News from Brussels – Questions for You and the E.U. that can change the future!

News from Brussels – Questions for You and the E.U. that can change the future!

Do You believe certain questions can lead to a better future?Dr Clint Rogers presenting at E.U./ACP Stakeholder meeting in Brussels
After presenting at the ACP House in Brussels, heart of the European Union, to delegates from around the world yesterday, in this video I asked some questions to that I hope have that effect. See what you think…

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What are your thoughts?

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What is it about You as a human that makes You close, and what makes You open?

What is it about human nature that often makes it difficult for us to enter a place of uncertainty or at least openness to listen & learn without needing to so quickly prove & convince? What do You think it is that might allow You to open vs close?

I went to a protestant Christian church today where they had invited a man from Pakistan to speak about Islam.

He did a great job of emphasizing how Islam stands for peace, how Judaism, Christianity and Islam are historically three branches of the same tree, and a beautiful job of resolving some potential misunderstandings while establishing common ground. He spoke of the love he felt from Christians that he could take back and speak about.

Almost immediately after, there was a man who got up to establish clearly the differences between the faiths, and to reinforce his own belief in Christianity as what he saw as a clearly superior choice.

Try to reserve judgment and just observe human nature with me. Both had courage to speak in the ways they did.

Still, whatever the context, it seems as if humans need to have some sense of Significance and Certainty. When put in a religious context, and the feeling is that salvation is at stake, perhaps emotions run a little more raw – but it still seems to be need for significance and certainty that drives a lot of the behavior.

What is it about human nature that often makes it difficult for us to enter a place of uncertainty or at least openness to listen & learn without needing to so quickly prove & convince?

Birthday Greetings – Creating a New Reality

Thank you all my friends, family, and colleagues who have wished me a happy birthday, or simply been a happy part of my life!
I’m feeling blessed to know you.

On the airplane to Orlando today I created this short 1 minute video clip for you:

If things like countries are inventions of the human mind, what other kinds of things could we as humans envision and create together?
What reality can we imagine which could lead to a healthier more sustainable world?

What kind of a reality would you like to believe that we could imagine? (funny or real) 🙂

Or even better, as we are still enough to listen deeply, what kind of different reality and dreams do we allow to come through us?

(As my friend Dr. Naram beautifully pointed out to me, when the water is still, we can see our reflection in it — and as we are still, we get a better sense for who we really are and what we are here to do, as well as being given the power to do it. Not for our own ego, but out of a place of love and gratitude.)

ICT4CC – AXIS LIVE Course has begun!

Nearly 100 top students and professionals from over 30 countries have joined together to innovate new ways for us to better utilize (or even create) emerging technologies that can bridge some of the cultural/philosophical differences in the world.

The course, called either ICT4CC (University of Stockholm) or ICT4ID (University of Eastern Finland), is going to be blast! Such a great energy on the first day and first week.

Watch the short 2 minute intro video — http://www.axislive.org/2010/02/ict4cc-axis-live-course-has-began/

Also, please let me know if you might be able to help with certain aspects of the course during the next couple months.

From Tanzania: International and interdisciplinary creativity at work

From Tanzania: International and interdisciplinary creativity at work

TanzaniaJust finishing up a 10-day workshop in Tanzania as part of the ICT4D Consortium of African and European Universities. We had people from 8 different institutions and 11 different countries – a very international and interdisciplinary group.

It has been fun to see practical concrete examples of when people from very different perspectives and backgrounds can come up with better ideas and creative solutions together than any one could on their own.

In the work we are doing, I had an African cheif from a tribe in Ghana offer to make me a “soft” chief (a lower level chief) and have one of his wives (a woman promised to him) …particularly if I can gain a little weight and have a little money.

More pictures and stories to follow…

Nobel Peace Prize winner F.W. de Klerk on global inter-connectedness, the root causes of conflict, and the role of U.S. leadership: What can one person do?

Nobel Peace Prize winner F.W. de Klerk on global inter-connectedness, the root causes of conflict, and the role of U.S. leadership: What can one person do?

What can one person do to make the world a better, safer place?Clint Rogers and Nelson Mandela

In a previous blog entry I talked about meeting Nelson Mandela, who is such an inspirational character. On Tuesday of this week I met and shook hands with his predecessor as president of South Africa, Frederik Willem de Klerk.
It is strange that I never really thought much about F.W. de Klerk before – but he is a man who has shown incredible humility, FE deKlerk handshakestrength, and courage in his role of surrendering power to negotiation while doing away with apartheid as well as what he has been doing since then.

He offered a great speech to a group of students and faculty at BYU about how interconnected we all are in the world now, the role of leadership the U.S. plays in that (whether they like it or not), and the responsibility we all have to eliminate as much as possible the root causes of conflict (poverty, ignorance, repression, and fanaticism).

It is hard to select which parts of my notes to share, but on my plane ride to Toronto I typed up a summary of some of the main points he made.
At the end I ask the question that this entry began with.

Global inter-connectedness
Globalization shrinks the world.
We have a more interconnected financial system
In a shrinking world, problems of one region will be problems of another region.
(e.g. AIDS, or how sub-prime loan crises in the US influences the economy all over the world)

Nothing would appear more secure and American than Utah. Yet you all will be affected by the global stage (China, India, Middle East, Iraq, Financial Crises, Global Warming, etc.)

