Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Bolder Approach to Helping the World

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Bolder Approach to Helping the World

Article excerpt

Deepak Chopra looks around at the chaos in the world - wars, terrorism, economic disparities, and social injustice - and sees nothing but potential. Indeed, to him the current state of humanity is like that of a caterpillar, which toward the end of its life eats so voraciously it destroys all the greenery around and becomes bloated and disfigured. But then the destructive insect uses those nutrients to transform into a magnificent butterfly.

Sound a bit too optimistic?

Maybe, but Mr. Chopra and a disparate group of international notables, from Puerto Rico's pop star Ricky Martin to Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Betty Williams, are convinced that humanity is on the verge of a similar transformation, and they're determined to help it along.

This weekend, they will gather in Puerto Rico to begin the process of connecting what Chopra calls "peace cells" - grass-roots humanitarian organizations - around the world that are already building the butterfly's foundation. They're calling their endeavor the Alliance for the New Humanity. The goal is to create an umbrella organization that would raise money to fortify humanitarian work already under way. The group also has a more ambitious, albeit amorphous, goal of convincing the world's media to focus on solutions rather than problems.

"The chaos that we see all around us at the moment in the form of ecological disasters, economic disparities, social injustice, war and terrorism, this is the essential ingredient for the [caterpillar's] nutritive soup," says Chopra, the Indian writer, with unapologetic optimism. "The opportunity is absolutely at hand for the transformation of our species into something extraordinary."

While the rhetoric may seem unrealistic to many - with some 800,000 hungry people in the world and nearly 40 armed conflicts raging - what the alliance proposes to do impresses many experts in philanthropy, not just because of their proposals to raise money, but also for the international star power already committed to the effort.

In addition to Chopra, Mr. Martin, and Ms. Williams, founding members include Oscar Arias, former president of Costa Rica and Nobel laureate, human rights activist Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, and the Italian founder of the Inter Press Agency, Roberto Salvio. At this weekend's launch event, former Vice President Al Gore will give the keynote address. So even before it gets started, some experts are putting it into a historical context.

"I think that this is another version of these periodic great awakenings," says Paul Schervish of the Boston College Social Welfare Research Institute. "This is a period in history when people are simultaneously aware of both the injuries and the debilitations of the current era, and see that the potential for transformation is as great as the injuries are deep. …

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