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After attending a conference at the Initiatives of Change centre in Caux, Switzerland, a former Somali militia member, exiled in Europe, overcame his resentment. ‘I realized that change must begin with myself,’ he said. ‘I am now free from fear and bitterness. I have found a new weapon for my country.’ On his return he decided to reconnect with his former warlord, who was in prison, taking with him representatives of various Somali clans also in exile. Sharing his own experience of reconciliation helped gain their trust. Together they undertook an initiative to bring together intellectuals from Somalia’s various warring clans with the aim of end the conflict. Their method was for each member of the group to try to encourage a change of attitude in their own clan, rather than blaming others.
In 1993, Osman Jama Ali, a Somali politician living in exile in Britain, attended a gathering of senior Somalis organized by IofC in Sweden, not long after the break-up of the Somali state. ‘Though we were from different clans and political factions,’ he says, ‘there was a willingness to apologize for the wrongs we had committed and to forgive others’ mistakes which led to genuine reconciliation among us. Since then I have been convinced that we must adopt this spirit if we are to find our way out of the mess we are in. The moral standards of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love, which every Muslim is asked to observe, are essential foundations for a stable society.’
He subsequently tried to bring these principles into effect as Deputy Prime Minister of the Transitional National Government (2000-2003) and as a (unsuccessful) candidate in Somalia’s 2004 Presidential Elections. He now chairs the UK-based Somali Initiative for Dialogue and Democracy (started in 2006) which works to bring together members of the Somali diaspora with support from IofC. In 2008 Osman Jama Ali launched a ‘A proposal for a transition to a democratic, non‑clan‑based system of government for Somalia’.
Who we are: Initiatives of Change (IofC) is a world-wide movement of people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, who are committed to the transformation of society through changes in human motives and behaviour, starting with their own.
Purpose: We work to inspire, equip and connect people to address world needs, starting with themselves, in the areas of trustbuilding, ethical leadership and sustainable living.
Omnia Marzouk, President, IofC International
'Nothing lasting can be built without a desire by people to live differently and exemplify the changes they want to see in society.'