In January of this year, Initiatives of Change International hosted a consultation at Asia Plateau, the IofC conference centre in India. It brought together 81 people from 37 countries, all carrying responsibility for some aspect of the work of Initiatives of Change. It was described as a ‘Sangam’, a Hindi word meaning a place where rivers meet. This expressed its aim – to bring together Initiatives of Change across the world in all its diversity and combine our forces better to nourish the people and concerns with which we are involved.
The discussions gave participants an opportunity to hear about IofC work in many countries. Over the coming weeks we would like to share three accounts we heard, from Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. This week we hear from our team working in Sweden!
Rishabh Khanna: I grew up in India and came to Sweden 5 years ago. People from 140 countries live in Sweden, and particularly in Sollentuna, and Jarva where we work. Some come from traumatic situations. We realize that trauma that is not healed is transferred to the next generation.
In 2013 Sweden had one of its worst riots in 200 years. We studied the causes. We found tensions along ethnic lines – conflict between clans within the Somali diaspora, among Kurds and others. We found that some children face an identity crisis because they don’t feel completely Swedish nor fully part of their own community. Some turn to crime and vandalism. This is why we started Hope in Jarva.
In 2015 we conducted a training course for 25 leaders from diaspora groups including former militia from Somalia. They then hosted dialogues on burning issues in their communities, such as housing. Soon there were groups working on these issues. One problem is the clash between parents, who come with the culture of their country of origin, and their children, who grow up in a Swedish culture. In 2016 we brought together parents and children at learning festivals. Discussion, followed by times of quiet reflection, brought new insight to many.
Then, we brought together police, local government officers and young people. Some of them have decided to meet regularly. Every two months they have an open space where they gather without an agenda, just to have a time of reflection together.
Nik Dahlström: The Hope in Jarva project equipped us to work with migrant bodies. Now we are running a government-supported project with asylum seekers, who may wait two or three years for a decision about their future. How can their life be worthwhile whether they return or stay; how do they learn Swedish; how do they learn about Swedish society; how do they learn about wellbeing and taking care of themselves inwardly?
We also work with the EU Migrants as Rebuilders project, a collaboration between Spain, UK, Turkey and Sweden with an educational focus. In another project, Science City, we work with the business sector. Business does not have a good connection to grassroots society, and we have helped to make that link. This has led us to hold an annual event when we bring people together from many backgrounds to talk about current issues.
Stay tuned for more in this 3 part series! Up next - hear from our team in Lebanon!