoH Director and the Co-Chair of the Home for Humanity Movement, former UN Under-Secretary-General, Dr. Youssef Mahmoud.
The retreat on the second day took an unexpected and emotional turn for everyone when a 3-minute video message from Muzie was aired, after a poignant testimony by Home for Humanity’s Co-Founder Alexander Schieffer. Through that, Muzie expressed gratitude for the immense support he received from the Spirit of Humanity family, and from Home for Humanity, while also articulating with deep authenticity his shock and pain at being rejected. There was a charged atmosphere accompanied by silence. Then, participants started reacting to Muzie’s situation. One denounced the injustice that is latent in the entire development and immigration system between the global South and the North. A female participant pointed out that the elephant in the room – global inequity and unequal mobility – should not be ignored. Indeed, this entire situation highlighted further how our world is indeed in crisis and there is an urgent need for all Earth citizens to make intentional contributions to co-creating a regenerative future for all. As underlined by Rama Mani, the tireless support the SoH Director and Secretary Jóhanna Viljálmsdóttir and Lotta Arbmann had provided to Muzie throughout demonstrates that the new world of love and solidarity we are creating at this Forum is much stronger and more real than the old world of division and exclusion that is dying.
The Language of Peace: The Voice of the Future
The forum drew its curtains on the 3rd of June with its final activity – Language of Peace held at Fríkirkjan in Reykjavík, a remarkably secular and free church fostering interfaith and intercommunal harmony. Fourteen participants were selected to give a short speech or performance on Peace while reflecting on the transformative retreat. I was honored to be asked to speak alongside the former head of International Red Cross, two senior UN officials working for the World Food Program and the UN mission in Afghanistan, as well as other distinguished personalities. The event included a song performed by Jonathan Chadwick, co-host of Home for Humanity London, and a member of the SoH Forum organizsing team.
The most poignant highlight of the event was the message prepared by our absent yet present team-mate from Zimbabwe. Muziwanele demonstrated true leadership in transforming the traumatic experience of his visa rejection into renewed commitment to serve humanity. His creative video sharing his vision and commitment as a young authentic leader, prepared in less than 24hrs, was broadcasted during the final event, and is now available here
Muziwanele Thando Ngwenya
The Language of Peace event then culminated in a poignant performance by Rama Mani and a collective poetic conclusion by Alexander Schieffer who jointly summarized the outcomes and value of the SoH Forum and thanked Iceland for its hospitality, on behalf of all participants.
Home for Humanity was honored to be a collaborating partner of the SoH Forum, which contributed to deepening the relationship between these two movements. It especially underlined all the synergies between us, as we gear up for the One Home Journey 2023-2030: 7 years, 7 days for 7 generations – a collective expedition of humanity in unity, to all countries on Earth to co-create a regenerative and inclusive future for all life!
All in all, the 6th Spirit of Humanity Forum was an unforgettable experience. It was a reminder that, despite the many challenges we face, there is still hope for a better future. And it was a call to action, urging us all to lead with authenticity and love as we work to heal the world in crisis.
Written by Linda Leogah Forkwa, Humanity Fellow and Team member Home for Humanity,
Initiator of Integral Leewah Revolution – Home for Humanity Cameroon
with editorial inputs from Humanity Fellow Matilda Sangiorgio