The theme of the International Festival of Dialogue EURIADE in the first half of this year is closely linked to the two people who will receive the Martin Buber Plaque 2022 on June 16 at the HuB Theater in Kerkrade: Sabriye Tenberken and Paul Kronenberg.
They founded an international institute for social visionaries called “kanthari” in Kerala, South India.
The name “kanthari” was carefully chosen by Sabriye and Paul. They say: “kanthari is a chili that grows wild in the backyards of Kerala. Once rooted, it survives droughts and floods. The small ‘kanthari’ looks harmless but it is one of the spiciest chilis in the world. It purifies the blood, relieves pain, and lowers blood pressure. For us, therefore, it is a symbol and namesake for our participants who, like this special chili, have taken root on the margins of society, defy all odds and fight against social ills with bite and fiery commitment.”
The participants, who receive one year of intensive training from kanthari, are change makers who are situated at the margins of society, people who have experienced or survived adversity and thus draw the strength to solve local social and/or environmental problems in a sustainable way. They include women who have experienced violence and started women empowerment training centers, former street children who are setting up street children’s projects, young people who have experienced war and now initiate peace programs, environmental advocates who start organizations that fight for a future with clean waters and healthy forests, and people with disabilities who are setting up their own schools and training projects. Since 2009, 258 social visionaries from 53 countries have been trained. This has resulted in more than 160 organizations that are benefiting thousands of people in need every day, making a positive long-term difference in their lives.
It’s not about ‘charity’ but ’empowerment’: “We don’t give them the solutions, but the techniques to find and implement their own solutions. For us, it’s about ‘change from within.’ ” say Sabriye and Paul.
The story of the two is unusual:
Sabriye Tenberken is from Bonn. Despite the fact, or perhaps because of the fact, that she has been completely blind since the age of 12, she decided to embark on a great adventure. She studied Tibetology, Sociology, and Philosophy. For her studies, she developed Tibetan Braille which later was recognized as the official Braille script for the Tibetan language. On a visit to Tibet in 1997, she met Dutch adventurer and technician Paul Kronenberg. One year later, together they founded the first school for the blind, a Braille printing press, and a vocational training farm. Since both were never prepared for the many difficult challenges of setting up and running their organization in the autonomous region of Tibet, the idea for kanthari, an Impact Leadership Institute (www.kanthari.org), was born.
“Those who join kanthari, have, like us, taken their lives and challenges into their own hands. They carry an idea, a big dream to change society in an ethical way. However, usually, if you have a big dream, you will hear: ‘Better stay on the ground! Don’t reach for the stars!’ At kanthari however, “dreamers” are encouraged to turn their ideas into reality, we give them the tools to do so. Here, they learn everything needed to start and sustainably run impact-making organizations and initiatives: project planning and management, fundraising, media relations, and even eco-friendly construction of buildings, landscaping, and much more.”
All who read the above, or who continue to explore the works of Sabriye and Paul, will understand that both simply “must” be awarded the Martin Buber plaque in the truest sense of the word… Both are living examples, inspiration, and motivation to care for “OTHERS” in our society. In other words: to be a partner for the others in the sense of Buber’s “I and YOU”!
In addition to introducing Sabriye and Paul’s values and works to our friends and guests, especially the young participants in the EURIADE project “Youth in Dialogue,” we would like to make them aware of what they themselves can inspire, discover, and take up responsibility for. We do this by awarding the Martin Buber plaque to individuals who excel in the WITH-HUMAN sense. This is in reference to the motto, the title, and the thematic call to action, “LOOK WITH THE EYE OF THE OTHER!”
In this context, it might be interesting to know that Martin Buber places this practice of “looking with the eye of the other” as a precondition in the forefront as the foundation for his ‘I and YOU’ dialogical principle. (see… also the introduction in this issue).
If we leave our own view, we might experience the view of the other with the eye of the other. In doing so, we could or should allow the other person and his or her words to be valid, respect his or her circumstances and perspectives, and above all not interfere with this other person with our view or opinion. Perhaps even take words from him or her or possibly impose our words on him or her.
Only in this way can genuine conversation lead to encounters that are more than mere meetings: to happy RELATIONSHIPS.