Breathing Alpine Hope Into The Middle East
Nestled between the Alps and Leman Lake is an old castle turned conference center in the village of Caux in Southwest Switzerland. It turns into a warm welcoming home to many of us for a few days every summer.
Every year people converge on this site from around the world to discuss ways to understand each other better, communicate more effectively, and collaborate more efficiently towards building a better future for all.
The quiet, pristine surroundings are perfect for dialogue. The atmosphere of selfless service coupled with the absence of ranks, titles and dress code make understanding the other a lot better.
In this place, peace is embedded in nature, beauty is found in simplicity, and achievement is measured in how many life wounds you carry; not by your ancestry, school or employer. For a few summer days every year doors open doors and hearts in the hope not to be closed again.
Here in Caux, you are judged by your contribution to workshops in honesty and courage, on the topics of multiculturalism, intergenerational communication, forgiveness, tolerance and other subjects of equal value. Here, you are appreciated for serving coffee or water, chopping onions, cooking or washing dishes, before or after you deliver a keynote speech or lead a workshop on healing the past or showcase your multi-award winning film.
This is not a place for everyone, certainly not the faint-hearted.
Some Arabs might be offended at the approach or the lack of photo opportunities to share with the their friends and family. There is nothing to brag about here as the tallest, largest, fastest, richest, or most glittery. Influence is rather measured by who makes the biggest difference or highest sacrifice; respect goes to who gives up more of his wealth and time to help others; compassion is the soothing balm of the most underprivileged and medals awarded to the most modest. The focus at Caux is not on how we can get more but how to give more. Not how to kill more people but how to save more lives.
You’ll be glad to know that Arabs are well represented at the Learning to Live in a Multicultural World conference. Among Asians, Australians, Africans, Americans and Europeans, you find promising forward-thinkers and solution-oriented students and professionals from Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon. They are here to shed the prejudices they grew up with. They are already walking a walk foreign to their leaders and desired by many of their peers and countrymen and women.
Against this backdrop, as we witnessed the Swiss National Day, together we dared dream this week, that one day my country of origin Lebanon and other Arab nations will live such a simple but symbolic event: To mark national day an elderly all-men band drove around waking people up at dawn to traditional patriotic tunes. Later, everyone enjoyed a traditional Fondue; and at night, people gathered around bonfire, music and celebration in gratitude for peace, a home nation and independence!