Kazakhstan – Intersections Dialogue Techniques in a Multi-Cultural Setting

Astana, Kazakhstan: On October 18-19, 2012, Fred Johnson and Bob Chase traveled to Central Asia for the 20th Anniversary of the first World Conference of Spiritual Concord. They were among seventy delegates from two dozen countries (six from the US) who gathered to explore how spirituality and culture can influence policy-makers across national borders in ways that make for peace.

Rev. Chase is a member of the presidium (planning committee) for a much larger gathering to take place in Astana in October, 2013. Chase and Johnson were attending the current gathering, in part, to test some of Intersections’ conversation techniques to see if they are “translatable” to a global stage. The answer was a resounding YES!

The conference opened with Fred Johnson who called the gathering together through song. From the very first note, the delegates knew that they were about to experience an event that would touch their minds and their hearts.

Later, Bob Chase led the delegates in an exercise that included viewing a video from the decidedly New York production of Subway Stories. You can see the clip here. Delegates then broke into small groups and participants were asked to share with one another how the clip intersected their own life experience. At the conclusion of the exercise, conference director Senator Tolegen Mukhamedzhanov, told how he was teamed up with two young Kazakhstani women in the exercise and how he had tearfully implored them to go home and “sing a lullaby” to their mothers since circumstances in his life had kept him from doing so. Sen. Mukhamedzhanov is also a musician and though his mother had died years ago, he still suffered from this missed opportunity. The delegates sat silent as this powerful man shared this very tender story.
At the conclusion of the two day event, Fred Johnson put to music the words of a statement that was developed at the conference, leading the global gathering in song. Barriers of language, religion and culture dissolved as those who sought to find ways for nations to achieve peace, found it among themselves.

Intersections principles such as honoring one’s personal stories, and using the arts as a catalyst for community, were put to the test in this faraway place and as a result the conference was a deeper, more meaningful experience for those who attended.