By Rash Behari Bhattacharjee
A small group of young people who are on a life-changing journey to act in conscience and compassion recently gave a short public preview of the power of their learning approach.
The six participants – from the Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar/Sri Lanka and Nepal – of the inaugural nine-month Gandhi-Mandela-Freire fellowship programme came on record in an online sharing session on 30 April to reflect on the conscientisation process.
The process delves into their personal struggles and awakening as a preparation for initiating and achieving self and social transformation, which is the primary aim of the programme.
By their own accounts, that introspective-contemplative process, dubbed “Rebooting Self – Touching on Hacking, Rebooting, Reclaiming Self”, which has taken up the first three months (February to April) of the fellowship, has been both deeply uncomfortable but also enlightening.
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“At the end of the three months, I started to feel that I’m vulnerable, but at the same time, I’m resilient,” said Hom, who is from Myanmar and now resides in Sri Lanka.
“I have been wounded and am still wounded in many layers of my self, but at the same time, I trust in the process of healing; this journey was quite difficult, that’s why there is so much that I’m holding back; at the same time, I’m starting to feel some liberation; this process is confusing, but at the same time there is some clarity,” she said during the sharing session.
The innovative fellowship, launched on 15 January, is an effort to nurture a borderless community – the GMF Fellowship – of young people who will further consolidate mindful work going on around the world. Hopefully, this will be able to change the current destructive course of society towards one that is wholesome, fulfilling and deeply compassionate.
Broadly speaking, in the language of the programme’s developers, the aim is to create an environment that fosters ecological and social justice in pursuit of the common good.
The programme hopes to drive deep self and social transformation practices. It deploys concepts like conscientisation, pedagogy of the oppressed, de-schooling, decolonisation and counter-hegemony. This closely resonates with concepts like a learning journey, learning encounters, social ecology of eco-peace, reconciliation, eco-social healing, engaged spirituality, sustainability, eco-socio-spiritual regeneration, transformative entrepreneurship and critical social communication.
Commenting on the sharing session, Adrian Pereira, founder and executive director of North-South Initiative, Malaysia, a human rights group associated with migrants and refugees, said: “This is a much-needed niche competence for social immersion and activism.… this critical self-exploration … has always been neglected in mainstream functional education even though it is vital for active personal and collective formation.
“In their involved civic engagement, it helps the young to be prepared to deal with internal contradictions and violence too.”
During the fellowship, participants are exposed to a range of practical skills (“root skilling”) such as reflection-meditation-contemplation, silence, ‘zentangling’, forest bathing, living question bank building, frames mapping, diary-keeping, blogging, curating, sustainable-regenerative design thinking, documenting and researching, the development of counter-narratives and the evolving of a ‘new language’ for storytelling.
Initiated by the Indian Social Institute in New Delhi and the Loyola Institute of Peace and International Relations in Kochi, the GMF fellowship is today based at the Multiversity Platform of Loyola Extension Services at the Loyola College of Social Sciences in Thiruvananthapuram, southern India.
The effort – developed and nurtured by Dr M Nadarajah – is supported by a moral community of 18 institutions from across the world, though largely-based in Asia.
The learning journey of the fellowship is conceived in three phases:
- Exploring the self (“Rebooting Self”)
- Exploring compassion (“Exploring the Other”)
- A project on public compassion
The programme is now moving to its second phase (from May to October).
The six GMF fellows will spend the next four months delving into the ‘social ecology of suffering’ as well as the ‘social ecology of compassion’. They will also be encountering six ‘models’ (or frames) of compassionate practice.
Later, the fellows will develop and execute a project on public compassion and for the public good. In their initial deliberation on the project, they have come up with a “100-day Journey of Compassion”.
Starting in October, the project with engage the public in the journey of compassionate practice till December 2022.
This will also be a post-fellowship effort of the group. The effort will be continued subsequently by the GMF community, the Multiversity Platform, Loyola Extension Services, Loyola College of Social Sciences, under the guidance of Ranjit George SJ (director) and Nadarajah.
Importantly, the continuation of the project will be the responsibility of the present core GMF fellows — Hom (Myanmar-Sri Lanka), Marnie (Philippines), How Kian (Malaysia), Nirmal (Nepal), Rae (Philippines) and Aaron (Malaysia).
Rash Behari Bhattacharjee is an editor with an online news portal in Malaysia