When on September 11, 2001 at 9:00 a.m. I was ordered by a security guard to leave the conference room I was in at the United Nations, and I realized that the historic moment in time for which I had been preparing had come.
The guard told me the United Nations was on high level alert. He seemed very frightened. Outside, I saw billows of smoke coming from the World Trade Center. Confused, I asked someone what was happening. A woman told me about the hijacked planes purposely going into the towers resulting in an unknown but potentially staggering loss of life. The phones in New York were all tied up. My credit card would not work. Only coins would go into the public phones. A kind waitress in the restaurant where I sought refuge gave me $5.00 worth of quarters. Even still, I tried to reach Joseph unsuccessfully until later in the day when I asked him to contact Tad and Karen, and other members of my family. Joseph told me he had worried about my being trapped in New York, worried if I had even gone to the World Trade Center area.
I sought further refuge in the Holy Family Church with my companions. The night before, as in every year of the 55 years of the United Nations, UN delegates attended a special service at Holy Family Church and prayed for the opening of the General Assembly. My mind sought to grasp the truth. Yet a large part of me was unable and unwilling to do so. I was unable to pray, my mind was racing. A priest came and said the Mass. I found comfort in the liturgy.
Yet, I felt God’s presence as comforter throughout the three days I was unable to travel home because the city was sealed off. His presence was palpable as a Loving Companion.
My mind flashed to a mural in the United Nations Security Council. A phoenix is rising out of the ashes of World War II to create a world free from war. That mural was painted in the afterglow of the creation of the UN and the hope of its promise to abolish war. No one could have dreamed of the Cold War and the bloody decade that followed in 1990 at its end when the lid was taken off deep-rooted protracted social conflicts that had been brewing for centuries.
I went to sleep the night of September 11 after a day filled with poignant memories of joining with broken-hearted New Yorkers reaching out to each other for comfort. I dreamt of a renewed United Nations with a mural of a new phoenix rising out of the ashes of ground zero where people listened to and were connected to one another. In my dream, the American people were brought to their knees by a terrorist action. They then learned anew how to come to right action in the world. The new mural in my dream depicted the people of the United States joining with other peoples and nations to share resources to address the root causes of that terrorist act by taking responsibility for two hundred years of US hegemonic power, very close to European imperialism. Americans stopped attaching strings or bribes to their gifts and shared their resources freely.
In my dream, I was in service at five levels: personally, in my family, my community, my nation and my world. The biggest gift I had to offer at all levels was my listening, caring presence—whether it be in my family, at the high school where I trained peer mediators from many cultures and traditions, my microenterprise committed to peace or my Global Mediation and Reconciliation Service, an enlightened leadership and development model with no armed force.
The listening presence I offer brings a new experience of power and authority. The dream stayed with me for days. After reflection, I made the commitment to offer a course at the United Nations, Designing and Implementing Interventions for Global Change, based on my then ten years experience in the UN community. I developed the course in partnership with Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and initiator at the United Nations of the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World (2001-2010) and now founder of the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace. We shared a desire to be of service in the observance of a Culture of Peace, making non-violent approaches to disputes a reality. In the period between 2001-2008 (when Ambassador Chowdhury retired) before the Reconciliation Leadership Certificate Programme was launched, we held dozens of courses, drawing participants from fifteen countries.
As an American citizen working in the United Nations, I was aware of the power and resources, often misused, of my country, the United States, in the United Nations. Out of the rubble of ground zero, I founded an Institute for Global Leadership, whose mission it is to offer consultation and training for emerging and seasoned leaders committed to sustainable peace and development. I presented my work to the United Nations Development Programme with three other Reconciliation Leaders in October 2013. For the presentation, see https://undp.unteamworks.org/node/403366.
I wonder if other American citizens will join me. Are others like myself led to work for action from vocational calling? Are others willing to clean their lens of unconscious biases through which they see the world? The Institute begins a new leadership for service based on peaceful listening presence. Reconciliation Leaders connect personal peace to global peace. The phoenix we are offering is a leadership and development model, sensitive and responsive to the divided society in which we live.
In creating the Institute, I have developed a business model to inspire other for-profit businesses to work for sustainable peace and development, drawing on the American Sun vision of Mt. Tam and the ICA think tank in California conclusion that education goals need reforming around the needs of the whole person. I joined the initiative to bring business leaders in relationship to the United Nations through the Global Compact. When I first came to the United Nations in 1992, there were few business people involved beside myself. Now there are many others interested in helping the United Nations achieve its Charter obligations to abolish war.
Now the phoenix is teaching me that The United Nations needs to go through a spiritual renaissance, enlarge their vision into a global community living in the laws of justice rewrite history for people to claim the light within and include the will of the people to reconcile the global problematique. Rather than defining the Charter mandate through its commitment to abolish war, I recall that the absence of war does not necessarily constitute peace. Since its founding in 1945, there have been 150 wars and 22 million killed. A mural with a phoenix rising out of the ashes of World War II in the UN Security Council sparked a beginning of a larger vision for me: another phoenix rising out of the ashes of 9/11, celebration of human goodness and each person’s leadings. My commitment is to restore faith in humanity by helping leaders claim their goodness, the God within, trust their leadings and end the cycle of violence within and without them. The new phoenix is for the harmonization of nations (UN Charter article 1.4), unafraid of embracing the principles of idealism regarding human nature as essentially good, believing that with God and a spiritual renaissance a new vision is possible. The Peacebuilding Process of Reconciliation to Develop Political Will and the Celebration Model are possible vehicles in which the world’s citizens can speak to restore faith in humanity. Political will is redefined, as in Rousseau, the will of the people and collaborative change making; politics is peaceful evolution. Politician is Reconciliation Leader to assist in the enactment of Article 1.4 of the Charter mandate to bring harmony between all nations, people and creation with God’s help.
Everyday at dawn and often throughout the day, I go back to the quiet place where my inner Voice strengthens and infuses my speaking voice. Whether my work is with troubled teens who fight at my city’s local high school or with Christian and Muslim rebels in the Philippines, I go to my inner Voice for refuge and support. I walk with Christ for companionship and inspiration. After September 11, I reconfigured my whole life and work, believing that my preparation is complete. I give Reconciliation Leadership and the Peacebuilding Process of Reconciliation to Develop Political Will to the United Nations and my country in service. I am living this chapter as I write. If I hear, “Be still and know I am God”, then I know that I am centered and ready for partnership with the Holy Spirit.