MRA-IofC is a worldwide network of women and men who have started with themselves to bring the changes they want to see around them. The starting point is the readiness of each person to try to live according to the voice of conscience. It is an attempt by ordinary people to search for "What is right" in every situation rather than "Who is right", making restitution for past wrongs and lifting my life to be used for an unselfish purpose.
It is a continuous process which, although not easy constantly renews one's own whole way of living and even one's motivation. It leads to trust in God's help, as these changes go beyond one's own spiritual and moral capabilities. In this way MRA-IofC works for a change in society through a moral and spiritual change in people. This has led in recent years to programs for social healing and justice, for fostering the values that support free and democratic societies.
It is a process that makes marriages function, builds right relationships between management and labor, strengthens friendship, helps neighborhoods and communities find purpose and unity, and creates trusting relations among nations.
Society is made up of individuals. Without change in individuals we cannot hope to bring the change needed in the world. The best individual to start with is oneself. By working to bring change in our own lives we gain experience. Success in this effort shows a way for others to bring change in their lives too and failures help us develop compassion for those who are unable to change and live right. We thus develop first hand experiential knowledge and practical wisdom in the art of living. We learn to become agents of change who function and lead by example and inspiration rather than by preaching or tyranny.
In order to do this it is necessary to spare some of our attention from looking outwards to looking inwards into ourselves. We need to face the truth about our own lives. There are many methods and approaches to this inner journey. Most of them depend on the regular practice of a quiet time each day and applying standards for measuring our lives and giving direction to it.
When people realise that they do count, they start to feel a sense of responsibility for the way they live. If on the other hand they feel they are simply cogs in a large machine, they find it much easier to blame others for what goes wrong. Instead of asking, "what can I do about this problem"? They think, "it's all someone else's fault". Some have the illusion that by not accepting responsibility they become freer.
The principles of MRA-IofC point a way out of this dilemma & encourage anyone who is dissatisfied with their own lives or the world around them to start a process of change - setting an example by starting to live according to the values they wish to see in society. "Starting with myself" - may sound too simple, but there is a certain logic to it. Do I want to see peace in the World? How about starting with my own relationship with family and neighbours? Do I want to see an end to corruption and crime? Why not begin by being honest and trustworthy myself? Starting with myself ends the blame game and ousts hypocrisy.
Having started with myself, I cannot stop there. What about taking a step towards someone of a different background, race or culture? Starting with myself can go a long way to a new set of attitudes.
Who is to say what is right and wrong. Isn't life a jungle, where I can only do my best to survive, and it is all too easy to get lost?
The four moral standards, which MRA-IofC proposes - Purity, Honesty, Unselfishness and Love - are essential equipment for my survival kit. And more than just survival they lead towards inner happiness, freeing me to make my particular contribution to the society.
Purity helps me to love without lust, to care for people without trying to manipulate them.
Honesty is about openness and liberation. Dishonesty, however small, so easily requires more dishonesty to conceal the truth. Usually it is harder to be honest with myself than with other people.
Unselfishness challenges me to be practical in my wish to help others, and to remove that big 'I' from centre stage.
Love underpins these three. To love is to see the best in others and to want the best for them. Love embraces those I don't like as well as those I do.
These standards need to be absolute or else I can adjust them to suit myself, thereby avoiding their challenge. But they are not rods to beat myself and others with it, nor impossible hurdles to trip me up and generate a sense of guilt. They are not an end in themselves but a guideline, which lead us to the next step in our inner journey.
Yes, IofC provides an opportunity for people of all faiths, caste, creed, gender or nationality. And for many it has been a gateway to a life of meaning, purpose, faith or belief that is their own.
MRA-IofC has grown from the experience of a man called Frank Buchman, born in 1878, in Pennsylvania who has gone through downs as well as ups and emerged with renewed confidence and determined to work with others in shaping a society where each person counts irrespective of their place in society.
Buchman's father ran the only hotel in town, next to the railway station. Every train brought a wide variety of people from whom the boy caught echoes of the outside world. At school he was hard working, though no more than an average student. His mother wanted him to become a local minister, and he did go on to be ordained in the Lutheran church. At seminary, he taught Sunday School and visited orphanages and hospitals.
By the time he was 21, Buchman was setting his sights higher than his mother's hopes for him. The experience, which most marked Buchman's life, came in 1908. He was on holiday in England, following the breakdown of his first major project, a hospice in Philadelphia for destitute young men. He wanted something altogether more fugal - and eventually, after three years' tussle, Buchman had to resign. At the age of 30, saddened and bitterly resentful, he was convinced that his life's work was over.
Whilst on this holiday he came upon a small Chapel in Keswick in the Lake District where a woman was preaching to a tiny congregation. Buchman was transfixed and felt a great distance between him and God due to his sin of nursing ill feelings.
He realised that his resentment towards the six members of the board made him the 'seventh wrong man': 'I was the centre of my own life. That big "I" had to be crossed out. I asked God to change me'. He felt that he was being asked to put things right with those men, and immediately wrote to each one of them asking forgiveness for his ill-will. It brought him a joyful sense of release.
These two linked experiences convinced Buchman that no one was beyond God's reach: anyone could make a new start and when they did, it would affect the people around them. Over the next few years he crystallized the philosophy which lies at the Heart of MRA-IofC.
In 1938, when the European nations were rearming militarily, Frank Buchman passionately felt for a worldwide programme of moral and spiritual rearmament. To address the root causes of conflict and war and to release that energy for creative development. And soon the work was being called Moral Re-Armament, abbreviated MRA-IofC. Buchman felt if people and the leaders accepted moral values and followed God's guidance, war/conflicts might still be averted. In retrospect this might seem unrealistic, yet it received a tremendous response at that time.
