I first went to Caux, the Initiatives of Change (IofC) conference centre in Switzerland, as a starry-eyed drama student in 1992. It changed my life, setting me on the road to faith and opening my eyes to a world in need in which, I discovered, I could play my part in making a difference. Thousands of people have been similarly affected over the last six decades and this summer Caux celebrated its 60th anniversary.
The theme of the summer's five conferences (which you can read all about in this issue) was 'Globalising Integrity - Personalising Integrity: suggestions and signposts for the 21st century'. The backdrop was the conflict raging between Israel and Lebanon. With the closure of Beirut airport some Lebanese delegates found themselves stranded at Caux and unable to return home, which must have been unimaginably painful.
Caux tirelessly promotes the idea that people can change, and that therein lies the hope that the world can change for the better. At times this theory can seem naÃ¯ve but perhaps it's all we have. As guest columnist Mari Fitzduff began her Caux Lecture:'I can't tell you how hopeful it is to be with you all, given the difficult weeks we are having in our world... I believe that these conflicts do not just happen, but happen because we make it so, and the
corollary means that I very much believe in the capacity of all of us to be able to change the future for the better.'
Returning from my summer holiday to the IofC centre where FAC is produced, I was greeted enthusiastically by one of the receptionists who had just been to Caux for the first time. London-born Semhar Belay, whose family comes from Eritrea, attended the African Dialogue. 'It changed my outlook on life and my expectations,' she said. 'Before I used to think, "Give a little, get a lot." Now I think, "Give a lot, get a lot."' Delighted with her new understanding of what IofC is trying to achieve in the world, she concluded, 'I felt richer after a week's volunteering at Caux than I do when I come out of a paid job'.