Foreword of My Soul’s Journey to Redefine Leadership: A New Phoenix Rises from the Ashes of 9/11

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury is the Former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations & Founder of The Global Movement for The Culture of Peace (GMCoP)

In a message of felicitations to Virginia Swain on her 70th birthday three years ago, I wrote, “As we celebrate seven decades of Virginia’s blessed presence as part of our humanity, I recall how I felt a spontaneous kindred spirit when we met more than a decade ago as the new millennium was dawning. That initial acquaintance in 2001 has flowered into a wonderfully collaborative relationship working together to advance the Culture of Peace and the related United Nations Programme of Action.”

Master coach, leadership trainer and spiritual guide, Virginia is a dedicated and determined activist, devoting herself to making our planet a better place to live for all.

She is the founder of Reconciliation Leadership Certificate Program, the Global Mediation and Reconciliation Service, and the Institute for Global Leadership. Since 2001, she has organized a number of brilliant courses on reconciliation, empowerment and the culture of peace. Virginia is also the co-founder and director of the Center for Global Community and World Law, which is recognized as a non-governmental organization by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

Her longtime commitment to the Global Movement for the Culture of Peace has been manifested in many ways. It has been truly a pleasure for me to be a collaborator with Virginia on many of those activities, programs and endeavors. I have greatly enjoyed participating and speaking at many of the events organized by Virginia at the UN as well as in Worcester and many educational institutions.

Virginia’s advocacy for and attention to the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on “Women and Peace and Security” has been remarkable and flows naturally from her leadership role in promoting the Culture of Peace, which puts women’s equality and empowerment at the center of its agenda.

Virginia’s forward-looking work deserves our recognition, including the launch of the US Coalition to Support the Human Right to Peace which we did together in March 2011.

As host of the television program, Imagine Worcester and the World, Virginia presents local and global interviews with peacemakers around the world, work which contributes to a global mosaic for the Culture of Peace.

This book updates her first book, A Mantle of Roses: A Woman’s Journey Home to Peace (Xlibris 2004). In this new work, she chronicles how she accessed, trusted and applied her inner voice to her life and to those of many others around the globe, initiating a transformational process that should have long-term effects on our world.

Phoenix tells in such an engaging manner a compelling life story which can inspire those seeking to work together to empower each other and become true global citizens, thus making  our planet a better place. Phoenix includes end-chapter journal pages intended to stimulate reader reflection and self-enquiry. This could have the potential to open up a whole new, real world to them.

Her work at the UN features a central role in this book, as her interactive exercises draw on the experiences of Reconciliation Leaders with UN entities in such conflict-affected states as Burundi, the Sudan, and Philippines, as well as with the anti-human trafficking movement and post-9/11 New York. Virginia consistently and persistently presents applications of the Peacebuilding Process of Reconciliation (PPR) and the growth of the Global Mediation and Reconciliation Service (GMRS).

I appreciate that she remains hopeful that the United Nations can become more effective in peace building. In a research paper co-authored with Dr. Sarah Sayeed, a New York reconciliation leader, Virginia articulates this belief, writing that “the current models of dispute resolution and the dedicated experience of countless numbers of practitioners and theorists have shown us it may be possible to de-escalate volatile challenges if we have the right mindset, experience and mediation skills. At the international level, we can empower the United Nations to play a stronger role in peace building.”

She recognizes that many see the United Nations as impotent, and understands that if we want to change the UN it has to be done through each country. This is evident when we find that most of its 193 Member States increasingly put their respective national self-interest ahead of the collective and global interests in resolving problems. Her strong focus on global citizenship is something which needs greater attention, particularly in view of the recent heightened interest in that area.

Virginia emphasizes very forcefully and, of course, appropriately that transforming leadership to ensure peaceful co-existence requires “accountability rather than blame, forgiveness, and reconciliation.” Without them, I certainly agree that humanity will repeat the suffering and horror of this century’s wars and ethnic conflict, and respond to terrorism with the use of armed force rather than what she so elegantly terms “soul force” and solid dispute resolution techniques. The Reconciliation Leadership training she has developed focuses on peacebuilding. Reconciliation Leaders aim to build trust and help all sides, as she writes, “move beyond self interest to the common good.” These efforts foster the culture of peace to make peace truly sustainable.

In its eleven chapters, Phoenix threads beautifully Virginia’s “soul journey” — how she learned to live in integrity, purpose and confidence and how she responded to a calling she could not ignore –“a call to wholeness, balance, and peace.”

I echo Virginia’s disappointment that the phoenix rising from the ashes of World War II depicted in the UN Security Council mural has not witnessed the end of the cycle of violence in our world. But I share her determination, as she says, to “restore faith in humanity by redefining leadership, politics and politician so that all people will find their patch on the patchwork quilt of the Divine Plan.”

My intellectual journey for the culture of peace with Virginia will always have a special place in my heart and soul.

May this book enjoy wide readership and a deep internalization of its inspiring message.