“There’s a power in love that our world has not discovered yet,” said Fetzer President and CEO Larry Sullivan, quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “Let’s put our backs into the work of love and forgiveness.”
Fetzer already has poured $4.5 million into the work of 16 advisory councils representing disciplines from the arts, education and engineering to health, natural sciences and religion and spirituality. Over a year and a half, the councils have highlighted about 150 exemplary projects, of which Fetzer has funded 60 through August.
They include parents in Uganda forgiving rebels who abducted, tortured or killed their children; bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families working to reconcile with each other; and San Quentin prison inmates learning how to listen to each other and forgive themselves.
More Fetzer-backed projects will emerge over the next few years based on ideas growing out of the conference, Sullivan said. A panel of experts will work with the councils to build on existing projects and develop new ones to heal hatred and relieve suffering.
“This is a lesson-catching group,” he said. “The next (step) is to apply those lessons to solutions that don’t yet exist.”
One clear step was announced at the conference: awards of $25,000 and $5,000, determined through online nominations, for nonprofit agencies whose work exemplifies love and forgiveness.
Many who attended this summit said they were inspired and encouraged by meeting with other like-minded people from 43 countries. Some went there slightly embarrassed by the Hallmark-ish “love and forgiveness” theme, but found it powerfully palpable in the serene mountainside environs of St. Francis.
Krista Tippett, host of American Public Media’s “On Being,” called it “a profoundly countercultural gathering,” highlighting world-changing work that is “too often invisible.”
“It has this ripple effect of emboldening everybody else who’s here, to go out and feel that much more powerful and know they’re not alone,” Tippett said.
Others echoed her view that people’s shared stories and creativity formed a critical mass of hope.
“I’ve never been under one roof with so many heroes,” said Mohammed Abu-Nimer, a conflict resolution specialist from American University’s School of International Service. “I wish I could take them with me to Washington, to the Congress.”