The JCM conference introduced me to so many new concepts. The bi-lingual nature of the conference in particular was such an important part of the process. By maintaining the importance of translating everything from lecture, workshops and discussion in both English and German it meant that participants had to temper their contributions and think twice about what they said and make sure that it was concise and relevant. Being a fast talker this didn’t come too easily but as I got more used to it I became conscious of not just blurting things out or talking too fast. I realised that there was so much to benefit from taking a few minutes to think about what you want to say and say it in a more coherent way using less words but still have an impact.
There were also so many other beneficial elements to the conference such as the equally shared inputs in the lectures, discussion groups, workshops and worship. But despite all the exciting ideas and conversation I think the thing that impressed me most was the governance of the conference itself. It was a genuine democratic process where discussion and negotiation was the centre of all that went on. Even when difficult issues or situations arouse they were handled with tact and diplomacy.
These are the things that left an impression on me and why I returned over the years again and again. Each experience was unique and I never left a conference without feeling I had grown as a person. But the benefits of the conference didn’t end as we got on the coach to go home. I have been inspired by JCM for over 25 years and have integrated much of what I experienced and learnt in my activism here at home. In particular, the setting up of the bi-lateral text based workshops in partnership between An-Nisa Society and the Leo Baeck College. This year these workshops will be celebrating 10 years of dialogue drawing on the principles of JCM. We may not be translating different languages but we are translating different experiences, histories and faith. We apply the same principles of democratic planning and are open to discuss difficult issues in an open and honest way. We eat together and witness each other’s worship and we have learnt while we have our own distinct ways of doing things we also share so much in common. It is only when dialogue doesn’t try to subsume the ‘other’ that we can genuinely learn to live side by side with respect and dignity.
Thank you JCM for all that I have learnt from you and may God keep you strong and vibrant and enable you to continue to be an oasis which will continue to nourish and feed our souls.