Conflicts can reverberate all over the world.
Who would have thought a few years ago that fanatics in the caves of Afghanistan could pose a threat to the financial nerve center of the most powerful nation on earth?

Root causes of conflict
The root cause of conflict is: poverty, repression, ignorance, and fanaticism.

While we are here, children are starving, ravished – living in unacceptable conditions – so much pain.
2 billion people still live beneath the poverty line, and this unacceptable. Here is the gap which needs to be breached.
The per capita of the wealthiest countries is 84 times the per capita of the poorest countries.

There is laid the foundation of a supranational power, a global interconnectivity – and we can no longer ignore problems elsewhere.
It is less and less possible to ignore how much of the world lives in poverty, ignorance, and oppression.

You need to develop the policy, skill, and will to tackle the root causes of conflict.
There is a symbiosis between freedom, economic development, democracy (rule of law), and a vibrant civil society.

One of the main sources of conflict is the inability of different ethnic/cultural/religious groups to peacefully co-exist.
Only a few of the worlds most significant conflicts have been between countries – the rest are conflicts within countries (e.g. Middle East).

Israel and Palestine must find a way to peacefully live together!

In South Africa [during apartheid] we experienced isolation, restrictions, sanctions and we felt the pressure of it. FW deKlerkAs a result, we pulled back to reconsider what we were doing and learned there was another way.
We learned we could not dictate in negotiation, but negotiation needed to be inclusive. All sides had to take enormous risks, and make painful compromises.
In negotiation, we must always be trying to see things from the other side as you move forward.
If we could do it (in South Africa), they can do it too.

Role of U.S. leadership
How will the US play the global leadership role in a world full of threats and full of opportunities?

If we are living in a global village, the U.S. is the mayor and chief of police.
Not acting as an elected leader, but as the unchallenged economic, military dominance and preeminence.

Success makes you a target for disaffected groups.
The role of preeminence is always unpopularity. Even your allies are jealous of you. To quote Bart Simpson, “You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t.”

How should the US lead? Teddy Roosevelt said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
It might be true that Iraq, the Middle East, and the world is a better place without Hussein. But what is the lasting solution?
Military force has a role, but it can not provide a lasting solution.

The US must have an iron will and force, but not in a way that is inconsistent with democratic principles.
In the global leadership role, constantly consider speaking with a “soft voice”
This is not the same as weakness. It involves a multi-lateral approach to international crises. You do not forgo using a big stick, but you have to get more consensuses if ultimately it is to be used.

In the U.S. don’t lose faith, but don’t be overly concerned with what others have accused you of doing wrong. FW deKlerk BYU Speech

Focus instead on what you have done great and right, redouble those efforts. You are the most democratic country the world has ever seen.
You, the people of the U.S., are free – and engaging in the 4 year celebration of that freedom – the election of your next president.
You have no idea how much influence your current election is having on the world. So many are watching it with interest, that some feel they should also have a vote.

One of the wonders of freedom in the U.S. is how few restrictions there are for entrepreneurs – there are so little restrictions on them, so they can follow their dreams.
You have fostered a healthy spirit of competition which has inspired excellence in scientific discovery, technological development, etc.
You can also appreciate fostering healthy competition between countries.

The greatness of America is not in its army, but the greatness of America lies in its ideals: freedom of religion, democracy with the rule of law, the faith of the majority of its people, etc.

If the US is true to their ideals, there is no doubt you will succeed in your mission: you must take the leadership in poverty elimination, promoting democracy, in finding peaceful solutions to the conflicts that face the world
The US will have to play a disproportionate role in facing these challenges.

But it is only in speaking with a “soft voice”, multi-lateral approaches, and international collaboration that lasting solutions to the world’s problems can be found.

Whether you are in the 1st or 3rd world, we are all part of the fragile interconnected globalized society.
Regardless of how rich a country is, security can only be handled when the international community works together in concert with each other.
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In the Question and Answer session after his speech, one person asked a question that I’m sure a lot of people were asking themselves. It is the same question that a friend asked me in an email a few minutes later.

In light of how interconnected we are, and how we can less and less ignore the poverty, ignorance, and oppression that exists in the world –
What can one person do to make the world a better, safer place?

I think this is a common question that a lot of people ask, and this is my question for you – what ideas do you have? With problems so complex and overwhelming, can one person really make a difference?

(After some responses, I’ll share what Mr. deKlerk’s suggestions were, as well as some of my own thoughts)

Technology for Innovation and Education in Developing Countries (TEDC 2008)

Technology for Innovation and Education in Developing Countries (TEDC 2008)

At first it was way more work than TEDC attendees at Gandhi monument by the source of the NileI expected to organize a conference and workshop like TEDC – but in the end, it was a lot of fun to see it all come together and to have so much participation from local Ugandans and from the people from all around the world who attended.

Soon we will have uploaded the audio and hopefully at least some video from the keynote addresses and Appfrica session.
Tim Unwin keynote TEDC Megha Agrawal keynote Appfrica TEDC Warner Woodworth keynote TEDC Jon Gosier Appfrica

Here is a video slideshow I created which captures some of our experience from the 3 day conference.

