Dr Imad Karam

Executive director of Initiatives of Change International, a global network of people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, whose mission is to inspire, equip and accompany changemakers in the pursuit of a just and peaceful world. 

It is an honour and a real pleasure to be invited to contribute to the 2019 SoH Forum and I have been wanting to do so since I could not attend the previous Forums. I’m looking forward to listening, connecting and learning from many like-minded individuals and organisations who are working towards building a common humanity.

The SoH Forum is very relevant especially when thinking of the seemingly increasing turmoil in the world today and when what divides people seems to be more important than what unites them. I remember the words of my friend Letlapa Mphahlele from South Africa and who features in the documentary film Beyond Forgiving when he said: “we should personally take the initiative to reach out to the people who are different from us. People who, loosely speaking, come from other groups. We should listen with empathy why people hold sacred things we view as ordinary, and treat as ordinary things we glorify.

‘Discovering Harmony in a World of Difference’ is particularly acute at this moment in our human history. More than ever, we need to find a pathway to healing broken relationships and finding harmony. We need to find a pathway to healing the wounds of the past be it recent or distant and to gain an understanding to the disruptive change of our current times, where extremisms of all kinds prevail in our society, where injustice and poverty still continue to impact millions of people around the world and where millions of people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East continue without much hope for their future.

The world today is possessed by greed and self-centeredness. We live in a time when old norms are shifting and new power structures and political trends are emerging. Globalization and massive movements of people across the world have triggered a swing towards populism, nationalism and extremism in many parts of the world. This is not just an age of change, but a change of age.

The SoH Forum could help us understand the disruptive changes of our current times and shed light on the struggle in cultivating peaceful relations: the struggle between love and hate, between dignity and humiliation, between humanizing and demonizing, between humility and arrogance, between responsibility and blame.