Human-land Security

FAITH IN ACTION By Katherine Marshall The Swiss village of Caux has become a watchword for reconciliation across the fiercest … Continued


By Katherine Marshall

The Swiss village of Caux has become a watchword for reconciliation across the fiercest kinds of bitterness and hatred. It was at Caux that French and German leaders warily came together after World War II and emerged with a sense that human beings, not monsters, were their neighbors. Today, Pakistanis and Indians, Israelis and Palestinians, Sudanese and warring groups from many parts of Africa and Asia come to the Mountain House in Caux, perched high above Lake Geneva, searching for a similar understanding.

Now the leaders of Initiatives of Change, successor organization to a movement born in the 1930s in Oxford, England, that came to be known as Moral Rearmament, are hoping for something bigger — a global coalition that will work for human security. Caux is their headquarters and I was part of a Human Security Forum aimed at translating that idea into action.

Prince Hasan bin Talal, for many years Crown Prince of Jordan, today roams the world speaking out in an inimitable style on hard truths (who else would refer to the “Futile Crescent” in the Middle East and assert that our failure to respond to climate change shows we are all “lobotomized”?). He was in high form as the Forum’s keynote speaker, calling on the gathering to build a movement founded on a global ethic that draws the best from all faith traditions.

Human security means different things to different people, but at its heart is an effort to breach some of the disciplinary walls that keep the “security” people separate from those concerned about other issues. As Cornelio Somaruga, former president of Initiatives of Change, said the dual goals of freedom from want and freedom from fear are the essence of human security. They are intricately linked: poverty, conflict and terrorism feed one another. Add to that what Rajmohan Gandhi called the peril to our “overcrowded, abused, and kicked-around planet” and you have four imperatives: fighting poverty, reconciliation and conflict prevention, addressing climate change, and just governance.

Depending on where you sit, the threats to human security look rather different. Several Africans argued that hunger takes precedence over climate change, and peace seemed to many far more urgent than democracy. Two stars of the event were Ruthie Gopin and Felix Finkbeiner, all of 13 and 12 years old respectively. For them, climate change is the central challenge because of its potentially devastating impact for their generation. Their messages were crystal clear: the facts about urgent dangers ahead can’t be denied, and individuals have both the power and obligation to act. Ruthie has started an organization (Carbon Free Kids), focused on personal responsibility for reducing carbon footprints. Felix, inspired by Wangari Matthai, has launched Trees for Climate Justice and urges all citizens, young and old, powerful and less so, to “stop talking and start acting”.

Caux is a community that prides itself on its history, its ethic, and its spirit of personal and collective responsibility. It would be a stretch to suggest the Human Security Forum launched a global movement but there’s no doubt that the different threads that it weaves together and its willingness to look facts in the face took us a few steps along that road.

Katherine Marshall is a senior fellow at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, a Visiting Professor, and a senior advisor for the World Bank.

By Katherine Marshall | 
July 27, 2009; 12:13 AM ET

 | Category: 

Faith in Action

Save & Share: 










Previous: Cleric’s Defiance a Breach of Faith? |

Next: Secular Americans: Take Heed!

Main Index –>

The comments to this entry are closed.

Comments are closed.

Read More Articles

Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

What Is a Saint?

How the diversity of saintly lives reveals multiple paths toward God.

An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.