(If it doesn’t play, you can go directly to this link: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7294789452996405975&hl=en)

Also, in the comment section to this blog entry Herment Mrema wanted to start a discussion regarding the way forward with what we gained from this conference. Whether you attended or not, feel free to add your thoughts…

If you attended:
What were the highlights of this year’s conference for you?
What was your main “take-aways”?
What would you like to see happen differently for next year?
Between now and then, how do you think we could be involved in supporting and learning from each other?

If you didn’t attend:
Why not, and how can we get you there next year?
In the time between now and then, would you like to be involved in this effort at all? If so, how?

Is the Dalai Lama lying? Conflict, hypocrisy, and miscommunication – the Dorje Shugden

Is the Dalai Lama lying? Conflict, hypocrisy, and miscommunication – the Dorje Shugden

Shouts with a call: “Stop lying”

Response (by the crowd): “Dalai Lama”

What are some human tendencies in responding to conflict?

While walking this morning along the streets of Oxford (to a conference I am presenting at this weekend), I saw a group of people gathering and asked what was happening. They said the Dalai Lama was coming. Is the Dalai Lama lying?So, like any tourist, I wanted to see him and get a picture if possible. I came back in an hour when there was a much larger crowd and heard people shouting something in a chant.

I will soon post here some pictures from the event. I didn’t end up getting a picture of the Dalai Lama, but I did get a lot of conversations that were perhaps even more valuable.

I assumed the shouting were either from Tibetans protesting China or Chinese protesting the Dalai Lama. Then I looked over the crowd and started to realize it was separated into three parts. Only a part of the crowd was holding Tibetan flags on one side, there was a small gathering around a Chinese flag in the center, and then a large group on the other side – many of which were dressed in long Buddhist robes – holding signs that said the Dalai Lama was lying. This is where the shouting was coming from. Buddhists protesting the Dalai Lama?

So I went back and forth between the different groups in the crowd in order to get a better understanding of what was happening. I have captured the conversations that came from it, and I think you will it interesting how people reason and make sense of the situation.

The situation itself is interesting, but the conversations around the protest is what I am more interested in discussing and hearing your thoughts about. They surprised me in some ways, and helped me understand a little more how people deal with conflict: always questioning the motivations of others (especially repelled by any sign of hypocrisy), making quick judgments based upon assuming negative motivations, asking so few questions (and usually only the kinds of questions which help them justify their previous opinions), and then giving labels for the people they feel are opposed to them.

 

Conversation #1 (To a person with a Tibetan flag)

Who are the protesters, and what is their concern?

“They are all just a bunch of communists.”

Conversation #2 (Walking over to a protester who hands me a pamphlet)

What are you protesting? What do you think the Dalai Lama is lying about?

“He is lying because he says he is hypocritical saying he supports human rights, but he suppresses them amongst his own people. He has outlawed people from being able to practice something called Dorje Shugden (a prayer to a certain Buddhist deity) – said there was an evil spirit in it – and if people do practice it then they have had their houses burned down, and some people have even been killed.”

Why do you think he outlawed the practice?

“For political reasons. He wants to unite Buddhists, and while politically that might make sense, spiritually it is very destructive.”

Oh, someone told me that you were communist protesters

“Yeah – they don’t really know what they are talking about.”

Conversation #3 (Walking back to someone with a Tibetan flag draped around them)

What do you think they are protesting about?

“Oh, they are angry that about the practice of a certain kind of prayer that the Dalai Lama has spoken against. It is a complicated split in Tibetan Buddhism. But they don’t even know what they are talking about. Go over there and ask them, and most of them are just westerners and don’t even know why they are protesting. They don’t even know what they are talking about. You don’t see any Tibetans over there, do you?

The Dalai Lama just said that he wasn’t going to practice the Dorje Shugden anymore, but he does allow religious freedom to people, but just asked if they follow him not to practice the Dorje Shugden as well. He doesn’t say that they can not practice it, just that he finds an evil spirit about it.

You don’t see any Tibetans over there, or hardly any. They don’t even have any intelligent chants. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were paid to come together. You know that happens. Paid mob.”

[And she handed me a statement from the Tibetan government describing their view on what had happened.]

Conversation #4 (Walking again over to a different protester)

What do you think the Dalai Lama is lying about?

“He has suppressed the practice of Dorje Shugden – even though his spiritual leaders practiced it. In Buddhism, you are supposed to follow your spiritual leaders. Now, people in the Tibetan communities of India (where they are living in exile) are forced to carry cards that indicate that they do not practice the Dorje Shugden. If they do not have the card, they get persecuted – and even their lives are in danger. There are even stores that say above the entrance that if you believe in Dorje Shugden then you can not shop there.”

Why did he think the Dorje Shugden was an evil practice?

“Oh, it was just some dream he says he had. Stupid. Really he is both a spiritual and political leader, and so he makes certain decisions for political reasons that are devastating spiritually. Westerners understand that you can not do this, that it is unhealthy and wrong, and so we are speaking up to try and get his attention. We do not hate him, we love him, we have peace in us, and we cheer at the end of each chant to show it is a peaceful rally. But we just want him to listen and he is not even open to dialogue. It is not democratic at all, but more like medieval ages in the west when the rulers made spiritual decisions for political reasons and then forced them on people. That is the problem when someone is both the spiritual and political leader. In the west we know that is wrong, but that is where they are stuck. It is not a democracy at all, he won’t even discuss it with people. Western media is just so nice to the Dalai Lama, not recognizing the hypocrisy – but we are trying to change that with demonstrations like this.”

