The Spirit of Humanity (SoH) Forum initiative was established in 2010 by respected individuals and five founding partner organisations: Brahma Kumaris, Iceland; City of Reykjavik, Iceland; Education 4 Peace Foundation, Switzerland; Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace, UK/France. It has so far organised two successful events in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2012 and 2014. The Fetzer Institute, USA and Pure Land Foundation, UK have since become partners. Reykjavik was chosen as the venue of the Forum as it is aiming to become a global capital for peace.
The 1st Forum (SoH 2012) entitled “Resetting the Compass – Creating a Landscape of Possibilities” brought together 120 leaders from various fields who explored the potential of higher values and spirituality in empowering effective decision- making at all levels. The Höfđi House was chosen for the opening reception for its symbolic value as the site where the historical summit with Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev set in train the events that brought an end to the Cold War.
The 2nd Forum (SoH 2014) under the theme of “The Power of Love and Compassion in Governance – Sharing Actions for Effective Change” explored the potential of core values in bringing about lasting change through governance and leadership. The aim was to reconceptualise systemic change through the lenses of values-based practices. It brought together 230 participants, including Heads of international organisations, scientists, business leaders, artists and spiritual teachers, who presented concrete examples of values- driven work in society.
Participants of both SoH Forums generally agreed that they felt inspired, nurtured and supported in pursuing values-based work in their private and public lives and that they appreciated the connections with other individuals and organisations throughout the Forum.
Why Love Matters: Values in Governance
Following the 2nd Forum, an edited volume featuring the contributions from global leaders and change-makers on the theme of the values- based governance was published by Peter Lang Publishing. The book entitled ‘Why Love Matters: Values in Governance’ is available both on the Publisher’s website and through Amazon.
Currently, a co-authored book, which captures the insights emerging from the SoH Forum’s dialogue series on peace and peacefulness is being developed. This dialogue series has been co-hosted and co-sponsored by the Guerrand- Hermès Foundation for Peace and the Fetzer Institute.
What is the meaning of Spirit of Humanity?
We are all aware that human beings can behave nobly and with a generous heart, sacrificing narrow self-interest. We honour the compassion shown by those like Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King and, more recently, Aung San Suu Kyi in their courageous pursuit of a more just society. At a more mundane level, we appreciate, though often unconsciously, the acts of kindness that oil the wheels of our everyday lives.
And yet…we are clearly capable of behaving with selfishness, narrow-mindedness and cruelty, and experiencing much sorrow. We often become indifferent to the suffering of others, in pursuit of our worldly goals. We glorify greed, seeing it as an engine of economic growth. Most of us regularly experience shortcomings in our ability to live with qualities such as patience, tolerance, compassion and forgiveness.
What then is the true spirit of humanity?
The Spirit of Humanity Forum brings together leaders and practitioners who hold the view that the positive energy of love is the deepest, most enduring and most valuable characteristic of human nature. The aim of the Forum is to identify and share ways of improving access to this inner strength of being. It showcases practical examples of how love, compassion and a care for others can transform and truly re-humanise an organisation.
The seed idea for the Forum came from Ambassador Ragnar Ängeby, a former Swedish diplomat who now works globally on conflict prevention, leadership, governance and managing change. He had observed that, around the world, lasting solutions to the most bitter conflicts could emerge when adversaries reconnected with their own inner peace and compassion – with the humanity felt in the ‘here and now’ when anger and pain about the past, and fears for the future, became even temporarily suspended.
Many working in the field of conflict prevention understood this inner power as a vital component of successful outcomes. Yet it was not easy to explain to politicians or public, Ängeby said. He saw a need to bring together those interested in this dimension of peace-building, for mutual support as well as to find ways of helping others understand its enormous potential value
European representatives of the Brahma Kumaris, a spiritual training organisation with a global network of centres teaching reflective practices, took up the idea and it became clear that a Forum aimed at energising our higher human values could be of benefit in many other areas of life including education, health, governance, business and finance. Several organisations became centrally involved, including Education 4 Peace Foundation (Rolle, Switzerland), the Foundation for a Culture of Peace (Madrid), the World Servers Foundation (Sopron, Hungary, and Geneva) and the Guerrand–Hermès Foundation for Peace (Brighton, UK).
The Mayor and City Council of Reykjavik, Iceland, where the financial crash of 2008 had led people and politicians to a reassessment of their own values, decided to support the project by hosting the first Forum. It took place in September 2012.
By Neville Hodgkinson