Giving children the chance to choose
Development Education, Dalai Lama

Our Development Education Project Worker, Donna McFeely, 2nd from left, reflects on our Compassion in Action conference, in the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

 

Part One: A Public Forum with His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Our 20th Anniversary was a momentous occasion; we were joined by thousands as we celebrated the journey of Children in Crossfire over the past 20 years. We were honoured to welcome our patron, His Holiness the Dalai Lama to join us and share his wisdom about what we need to do to create a world that is compassionate for everyone.

The wet and windy morning in Derry didn’t dampen any spirits as our supporters took over The Millennium Forum on Sunday 10th September. Our celebration was brought to a poignant start as Encore Contemporary Choir performed John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’… a song that set the tone for the day to come, a day when we would be encouraged to dream, to imagine and to act.

Indeed, it was the key message of His Holiness the Dalai Lama when he spoke to the audience with Richard Moore, his ‘Hero’ at his side while he talked about our biological capacity for compassion and our brains’ function to develop compassion and take action for a just world. His humour and wisdom and close friendship with Richard, a beautiful sight to witness. He talked about Brexit, about the need for connection and for people to be kind, to think of our planet and the people that make it so unique. He called for an education of the heart, one that allows for creativity, for courage and for compassion. It was a special day for everyone, for Children in Crossfire to reflect on 20 years of change and look ahead. It was a day that will inspire us and motivate us as we embark on the next 20 years with our vision at heart; a compassionate world, where every child can reach his or her potential.

 

Part Two: A Conference with His Holiness the Dalai Lama

On Monday 11th September we held a 20th anniversary conference with educators, activists, policy makers and key supporters. The Compassion in Action conference was a chance to launch our new education programme and share our story of bringing compassion to the very core of Children in Crossfire.

Reflecting on our one-day event, we can use the points of a compass to help us navigate our way through the events and share the learning that emerged throughout the day:

 

North: Our destination, our aim and our hopes for the conference.

To explore compassion as the impetus to bring about a fair and sustainable world. We hope to engage delegates through an exploration of what Compassion means and what it looks like in action in a bid to inspire attendees and build support for our vision; a compassionate world where every child can reach his or her potential.

 

East: Exploring perspectives from the East and drawing on the influence from our patron, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

We had an opportunity to hear from His Holiness the Dalai Lama who talked about the need for education to pay attention to values and instil values based on a respect and regard for the oneness of humanity.

Thinking about the world today he said, “although basic human nature has been shown to be compassionate, still there is so much suffering that is of our own making. Why? Because our education system is inadequate in not paying sufficient attention to human values. When we are under the sway of attachment and anger we are disturbed and unable to exercise our intelligence properly. Therefore, we need a clearer understanding of the workings of our mind and emotions”.

Questioned about training in compassion, His Holiness was clear that the use of human intelligence is crucial. He recommended that programs for training teachers be based on scientific findings, common sense and common human experience. He similarly advised that the path to increasing interest in and support for ecology was education. He concluded, “If we make an effort, we can change the world. Those who are still young can make a difference and shape a better future. For my part, I try to encourage interest in inner values and I believe that if I influence ten people and each of them does the same, we’ve reached one hundred. And so it goes on. This is the way to educate people”.

With wonderful questions emerging from the audience, a sense of curiosity was growing, as was the appreciation for the wisdom and humor that he brought to the event.

After an address from His Holiness, we heard from Brendan Ozawa de Silva who helped deepen our understanding of compassion and shared the groundbreaking work of psychologists and educators in Atlanta on developing compassion as a skill. It was this understanding that helped Children in Crossfire shape their new education programme to merge Development Education with compassion-based practices, resulting in a teacher-training programme that seems to cultivate compassionate global citizenship.

Children in Crossfire’s Development Education team presented their education programme and launched TIDAL: Educating the Heart.

 

South: A compassionate approach to International Development.

We heard from Children in Crossfire’s International team who explained our approach to working in communities in Ethiopia and Tanzania and the need for responsive and compassionate partnerships that can create positive and sustainable change. Given Children in Crossfire’s strategic focus on Early Childhood Education, we promote international interventions that foster compassion and values based learning whilst creating opportunities for children and their parents to avail of crucial services.

We listened to Leslee Udwin from Think Equal. Think Equal are working to design and implement the world’s first Social and Emotional Learning global curriculum in formal education, with a specific focus on early years and children aged 3-5. They are currently operating in 15 countries, in 56 schools where their global curriculum is being implemented to support children’s development of universal values and mutual understanding in the hope of building a fair and equal society.

 

West: Change-Makers and our capacity to create compassionate action in the west.

We hosted a discussion for people to consider actions that they can take which are compassionate for themselves, the people around them and our planet. We heard from delegates about the need for systemic change, about a society built on participation, equality and one that puts justice for people and our planet ahead of profit in an unjust economic system.

We then heard from some change-makers, Stella Murray and Mary Kabati talked about their journey of activism and the moments where compassion was their driving force. You can read Stella’s story here and hear Mary’s story here.

We closed the day hearing from Joanna Lumley who shared her experience of kindness, friendship and the motivation for change. A totally engaging and inspiring address that set the tone for our founder Richard Moore to close the day by thanking the people who made it possible and inviting the delegates to go for a ‘dander’ around Derry’s walls – the very dander that launched Children in Crossfire over 20 years ago.

It was a totally incredible and inspiring few days and we are very grateful to all the people who have been part of our 20 years!

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We are a registered charity in Northern Ireland (NIC101412) and The Republic of Ireland (CHY 20045517). Children in Crossfire is now also a registered ‘Not For Profit’ in the USA and is recognised as tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (EIN 46-2267122). We are developing Advisory Groups in Chicago and Boston to assist with a fundraising programme.