Why do you think there are not more Buddhists protesting?

“There is a couple, but they are putting their life at risk by being here. The Dalai Lama has a group that will find him out and punish him if they can. All the ones over there feel they need to be submissive to him no matter what, they think that he can’t be wrong because he is their spiritual leader, and the Buddha. [He did a mock bowing motion]. Crazy. In the west we know that is not right.”

Conversation #5 (To the Tibetian on the protester side)

Why are you protesting?

“I went into the monastery when I was 12. I was there for 40 years, but because I did not want to agree and so I was cleared out. After 40 years! That was my home. If I had a family in India, and they did not have the passes, then the children would be cleared out of their schools, they would be cleared out of their community.”

Why do you think that the Dalai Lama felt this Dorje Shugden was evil?

“There are four branches of Buddhism in Tibet, and he is only the spiritual leader for only one of them. He wants to weaken the strongest branch, if he can, so that he can be a stronger leader by making all the branches more equal. The main thing is that in the west is freedom of speech – and he does not allow that.”

Why do you think more Tibetans don’t stand up to this?

“They just don’t understand.”

Conversation #6 (Then talking to a couple of Chinese representatives who gave me a pamphlet about how beautiful Tibet is)

Why are you here?

“We just want China to be one – to be united.”

Why do you think Tibet want to be free from China?

“I really don’t know.”

What percent of people in Tibet want to be free of China?

“I don’t think there are many left in Tibet that want to be free anymore. It is just a small percent. But they are doing violent things, surrounding the Olympics, and that is not good.”

What do you think the Dalai Lama wants?

“I think they were just in power before China took over, and so they just want the power again.”

They say that you might be getting paid to be here. Is that true?

“No! We are just here. That is not the reason we are here! Just look at the flag – we don’t even have enough money to buy a good flag.”

What do you think about the recent talks between Chinese government and the Dalai Lama?

“We support them. It is a good thing, and we hope it continues. The Dalai Lama just keeps speaking the same things – and there is no progress. We want to see things improve.”

Conversation #7 (Walking once again to the Tibetan side and talking to a caucasian woman holding a Tibetan flag)

Why do you think the people over there are protesting?

“I can’t imagine!”

Why do they say that the Dalai Lama is lying?

“They’re just horrible people! They are shouting horrible things! I’m Roman Catholic, but I know the Dalai Lama stands for peace! I don’t know why they would do such a horrible thing!”

Why does Tibet want to be free from China?

“I would want to be free from them! They’re barbarians – they murder their own students. They are just horrible barbarians.”

Conversation #8 (To a Tibetan man holding a Tibetan flag)

Why does Tibet want to be free from China?

“The Chinese do not allow any religious freedom. They make it so that we can not pray and practice as we would like to.”

Why do you think the people are protesting?

“They are upset about some direction that the Dalai Lama gave on changing something. But it was even his own practice, and he recognized that he needed to change too.”

And then I had to get back to the conference…

I’m sure there a lot of nuances in the actual conflict which I am not aware of. But I don’t want to discuss the conflict itself – I am more interested in discussing the approach to the conflict that was taken by people on different sides of the argument.

First let me say that I am aware that people frequently can have less-than-the-best of intentions – and so it makes sense that as humans we are always questioning the motives of others.

My questions for you:

  • At the same time, doesn’t this tendency to quickly label the intent and intelligence of others frequently lead to unnecessary labels/judgments and miscommunication?
  • Do you agree/disagree – or see anything else in these conversations?
  • Any suggestions for how to get around skepticism, quick labeling, and the resulting miscommunication?


Tools and Techniques for Online Cross-Cultural Knowledge Communication

Tools and Techniques for Online Cross-Cultural Knowledge Communication

DenmarkJust returning from Denmark (land of some of my ancestors), where I presented a paper at the Aarhus School of Business – “Knowledge 360” conference.

Perhaps the best thing about presenting my paper “Tools and Techniques for Online Cross-Cultural Knowledge Communication” – was that people in the audience knew about research and resources regarding Aarhus School of Businesscross-cultural innovation that I was not yet aware of. And it is always good to make connections with people who are doing interesting things which promise some potential of future collaboration.

One of the strangest things is that one of the most prolific faculty at the business school there, Connie Kampf, used to be the friendly girl serving me and my friends Orange Julius when we were teenagers at the Eden Prairie Center shopping mall in Minnesota years and years ago! (It is easy to remember because it was located near the arcade where we could get free tokens for getting good grades on our school report cards.)

In the last couple years, since we have both receivedAarhus our doctorates, I randomly met her in Malta, again in Estonia, now in Denmark and will see her later next month in the south of France!

Just goes to show what a crazy, small world this is – and that you never really know the potential or future of any ordinary person you meet on the street!

*So don’t give up on me just yet, I might one day do something worthwhile. 🙂 (No promises – but I’m just saying it is a possibility.)

