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What does it mean to be moral today?

'YOU can plan a new world on paper; but you've got to build it with people,' said former British Ambassador Archie Mackenzie at the opening of the Initiatives of Change (IofC) USA national gathering in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

His words echoed those of Frank Buchman, the founder of IofC, who also said that 'each person has a role to play in remaking the world'. A hundred people recently met in Buchman's hometown to celebrate his legacy, and through the sharing of personal stories sought to answer the question, 'What does it mean to be moral in America today?'

Business executive Ruma Bose set the tone with her own story: 'Six years ago I started on this road ... and then turned away. I now have the resources and possibilities to do something effective but I know I have to go back to the basics: love of God, love for people and times of quiet in the morning. I am starting again.'

Chris Fernando recalled fighting for his life in Sri Lanka during the tsunami in December 2004. He had walked away with a new calling to create a charity to help Sri Lankan orphans.

Carlos Monteagudo shared his memories of an impoverished Chicago childhood and how this led him to facilitate dialogues on how to alleviate poverty in New York.

Owais Bayunis, Chairman of the Islamic Center of Minnesota, explained his personal calling to educate Americans on the essence of Islam. 'I decided to make it my Jihad, which means my internal spiritual struggle, to make Islam known to people as it truly stands.'

IofC and the City of Allentown gave 'LifeChanger Awards' to Dr Hassan Hathout and Jim Houck, who embody the spirit of Buchman's legacy by demonstrating the power of personal transformation to create societal change.

Egyptian-born Hathout is a doctor of obstetrics and gynaecology, author, poet and Islamic scholar. After meeting Buchman in the 1950s he concluded, 'This is how the world can be changed'. He has dedicated much of his life to interpreting Islam to the West.

Houck had a major drinking problem until, in 1934, he heard Buchman's challenge to live a different life following God's guidance. He committed to never drink again. This launched a life of care for others in the docks of Baltimore, in meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, in churches and prisons across the country, and internationally with IofC. His 'Back to Basics' work to revive the moral foundation of AA was featured in Time magazine in 2004.

John Solomij, Executive Director of the Lehigh Valley Historical Society which co-hosted the gathering, reflected, 'I'm walking away from this weekend knowing what I'm going to have to do with my life, what I have to change.'
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Title Annotation:NEWS DESK; Initiatives of Change
Author:Breitenberg, Chris
Publication:For A Change
Geographic Code:1U2PA
Date:Aug 1, 2005
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