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Gerald Pillay
Gerald Pillay

President's Message for International Council News


Gerald Pillay, President of the International Council, shares reflections from the first quarter of 2024.

My Dear Friends,

This letter is the first of a new initiative to provide quarterly briefings, through which we commit to improving communication of the International Council with the IofC community. I am grateful to Imad Karam (Executive Director) and Steven Greisdorf (Secretary) who have taken on this responsibility to better inform you of the IC’s work. These quarterly briefings are in addition to the very informative international bulletins that our small communications team so ably publishes every week.

It was a busy first quarter, beginning with our colleagues in North and South America getting together in January for the ‘Encuentro’ in Brazil. Sadly, the president of IofC Brazil, Reginaldo de Souza, passed away this year. Please keep his family and the fellowship in prayer at this time of transition. Pilar Griffin, a member on the International Council, met with Reginaldo and the team before he died. She has been deeply involved in numerous local and regional conversations and is working with a group of dedicated friends from South America to bring folk together. She was assisted by Patrick McNamara, another member of the IC, who has since relocated from the US to Sri Lanka to take up his appointment there as Director of the Fulbright Programme, and Steven Greisdorf, who has spent much time helping our member bodies to improve in governance. 

In January I had the opportunity to visit IofC's Asia Plateau conference centre in Panchgani, India for the first time. The primary purpose of my visit was to join in honoring Rajmohan and Usha Gandhi and to reflect on their time together in establishing the fine campus of IofC India, 60 years ago.  Many of the people I met in Panchgani had participated in the 1963 March on Wheels, accompanying Rajmohan to awaken consciousness in the newly independent India for a 'clean, strong and united India.' 

Not only did I learn so much, but I was privileged to meet a vibrant group of experienced leaders and an emerging group of dynamic, younger leaders. India has an important role to play in the region and the world. I am looking forward to the international IofC family meeting in Panchgani in January 2025. This will be a strategically important time for us to gather and I hope many of you will join us in Panchgani. There is so much going on in our movement, much of which goes unheralded. For example, ‘Education Today; Society Tomorrow’ is a well-established outreach programme for students and educators, and I had the joy of meeting some of the organizers during my time in India. Wadiaa Khoury, from Lebanon, and a small group of highly motivated educators guide this work, and IC member Yofrina Gultom from Indonesia is an active participant. This is a programme with the potential of implementation in other countries as well.  

It was also a privilege to participate in the Emergent Future programme led by Siddarth Singh, who is director at Panchgani, and Archana Rao. They have gathered a group of young leaders concerned about the world and how to bring change for the better. Many of them are 'activists' for justice and peace. They live the IofC values through various self-generated initiatives. 

IofC's mission to change the world requires a deep spirit of humility. Bringing people together and affirming others more highly than ourselves has been the secret of IofC‘s success. I left India encouraged by the potential I saw. That potential exists everywhere in the world, and we are working in a collaborative and collegial way to spread its benefits. 

The conflicts in Ukraine and Palestine directly affect many in our movement. These conflicts are proving intransigent and long lasting with so much suffering and so many innocent victims and tragic deaths. Every single death in conflict is tragic! The Council sponsored two global meetings on the Gaza situation to express our solidarity with all those who suffer. IofC International will host a two-session webinar on 1 June, in which we will hear from distinguished speakers and explore paths to lasting peace. We have made statements but, as you would have seen, bodies such as the UN also struggle to gain traction and unanimous commitment to action. 

We in IofC seek justice and peace. In the moments when we feel bereft of ideas of hope about whether we can make a difference, it is worth remembering that our power lies in living the standards we hold dear - unselfishness; honesty; purity of life and motive; and unconditional love. We need to go beyond statements, to build grassroots coalitions across the world's divides. 

I was reading just this week what Irene Prestwich, an IofC stalwart who lived by these standards herself said about this very task: 'The welfare of our countries does not depend on the government of the day, but on the character of the ordinary men and women who make up our nations - it is dependent on their daily sacrifice, their daily heroism. Wise governments, wise leadership can do much, but in the end, it is the character of the people that can help to move our countries forward and save civilization from disaster.'  

Gerald Pillay