The Ideal Mindset for Intercultural and Interfaith Communication and Collaboration

The Ideal Mindset for Intercultural and Interfaith Communication and Collaboration

Through a recent dialogue I have been having online (with someone who is trying to convert me to their world view) – I have more clearly got an idea for what I think is a more helpful mindset and approach to intercultural or interfaith communication. It is a sensitive issue, and I am sure I have made tons of mistakes already in my attempts to build trust and collaboration among different people – so I am very curious what your thoughts are too.

The ideal in my mind is if people go into a situation/conversation/collaboration with the idea that the two or more people (with different perspectives and from different backgrounds) can come up with a better solution than either could on their own. So, in practical terms, that Africans and Europeans, Chinese and Americans, Mormons and Catholics, Muslims and Hindus, Men and Women, etc., etc., etc. (or any number of combinations) working together could come up with a better overall solution than either could on their own.

I now realize that some things help foster the effective collaboration of people with different perspectives, while other things make it very difficult. I’m curious what you think too.

Here is just one thought –

What to do: If the situation is set to invite each person to go into the conversation looking for what the strengths of the other persons perspectives are, and searching for how the best in what the other person believes/perceives can be utilized to the overall benefit of the relationship – that seems to help inspire trust and make for healthy productive collaborations – where a lot of open and interesting learning and innovation can occur.

What not to do: If, on the other hand, either party begins the conversation by feeling it their duty to try and prove something (either the superiority of their own perspective or the faults in the other persons perspective) – assuming the world would just be better if everyone saw things the same way that they did – I think this pushes the conversation into a situation that is less than helpful. I think it is very helpful and healthy to talk about differences and alternative perspectives (especially after a core of trust and respect has been established) – but this ethnocentric/condescending approach (consciously or unconsciously assuming the world would be better if everyone saw things the same way as you) seems to:

  1. – push the conversation into defensive mode, where each party begins to look for the flaws and holes in the others approach/perspective,
  2. – closes off the participants to a greater richness of life that comes from seeking to learn, love, and listen, with no strings attached.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree/disagree?

What do you think helps for the most productive interfaith/intercultural communication and collaboration?

Differences in Perception, Logic, Reasoning

A war with Iran? Islamic perspectives and efforts toward peace

A war with Iran? Islamic perspectives and efforts toward peace

Shirin EbadiToday I heard Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi speak about the laws and policies in the US, in her own country (Iran), and around the world – and the ways in which they contribute to peace and human rights or promote war. The stark differences in views toward women and children contribute to very different policies.

I had never heard the Iranian perspective on these issues before, and so I found it fascinating to hear her thoughts and how she wished that things would change. I wasn’t aware before of the many men and women in Iran who are trying to establish more equality, democracy, and peace. She said that they realize that improving the situation in Iran is needed, but that it is the responsibility of Iranians alone and has nothing to do with foreign military troops. She said even a threat of a military attack would significantly worsen the efforts for human rights in Iran. [To applause from the audience.]

“We are fully aware that democracy and human rights can only flourish in a sound and peaceful environment.”

“There is no doubt that Saddam Husein was obviously a dictator. But I have a question for you. Was he the only dictator in the world? Unfortunately the world is full of those people. Perhaps the only difference between Saddam and the other dictators is that he sat on a lot of oil.

So the Iranian people understand that the problems in the government will not be solved by foreign military force. Long live the friendship between the people of Iran and the United States!” [Applause]

She talked about the different interpretations of Islam, and her belief that using Islam as a pretext to enforce will upon the people is wrong. She said against the government there is a weight of Islamic intellectuals who believe that they can come up with an interpretation of Islam that promotes peace. She said Islam is open to very different interpretations, and gave as an example the varying status of women across the Islamic world (Saudi Arabia where women can’t even drive vs. Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan where they have had women presidents). She said people in the Middle East are demanding an interpretation of Islam that demonstrates it is compatible with human rights and democracy.

What do Mormons believe?

What do Mormons believe?

Someone asked me recently “what do Mormons believe?” My previous blog entry, About Being a Mormon Christian: Facts about Mormons, briefly summarize some of the basic beliefs Mormon’s have (e.g. Facts, Faith, Family, Fruits). Click here to read that entry.

For this entry I wanted to briefly summarize a few things I have learned recently about the consequences of these beliefs – how the beliefs of Mormons translate into different actions.

I have always known that, for the most part, Mormon beliefs seem to produce pretty happy, normal people… VeNiciaJonny FudgeOur Trip to ChinaJeremy, Joey, ClintDad

Last weekend, however, I thought about things in a new way as I attended the semi-annual general conference of the Mormon church (which is really called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – “Mormon” is just a nick-name). It is an interesting event where the leaders of the Mormon Church give messages they feel are most pressing topics to address for the 6 months until the next conference. This conference was especially memorable as there was a new president and new first presidency called and sustained (one of whom is a retired Luftansa pilot from Germany). Over 100,000 people attended at the 5 different sessions at the conference center in Salt Lake City, and the meetings are also broadcast via satellite all over the world in almost 80 languages.

