Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.
– Marianne Williamson
Human suffering is a characteristic that unites us. The more we live, the more there are stories to hear and stories to tell. There have always been untold stories about people’s suffering and agony in our recorded history. In our pursuit of the truth, we are constantly reminded that fear and pain are always triggered by events and experiences; some of them hidden within our deepest self unconsciously or by our own design. In Caux, at the Learning to Live in a Multicultural World Conference, these triggers seem to surface easily thanks to participants’ willingness to open up and share their experiences comfortably in a safe and nurturing environment.
During one of the workshops a young Ukrainian woman shared with us a true story that helped us shed light on the mystery and gullibility of human nature. A man discovered as he was visiting a village near the Carpathian Mountains that people wash their windows every day. When he inquired what was behind this daily habit he found out that it dates back to the Nazi era. Back then, the story goes, a Nazi General had ordered that houses be shot at if their windows were found ‚not to be clean enough.‘ Apparently the habit remained and ever since that time, people washed their windows every day. It was fear that led to such an unexplainable behaviour; it is fear that may lead us into illogical behaviour and due to fear we miss out on a lot in this world.
What our Ukrainian colleague said encouraged an Eritrean participant to tell us her personal story that took place during what she described as ‘the Ethiopian occupation’ of Eritrea. She said people in Eritrea were scared of turning their houses lights on fearful of being attacked by the authorities. That practice made her and others connect safety to darkness. Light always gives us a sense of security, many people get scared when the light goes out. Yet, this woman had a different experience in life that created a different version of what light is. Even after she migrated to England, she continued to get scared whenever the light was on.
When simple light or a window turns into a source of fear and lack of safety, one has to really worry about life and humanity. One would think as we reflect on the stories we hear during this conference in Caux, could this outlet become a model for the world we are hoping for? A world where people are appreciated only for what they do, not for who they are or where they come from, regardless of how much money they have, or what kind of property they own.