By
Jonathan López
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14 December, 2011

Christmas is a good time, although not the only time, to think positively. At a time when news bulletins deliver pessimistic stories, it is good to note that there are many people who work tirelessly all year round to achieve a better world.

Séverine Chavanne from France, who is studing journalism in London (Photo: John Leggat)
Séverine Chavanne from France, who is studing journalism in London (Photo: John Leggat)
They may find their job even more difficult than usual at a time of economic crisis, which highlights selfishness and fears and could turn any of us into worse human beings. However, there are reasons for hope, which is ultimately what keeps us going. On Saturday 10 December the Initiatives of Change centre in London once more hosted its annual Christmas event, entitled Reasons for hope.

There were exchanges of ideas on how to improve things, practical and small daily situations around us, as well as expositions of the campaigns of those who work closely to the ideals of Initiatives of Change.

From the people in charge of Creators of Peace—groups of women from different backgrounds working to create trust—to those who organise leadership courses for young people from the Horn of Africa, many are working anonymously to make this world a better place to live in. They do it voluntarily and passionately, making their work even nobler. They all received applause from an appreciative audience who heard their stories as reasons for hope. The forum paid tribute to them by bringing their stories and experiences together.

Exchange of ideas (Photo: John Leggat)
Exchange of ideas (Photo: John Leggat)
Willemijn Lambert, from Creators of Peace, told her experiences working towards a better understanding between women from very different backgrounds. We understand others only as and when we know them. And by knowing them we can build circles of confidence, of peace, even at the smallest level – our hallway, our floor, our building. She reflected—and in a written exercise asked the audience also to reflect—about the ‘circles of concern’ which affects us all, from oneself to family, neighbours and friends, to the wider world.

Andrea Cooper (Photo: John Leggat)
Andrea Cooper (Photo: John Leggat)
Patrick Colquhoun from Cambridge is the founder of a medical aid charity who has a passion to make the Romanian health system better, less corrupt and more efficient. He has visited Romania 68 times. His example is also a reason for hope, as improvements have taken place in the national health system due to new methods and implementations which Colquhoun has encouraged – such as a Patient Representative Service. This service has helped Romanians to report abuses and frauds, and by doing so health workers are taking more into account ethical practices. That way, the ‘medical terrorism’ of corrupt doctors and anaesthetists, as Patrick Colquhoun called it, is decreasing.

Banks may be crucial for society, but people wonder if they are really interested in society’s welfare as much as their own profits. It is sometimes mentioned how much more ethical the Victorian banks were than the current financial conglomerates. Michael Smith, one of the organisers of a series of conferences on Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy, reflected about the

John Bond introducing Alex Martins, who is the new Communications Director for the Caux Forum for Human Security. (Photo: John Leggat)
John Bond introducing Alex Martins, who is the new Communications Director for the Caux Forum for Human Security. (Photo: John Leggat)
lack of integrity among some banking executives. But he saw reasons for hope in signs of a sea change in the culture of the City of London. He quoted Ken Costa, investment banker who heads the Church of England’s enquiry into restoring ethics to the City: ‘The only viable solution lies within us: to reconnect the financial and the ethical.’ Smith emphasised the need for conscience-based decision-making in economic life.

The main emphasis of the day-long forum was to highlight the ideals of Initiatives of Change including trust building to create better relationships. Outstanding in this is the Training for Leadership and Change, organised by Lul Seyoum, founder of the International Centre for Eritrean Refugees and Asylum Seekers, and Ayan Osman from Women of the Horn. This programme aims to train young people from the Horn of Africa in different styles of leadership and the necessary qualities required for effective leadership, covering both transformational change and skills developments.

The afternoon concluded with carol singing, accompanied by pianist Kathleen Dodds, and the performance of a play, A star is born. An extraordinary group of actors, Intermission Theatre, portrayed the stable at Bethlehem, showing just a

(Photo: John Leggat)
(Photo: John Leggat)
part of the whole story. The performance grabbed the attention of the audience as soon as it started, with new ways of seeing the birth of Christ. Accompanied by the choir of Friends of Renewal Arts, the play suddenly transported us to the feeling you get when you are child: in Christmas everyone turns out to be lovely, friendly, good.

When many will have forgotten seasonal appeals and good intentions, those who shared their experiences and hopes at the forum will continue to work to make the world a place really worth living in. And that in itself gives reason for hope.

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