In one of the addresses at conference, Bishop David H. Burton was speaking about the story of the good Samaritan in the Bible and asked, in todays world – who is my neighbor? He then shared some statistics about the humanitarian efforts of the Church that I think even most members of the Mormon church didn’t know.

In 2007, the Church responded with support and supplies to those affected by:

  • major earthquakes in 5 countries,
  • massive fires in 6 countries,
  • hunger and famine in 18 countries,
  • and flooding and severe storms in 34 countries.

For example, when the firestorms in southern California destroyed 1,500 homes and forced over a million people to evacuate, the Mormon Church responded quickly by providing cleaning kits, blankets, hygiene kits, and food. Over 5,000 Mormon volunteers along with missionaries cleaned, cooked, comforted, and cared for those affected.

Additionally The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has sponsored:

For example, over 54,000 Church members volunteered to help, working with the World Health Organization, to eliminate measles (a killer of almost a million children each year). A Church member in Nigeria wrote: “I called our labor the ‘rescue of the innocent.’ We went house-to-house and village hall to village hall. A woman told us she had lost three children to measles. She told her story with such grace and passion that there was not a dry eye in the house, mine included.” Our volunteer observed, “The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things that you do for others remain as your legacy.” And especially the legacy of your faith in something greater than you.

As another example, the Church is still in their fourth-year of helping those devastated by a tsunami in Indonesia and southern Asia. Funding was provided to help build 902 homes, with 3 community centers, 24 village water systems, 15 schools, and 3 medical centers. In Ethiopia, the Church drilled wells and constructed storage tanks for helping give access to clean water. Communities organized a water committee and dug the trenches needed to pipe the water from the storage tanks to each village. In some cases this was a distance of over 3 miles (5 km).

In total The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members responded to 170 major events—nearly one every two days for the entire year. Bishop Burton said, “It was a busy year with many opportunities to serve.”

Another story I found interesting was shared by Elder Henry Eyring. He was in the office of President Hinckley, then president of the Church, when President Hinckley was asked to take a phone call. He said there was a brief phone conversation and then they returned to their conversation. But President Hinckley took a moment to explain. He said that the call was from the president of the United States, who was flying over Utah in Air Force One on his way to Washington. The president of the United States had called to thank President Hinckley for what Church members had done in the aftermath of a hurricane. The president of the United States had said that it was a miracle that the Mormon Church was able to get so many people, so quickly, working together so well. He praised the Mormon church by saying that they knew how to do things.

The way in which the Church is prepared to help people in need is impressive to most people but, more important than any praise from a leader or dignitary, it is most important to those who are in need and to those who are blessed to be able to be the ones helping.

And one thing that I think impressed me the most was that all of it is done with no strings attached. There is not even any proselyting attached to any humanitarian effort, and often the Church will provide the resources – but work through a local organization to make sure that impact is put before worrying about who gets credit. There is a big emphasis on making sure service and aid is given at the right times of need, but also given with the right motivation (not for any praise, but simply out of love).

Something equally interesting to me was attending a conferenceNobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus (left) with Warner Woodworth. The Bangladesh-based pioneer of micro-credit finance calls young Latter-day Saint volunteers the 'Mormon Peace Corps' the day following conference hosted by the LDS International Society. I quickly became aware that it was not just the central Church organization doing things to make this world a better place, but many ordinary members take upon themselves to start NGOs or join humanitarian efforts which really have made a difference for millions and millions of people around the world. For example, this picture is of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus (left) with Warner Woodworth. The Bangladesh-based pioneer of micro-credit finance calls young Latter-day Saint volunteers the ‘Mormon Peace Corps’. I would share more examples of ordinary members who have made a big difference, but fear this blog entry is getting too long already. Perhaps I will add a few of them as a comment later.

So why? Why does the Church and so many of its members do all of this?

One reason might be because of how Joseph Smith articulated what itJoseph Smith means to be a Christian. He taught that “love is one of the chief characteristics of Diety, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 174).

On another occasion Joseph Smith said something else I liked, “I love that man better who swears a stream as long as my arm, yet deals justice to his neighbors and mercifully deals his substance to the poor, than the smooth-faced hypocrite. I do not want you to think that I’m very righteous… There was one good man, and his name was Jesus” (Documentary History of the Church, 5:401). [For more Joseph Smith quotes, click here.]

So what do Mormons believe? In short, they believe in trying their best to be more like Jesus – to be better Christians. I think everyone sees their own imperfections, but if people are really trying to live like Jesus taught (which is no easy task), then that desire provides limitless opportunities for imperfect people to see how they are needed in helping to make the world a better place.

A nice surprise – feedback on “Experiencing an International Virtual Team”

Hope you don’t mind if I share some good news with you. I was very pleasantly surprised by it!

I recently got the reviews back from a paper submission we had made to an academic conference. The paper is a synthesis of some of my work in Finland (titled “Experiencing an International Virtual Team”) and the program planner for the International Division said that ours was: “perhaps the best proposal submitted to our division. Thanks for the submission. Virtual international collaboration is not only a must technological reach but a global responsibility.”

I thought that was a great compliment, and it was fun to share with the great Ph.D. students who worked with me on it. Three out of the five reviewers gave it 100%!

