‘BREAKING BARRIERS BUILDING TRUST’
SECOND NEPAL DIALOGUE 2019
'Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.'
This saying by Saint Francis Assisi deeply resonates with the importance and outcome of the second IofC Nepal dialogue in Itahari, a city in Eastern Nepal. The dialogue was held under the theme ‘Breaking Barriers and Building Trust’ from 8 – 11 November, 2019 in collaboration with the Youth Development Centre (YDC). YDC is since its inception in 2007 has been serving the community by empowering youth in many aspects.
As facilitators, it was encouraging to see 30 participants of diverse cultures coming together for a four-day journey of honest reflection on their motives behind lived experiences, understanding the needs of society at large through introspection, and how to transform their new commitments into action. Out of 30 participants, 12 were female and 18 were male, with backgrounds ranging from government service, lawyers, NGO leaders, youth activists, schoolteachers, students and leaders of various community groups. Earlier this month, the Himalayan nation harboured a strong resentment towards its neighbour India after India released a new political map of which has placed a significant amount of Nepali territory within India's border. As a result, strong protests are ongoing across the country. At the same time, it is heartening to see a group of friends from Nepal and India sincerely listening and thinking about how they can together build better friendships among the people of these two neighbouring countries. The Nepalis and the Indians sat together for four days and shared how they honestly felt about one another. As an expression of trust, some participants opened up and exposed themselves as vulnerable while sharing, which created a safer space for everyone present. The moment was tangible and powerful; they were breaking the chain of hate and fear that exists within this region through sincere understandings of the issues. This, followed by Indian participants apologizing to the Nepali participants for hurting their sentiments, inspired an immediate healing. All of which happened through honest conversations, and as one participant said, ‘Our generation must find the answer to hate for a new and united Asia and the world.’ 'What is the reason for my existence? Can I do something about my society?' These deep personal reflections inspired Sabin Rongpipi, a young community leader from Karbi Anglong, Assam, India, to start the Heritage Learning Programme (HLP). HLP is a learning center for fellow Karbi youth where they can express their concerns, sorrows, and challenges in a safe space.
The dialogue also saw the participation of inspiring people from diverse backgrounds who overcame challenges to be where they were now. Umita BK, the youngest female Member of Parliament from Nepal Province, talked about the vast gender disparity in Nepali society and how change was possible with her being the youngest lady parliamentarian. Arun Khadka, the founder of YDC, shared his journey and the initiatives of his centre. Raju K.C, the founder of a popular music academy in Itahari, talked about his journey and challenges in setting up the centre. ‘If we want a better Nepal, then the change for it will only begin from within,’ voiced Mayur Shah, member the International Council. The program introduced living examples of ordinary folks who have brought changes to their lives through the method of daily ‘inner listening’ in silence. Wati Mollier, a schoolteacher in Nagaland India, shared his story of how he found desired peace after forgiving and apologizing to his alcoholic father. This action of Wati allowed his father to forgive those he hated for years thus bringing an end to the cycle of bitterness and hurts. Inner listening time and true stories of personal change from the IofC team inspired and helped the participants to reflect deeply and share their personal experiences and journey. Meetings like Human Connections created a community for the participants to share their deepest painful stories which they experienced just because they were from a different community, gender, caste, religious background, and colour.
Some of the genuine convictions and commitments that surfaced during the dialogue are: 'I come from a so-called lower caste and Christian background. We are tagged as cow meat eaters and even discriminated from drawing water from the community well.' 'While I was eating my food in a canteen, a woman took away her plate of food with disgust after learning that I belonged to a particular caste. I felt humiliated.' 'I have not seen my only sister after her marriage because of her in-laws in Bihar, India do not allow her to visit me. They insult me for being a Nepali and pressurize me to give dowry. However, I do not want to do that. My relatives look down upon me for being unable to help my only sister. I feel so helpless and frustrated.' 'I belong to the Madhesi community. While I was studying in Kathmandu in 2015, there were disruptions at the border between Nepal and India. I was ostracized by my friends and neighbours as they blamed my community for the blockade.' 'My father left us for another woman because my mother gave birth to a girl child only. A few years back I visited my father to connect with him. He instead rebuked me for coming to meet him and kicked me out of the house. It was very painful.' When one listens to such heart-breaking stories within a space of few days, we cannot help but feel that there are more works and dialogues to be initiated for the IofC Nepal team so that more stories can be heard, and personal healing can begin.
'I found a lost purse and took its contents. I was dishonest back then. Moving forward, if I find any lost items, I will be honest and return it to the rightful owner.' 'I was honest and returned the excess money meant for expenses as a tourist guide. When we do good things, it always comes back to us.' 'Things done by others seem so easy however when we engage in work it is difficult. We should not make fun of others when they do their duty.' 'This is my second time attending the IofC conference. My friend and I attended a conference last year in Kathmandu and were very inspired. We have consciously limited our alcohol intake and started to love our bodies. Therefore, we wanted to have this impactful session in our community.'
'Can I find honesty in myself? No! I should be honest.'
'If I want to change the world, I should change myself.'
'I realized I have been dwelling in the past and is afraid of my future. It has been hindering my relationship with my loved ones especially my mother. She confessed that she was scared to talk with me these days because I have become moody and unpredictable. I must accept myself for who I am. After this session, I cannot wait to go back home and mend my relationship with my mother.'
'There are girls in my community who say they want to be like me. I have been working hard and I am appreciated by my friends. However, after coming to this program, I have realized that I still have things to do. I could recognize my mistakes and weakness. Now I want to be a better person to work in a team and work for the community.'
'This dialogue was an exercise in the effectiveness of the highest human standards purity, honesty, unselfishness, and love. Realizations and commitments such as these are the attestations to its efficacy. When young people like Puja Sah and Ambika Rijal conducted similar programs inspired by their participation back in their community, we feel very optimistic about the relevance of the IofC work in Nepal and elsewhere.'