Since the beginning of the 1990’s Mark’s passion has been bringing listening skills and empathy into youth education. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Swiss Foundation Education 4 Peace (E4P). Mark also served as President of the International Federation of Telephone Emergency Services (IFOTES) from 2001 to 2010.
This year’s theme, “Discovering harmony in a world of difference – spiritual resilience in practice” is very special to me. Some differences are easy to welcome and can be easily appreciated. The question for me is how to move into harmony with others when the differences are very challenging and may be in conflict with our own values?
Through my time as a volunteer listener in a suicide prevention hotline as well as in my current work, I’ve observed and learned that when faced with challenging differences three steps can lead me to a powerful and often unexpected shift in perspective.
First, by being present to the other person I can begin to feel some curiosity toward the other. Listening to the other person from a place of curiosity, acceptance of differences can follow. After I experience this genuine curiosity and acceptance, beyond right and wrong, my heart opens allowing for compassion and harmony.
Today millions of children around the world are learning about listening, empathy and emotional resilience, allowing for a genuine curiosity about the difference of others. I believe this is one of our biggest opportunities for a more peaceful world. In the future, these children will be in leadership positions hopefully serving with the wisdom of discernment between personal and collective interest. And of course, some of today’s youth are already in positions of leadership sharing their wisdom and passion with global communities. Knowing this gives me much hope for a peaceful and harmonious future world.