One reviewer said: “STRENGTHS of the Proposal: 1. Good references to appropriate literature. 2. A wonderful paper! 3. Very well-written. 4. A strong contribution to the research and theory on international communication; this will be a trend in research for the present and future!”

OK – enough of that for now. With the negative feedback that often comes from different papers or projects, it is especially nice to hear and share good news, celebrating the moment of its arrival.

Lance Armstrong – and the call to “active citizenship”

Lance Armstrong – and the call to “active citizenship”

Lance ArmstrongI heard Lance Armstrong, the famous cyclist and cancer survivor, speak last night at the Omniture 2008 Summit. Through sharing his story of surviving cancer, his multiple Tour de France wins, and his hugely successful LiveStrong movement (already sold nearly 70 million of those yellow bands) – his main point was to encourage everyone in the audience to do more to bridge the gap in society between what we know and where we actually are.

Funniest part: when he described the doctor who was trying to explain how simple his cancer surgery would be. The doctor enlisted the metaphor of Halloween – and had Lance envision taking a pumpkin, cutting the top off, carving out everything that was inside, and then just putting the top back on. Lance had testicular cancer! So it is understandable when he said he has never seen Halloween quite the same since then, and prefers if his kids ask his wife to help with the pumpkin carving.

Main Summary: He invoked the notion of active citizenship – or all of us being more involved in our community. He said that we know we need to because we are falling short, in schools, hospitals, homes, – we need to somehow shrink the gap between what we know and where we are at. “That is the gap between what we know how to do vs what we actually do – and everything in the middle is a moral and ethical failure in America.”

Speaking of the 70 million who have boughtLance Armstrong the yellow LiveStrong wristbands, he said it is nice to have an army of people who believe in change and want to do something about it. He emphasized that it was not just with cancer, but with so many things. He encouraged everyone to find the issue that they were most concerned about and then do something (even if not with money, then with time).

“We need your time, your energy, and most importantly your passion.”

Personal Reflection and Question: I think one of my key “issues” is intercultural (and interfaith) communication, collaboration, and innovation. It fascinates me and I think there is so much good that can be done through it for everyone involved. I think, however, that is part of my larger issue/passion – which is finding anything that helps people to see and reach more of their potential.

Question Mark

 

What is one of your issues?
For whoever reads this, pause for a moment and post something, anything. I am really interested to know what it is that you care about?
Please post something, the first thing that comes to your mind – I am really very curious.

 

 

Why would you want to be a Catholic monk?

Why would you want to be a Catholic monk?

That is the question I was able to ask several times as ISt. Louis Abbey lived this last weekend with monks in a monastery at the Abbey of St. Mary and St. Louis. It might seem strange to meet someone on a plane, keep in touch via letter off and on until 10 years later you ask if you could go across the country to visit them for a while – but in this case, that is exactly what I did.

10 years ago I sat next to a most remarkable man on an airplane traveling from the UK to the US – I was 21 years old and returning from 2 years of being away from home as a Mormon Patrick Barry and Clint Rogersmissionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Patrick Barry was 80 year old man who had spent most of his life as a Catholic Priest and monk after the Benedictine order. We had a great conversation (very interesting, open, and edifying), the end of which he we mutually agreed to pray for each other and keep in touch.

Since over the last year I had been thinking, talking, and writing a lot about interfaith communication, collaboration and innovation [feel free to join the FaceBook group on this topic], when I was writing my Christmas letter to Patrick, I wondered why on earth I hadFather Augustine Br Cassian and Clint Rogers not ever gone to the monastery to visit this wonderful man and learn more about what his life and work was all about, and asked him if it would be possible and appropriate for me to come visit. He responded warmly, and when the flights were cheap I bought my ticket.

When thinking about visiting a monastery, I had no idea what an enjoyable trip I would end up having… [to be continued…]

Is the Dalai Lama lying? Conflict, hypocrisy, and miscommunication – the Dorje Shugden

Moving Beyond Nationalism and the Tribal Mindset

Two quotes and two question:

“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.” ~Albert Einstein

“I think that we reject the evidence that our world is changing because we are still, as that wonderfully wise biologist E. O. Wilson reminded us, tribal carnivores. We are programmed by our inheritance to see other living things as mainly something to eat, and we care more about our national tribe than anything else. We will even give our lives for it and are quite ready to kill other humans in the cruelest ways for the good of our tribe. We still find alien the concept that we and the rest of the life, from bacteria to whales, are part of the much larger and diverse entity, the living Earth.”
(Conditioned by a Tribal Mindset, The Revenge of Gaia: Earth’s Climatic Crises & The Fate of Humanity, James Lovelock, 2006)

Question Mark

  1. Do you agree/disagree with either quote?
  2. What do you think helps contribute to a consciousness that can transcend tribal/national limitations?

A visit from the UN ambassador to the US: Differences between Europe and the US

 

The ambassador to the United States for the European Union (“His Excellency” John Bruton, former prime minister of Ireland), gave a Kennedy Center lecture at BYU yesterday.

He shared a lot of interesting information about the EU, how it functions, and why it is important to the US (e.g. over 70% of foreign investment in the US is from Europe). Two things stuck out in my mind from his speech. One is the imbalance of wealth in the US and EU compared to the rest of the world (Europe has 30% of world’s wealth with 7% of the world’s population; the US has 28% of world’s wealth wit 5% of the world’s population) – and ideally as a result the stewardship we should feel to make the world a better place (I know that is optimistic of me, but at least I can hope).

