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1) " Roots and wings ", sources of personal commitment. An Experiment in International Sharing on Spirituality and Social Action

2) Quest for meaning

" Roots and wings ", sources of personal commitment. An Experiment in International Sharing on Spirituality and Social Action

Here follows the text sent out around the world to call upon interested people to participate. This project is now complete.

If you are somebody with a sense of social commitment, if you are active in a trade-union, a peace movement or a human rights organisation, if you struggle for more social justice and respect for the environment, if you are a " third world " activist, if you are engaged in an alternative economic venture or if you are trying to change mentalities and ways of life, if you are involved in palliative care or in AIDS prevention, if you act to develop a new type of citizenship to ensure more genuine democracy and regional development... this text may be of interest to you. It is an invitation to enter into dialogue with like-minded people about the source of your inspiration, that is, about your spirituality.

We are an NGDO called South-North Network Cultures and Development, in short Network Cultures. Network Cultures enjoys many contacts both in the Southern and the Northern hemisphere among social movements and NGOs. We wish to share the wealth of our contacts with others so as to go deeper into the question: " What lies at the origin of my commitment? What is the source of inspiration which lends vitality to my struggle? What is my spirituality? What are my values, my ethics? "

Let's imagine, for example, indigenous people from Central America who stand up for their dignity, Buddhist environmental activists, Christian human right workers, Muslims engaged in economic alternatives, Hindous standing up against fundamentalism, Latin American humanists seeking renewed forms of democracy, Congolese" Animists " engaged in cultural renewal... Already engaged Buddhist friends from Thailand and a network of Christians, Muslims and traditional " Animists " from Senegal have decided to participate in our sharing experiment. These people would meet European activists engaged in similar or related matters. Together, they would explore what is the driving force behind their action.

A renewed search about the real meaning of our action and of our very lives is the objective of this project.

We, the organizing NGO, have no preconceived message, except this: we believe it is important to speak about this ! The issue of spirituality, the deeper meaning of our action, is important. We think that, without awareness about this, our action may peter out or be somehow perverted by our greed for power, prestige, money... Social actors feel themselves sometimes drawn into hectic activism, particularly in the industrialized world. A relaxed encounter with other militants, who can make explicit the way they root themselves into one or the other spirituality can be helpful to gain a new impetus. When Martin L. King said " We have a dream ! ", there was, of course, a dream, a reflection on racial issues and non-violence. But behind that dream, there was an inner fire, an energy. This " energy " is the object of our exchange project.

Practically speaking, we plan to bring together people from the South (Africa, Asia, Latin America) and people from the North (European Union) to share, firstly, their experiences and secondly, their reflections.

This sharing will be in 3 stages:

Stage 1: Each one would write a typed note (also on disquette if possible) of 4 to 5 pages (maximum) as a response to the following requests:

1. Describe one of the most important experiences of your life (tell us your story);

2. Please tell us what meaning you give to that experience in relation to the direction and purpose of your life today (what do you do with your story and why?).

This note should be in by July 15 1998. We take it upon ourselves, as the organizing NGO, to circulate each paper (max. 4 to 5 pages) to each participant.

Stage 2: Then we will ask each participant to answer some of the questions raised by other participants. Whereas the first stage will focus on personal experiences, this second stage will develop our common reflection on the relevance of our experience to society at large. We will also examine whether ongoing cultural changes in the world are affecting social action, politics and economics. What do we see emerging around us.?

Stage 3: We will invite everyone to attend a joint meeting of 3 to 4 days to share experiences and thoughts about all these points.

We are convinced that such an exchange about the essence of sustainable social engagement can be very enriching to everyone. We have 10 years of experience in the organization of international meetings, either analytical workshops (e.g. on local cultures and alternative economics) or workshops relating to a more existential issue (e.g. on men-women relations in different cultures).

We will have to select thirty candidates looking for a fair balance in terms of country of origin, religious/philosophical background, gender, age, language.

2) Quest for meaning

In our understanding, one of the key functions of culture is to provide deep meaning. It has to do with spirituality (also non religious spirituality) in a world too unjust, too violent and too destructive of the environment to be considered "meaningful". Citizens ought to resist this senselessness, we believe. Our quest for peoples' culture as a dynamic which provides meaning is our own specific approach. This questions will remain very central in our network's concern and in its action programmes.

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