MRA-IofC is not a sect. It is a movement where each one of us is rooted in our own religious tradition. MRA-IofC's ideas do not require one to water down ones religious faiths, beliefs, but rather encourage one to live it more fully. At the same time these ideas enable those of different faiths to work together without compromising their own beliefs.
Although MRA-IofC takes no partisan stands, it can and does profoundly affect political situations because it helps politicians, like everyone else, find clear motives and creative ideas.
Each person is responsible in teamwork with others to his/her conscience and inner voice. In India, there are a few regional centers staffed by voluntary/full-time workers, with an Asian Training Centre (Asia Plateau) in Panchgani, Maharastra. At the regional and national levels, decisions are made and leadership given through informal associations of men and women from many cities who meet together regularly. The objective remains to get movement into people, rather than people into a movement.
Initiatives for needed reconciliations can come from anyone in any place.
It is supported by the voluntary and sacrificial giving of those who believe in its effectiveness. There are charitable bodies in many countries around the world for the handling of tax-deductible gifts. All finances are audited.
Foremost are the countless lives and families given deeper love and fulfillment through people finding a practical way to know and follow the inner voice of the Creator. Next come fruits of the discovery that the inner voice can reveal not only a plan for the individual life, but also for nations and the world.
MRA-IofC had a profound effect on post-World War II development through reconciliation's between France and Germany, and Japan and its opponents. It helped release a new dynamic in many African countries emerging from colonialism, such as Tunisia and Morocco, and more recently in Zimbabwe. There are many other documented stories of reconciliation between labor and management and among racial and ethnic groups.
Corporate and professional leaders today face challenges and responsibilities that go far beyond the traditional decisions of conducting honest business. MRA-IofC offers a way of life that can bring a new level of integrity to personal, family, and professional decisions. Through listening to their inner voice, many find the courage and inspiration to live their deepest convictions and contribute to constructive change in their work environment. As the corporate world becomes increasingly global, MRA-IofC continues to bring together international business people to build relationships based on trust and respect.
Initiatives of Change (IofC) is a global network committed to building integrity and trust across the world's divides. It comprises people of diverse cultures, nations, beliefs and backgrounds who are committed to transforming society through change in individuals and relationships, starting in their own lives.
Moments of personal transformation often mark a new direction in a person's life. And personal change can often lead to change in situations.
Initiatives of Change International, based in Caux (Switzerland) is a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, and Participatory Status at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
Initiatives of Change began under the name of the Oxford Group in the 1920s. It was initiated by Frank Buchman (see www.frankbuchman.info for a searchable biography). His experience of finding freedom from resentment towards colleagues was a dramatic turning point in his life. Against a backdrop of the rise of Communism and Fascism and global economic recession, his insight that deep personal transformation is the key to social change inspired students in universities in America and Europe in the 1920s and 30s. His work spread to many sectors of society and became a world-wide movement of moral and spiritual renewal widely known as MRA.
When many nations were arming themselves prior to World War II, Buchman called for 'moral and spiritual re-armament'. The concept attracted wide public attention and the campaign for Moral Re-Armament - MRA - was launched in the East End of London in 1938. For many decades 'MRA' and its work were known internationally. However, by the start of the new millennium it was clear the words 'moral re-armament' no longer carried the same resonance as in 1938. In 2001 the name Initiatives of Change (IofC) was adopted.
No. People who work with IofC come from a multiplicity of backgrounds and beliefs. Those with a faith are encouraged both to explore the roots of their own tradition, and to discover and respect the beliefs of others. All are enabled to work together for a lasting change in society.
IofC's initiator, Frank Buchman, was a devout Christian but his work included people of other faiths and none. Buchman's approach, of appreciating people of diverse cultures and beliefs, was far ahead of its time.
Today, with growing cultural friction around the planet, IofC reaffirms its commitment to building relationships of trust across the world's social, ethnic and religious divides.
Initiatives of Change emphasizes that there is a real connection between the personal and the global: when people and relationships change, situations change. IofC founder, Frank Buchman, believed foremost in helping people unlock their potential. With this in mind, we emphasize:
Whenever anyone, prompted by compassion and conscience, faces reality about themselves and takes honest steps towards change, that action communicates to others. It inspires a growth in the human spirit that in turn kindles initiatives of change in families, communities and beyond. This integrity could be the engine which drives social transformation in the 21st Century - a growing momentum of people who become agents of change and reconciliation, forging relationships of trust across the world's divides.
A quiet time is a period set aside, preferably each day, to listen to the inner voice of conscience or, for some, the spirit of God - to consider changes in one's own life and seek direction. It is often helpful to write down the thoughts that come during these times of quiet and, when appropriate, to share them with others.
Buchman had a gift for expressing spiritual truth in non-religious language. His experience of meeting and speaking with people of all faiths and cultural backgrounds showed him that in community after community, culture after culture, the principles of honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love were universal values to strive for. Given the human capacity for self-deception by selectively comparing our moral performance with others, Buchman recognised the need to consider these values as 'absolute' as tools for discernment and direction. These principles form the foundation of trust upon which the various initiatives of change are built.
IofC is financed largely by contributions from individuals who believe that this spirit and practice are needed. Increasingly specific projects are financed by Foundations and official bodies. Legal bodies exist in many countries to administer funds and property. Each initiative is approached with an expectation of sharing resources and with the trust that people acting with unselfish motives will find support from unexpected sources.
In most countries, Initiatives of Change has no formal membership. Many people volunteer their time in various capacities. There are several hundred people across the world who devote all their time, energy, and resources; many thousands more who make it the basis of their family and working lives; and countless others whose application of IofC's principles has resulted in far reaching changes around them.
How does someone get involved with Initiatives of Change? Anyone who wants to be part of building trust across the world's divides can become involved. If you are interested in learning more email us.