The second thing that stuck out to me, although I wish he would have gone into more detail, was when he mentioned the differences between Europe and the US.

In response to a question about public opinion in Europe toward the US, he said he would not talk to a US audience about it, but then he told us what he would say to a European audience. My paraphrase of the speech he would give to Europeans:

“Even if the president of the US changes, or even the party in power charge changes, don’t expect too much change from America. It always has had its:

  • Own special interests that it tends to cater for
  • Own sense of history, what works and what doesn’t work
  • Own political system with certain reflexes built in

We are different. It is OK that we are different. Just recognize the difference, try to understand those differences and respect them. Just like American’s should understand that Europe is different, and we have different expectations, reactions, etc.”

So the most obvious question is whether you agree that it is OK that there are differences between the US and Europe? I imagine that some differences obviously cause more concern than others (e.g. policy towards war vs. favorite foods).

But that is not where I want to start. I prefer to explore and try to understand what more of the differences are first before judging some of the most obvious and controversial ones. So I want to start by asking:

What do you think are some of the differences between Europe and the US? (your personal perception)

He didn’t go into that much from his perspective, but I wish he would have. Then I’d like to ask:

Of those differences, are they “OK” and should we just “understand” and “respect” them? Why or why not?

Gandhi, Hindu philosophy, and the connectedness and unity of every one with all living things

Happy 2008! I have always admired Mohandas K. Gandhi, but that admiration and respect has been deepening as I decided to start this year by reading a book called “Words of Gandhi”.

Just one of many quotes I have already enjoyed (that capture simple, yet profound thoughts) is this:

“I do not believe…that an individual may gain…while those around him suffer. I believe in advaita*, I believe in the essential unity of man and for that matter, of all that lives. Therefore, I believe if one man gains spirituality, the whole world gains with him and if one man falls then the whole world falls with him to that extent.”

*(advaita…is one of the two branches of Vedanta…holds that Brahman, the Self, is ultimate reality, and that the world has come into being from Brahman and is wholly dependent on it)

When I asked my Hindu friend last night what she thought about this quote and more about what it might mean, she told me that she wasn’t so sure about Hindu philosophy, but that she strongly agreed with the idea that we are all connected, that – because we are all connected – when one succeeds we all succeed, and that when one fails we all fail to that same extent.

I’ve thought about that a lot over the last few years – and about what is it that makes some people jealous of another’s success, feeling like it is somehow their own failure?

This is just my idea, but perhaps because we focus way too much on what we are getting (and what we have) than who we are becoming (and what we give), and in that way are deceived in our understanding what true success is?

I like the concept that we are all connected – and that when one succeeds, all humanity succeeds to that same extent. But what does it mean to really “succeed”? Any ideas?

Perhaps that is material for a blog entry on a different day…

The Role of Faith / Religion in Education and Intercultural Communication – Questions regarding peaceful co-existence and collaboration of people with different belief systems

Today I sent an email where I raised this discussion and these questions on the ITForum Listserve. I will try to summarize the best comments I receive from them as they come, but I am also interested in anyone else’s thoughts and feelings.

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I realize that this email ventures into the realm of one of the two forbidden topics in polite conversations – but if it makes any difference, at least I’ll try here not to mention the “p” word ( i.e. politics). 🙂
</end – my weak attempt at being funny to try and defuse a potentially sensitive topic>

In studying cross-cultural issues over the last several years, I have been fascinated by the impact culture has in how people define themselves, their relationship with others, and their perspective of the world. Please correct me if I am wrong, but it seems like at the heart of education, we are interested in these same issues? Or can someone define the purpose of education in a way that is completely unrelated to these issues ( e.g. identity, relationships, world-view, etc)?

Although we rarely talk about it in academic settings, it seems that one of the most pervasive influences in how people in various cultures and sub-cultures develop identity and purpose is their faith and religion (including, of course, even the belief in no God).

I have recently witnessed several disturbing scenes in which religion became the point of stereotyping, skepticism, and conflict (something not uncommon in the history of the world) – which leads me to the questions that I have for all of you:

  • Is it possible to discuss the role of faith in education (or religion in general) in a safe way in which people don’t feel threatened? (If so, how?)
  • Is it possible to discuss these issues in a way that people can set aside (at least for a moment) any personal agenda or need to convince/persuade/defend – but rather to simply seek for increased mutual understanding and respect?
  • From what you have seen/experienced, how can arrangements be structures so that people of very different belief systems can understand/respect each other, peacefully co-exist, and even collaborate with each other on joint projects intended to make the world a better place?

I realize that this is a deep and sensitive topic, and I realize that in even asking the questions I am making certain assumptions (which, by the way, you are also free to challenge if you wish).

I have some initial ideas of my own in answer to these questions, but I am very interested in any comments that you all might have. Please don’t feel like you need to be an expert in the topic to respond, initially you can just share your personal strategy, thoughts, reactions, etc.

Even you don’t have any answers to the questions, I am almost equally interested in your general reaction to being presented with questions like these.

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