During 22 - 25 April 2020, 14 young adults from IofC Norden met online at Zoom to strengthen their friendship and community, the youngest of them was three-year-old Arne. In addition to representing the four Nordic countries Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, the participants also brought with them their respective other cultures and represented Poland, England, Russia, Sudan, Somalia, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. . Together, the participants enjoyed fruitful, long-awaited time together.
For a long time, Shamail Haydar from IofC Denmark expressed a need to gather young adults from IofC Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden for an ‘Inside-Out’ leadership training with Bhav Patel, in order to build a stronger community between the four countries. Slowly but steadily, the desire began to take shape. Bhav would lead the training and Norway would host the participants with the training in Sophus, the IofC center in Norway, Oslo. While many of us looked forward to being together and strengthening our friendships, God, or the universe as they say, had other plans for us. With the issuance of coronavirus as a WHO pandemic in mid-March and with the increase in coronavirus cases globally, countries around the world began, one by one, to close their borders, as did Denmark and Norway. These countries also declared a social shutdown. With the closure also came strict corona measures where some countries pressed harder than others. These measures included social distance, bans on large gatherings, avoidance of hugs and, if necessary, self-quarantine.
Many of us also experienced financial challenges, as well as challenges of working and studying from home via various digital platforms. For the Inside-Out leadership training, this meant that the participants could no longer gather in Sophus, and the training was moved to the digital communication platform Zoom. With the pandemic and the transition to Zoom, new goals were identified, and the training changed its name from Inside-Out leadership training to 'IofC Nordic Community Building '. The main purpose of the community building sessions was to connect online and be together in the difficult time the participants were now in and to share their experiences while discussing the following topics: love, family, hope, society, faith, and the world. Bhav summarizes; "Getting close to each other as fellow human beings in these corona times felt primary, while the planned content of our discussions became secondary."
Our community building took place from Wednesday 22 April to Saturday 25 April. During these four days, we focused on topics such as love, family, hope, society, faith and the world and shared our experiences and thoughts based on the following questions:
What does my life look like right now?
What are my expectations and hopes for these days together?
What is the core of IofC that holds us together with all our differences and similarities?
Where do I agree?
Where do I not agree?
Where is it very clear to you?
Where is that confusing for you?
In addition to the issues mentioned, the participants also spent a lot of time sharing their spiritual stories and reflected on 1) what and who had shaped the development of their beliefs, values, meaning in life, faith, etc. 2) what experiences had shaped their spiritual story, and 3) and who had been the "other" that was important in their spiritual story. Nordic Community Building resulted in meaningful and precious sessions for everyone. When the participants were later asked about the experience and what they appreciated most about the time we spent together, they answered the following:
"Being surrounded by people during the quarantine period ..."
"To have the opportunity to meet during this difficult time and I feel it was a way to take care of each other and be together"
In-depth conversations. Explore together. Small group conversations ”
"Being with everyone and sharing valuable time"
“Being together. Spend time with those I have missed in recent days and months. Appreciating our friendship even more and realizing that what we have is beautiful and unique. I definitely felt that we grew closer and got to know each other more. We connected with each other on a deeper level even though it was online. Taught us more about zoom ”
“Continuity - every day with a short summary of previous sessions. Allowing reflection during the day to be commented on in the next session. Having sessions in the morning worked well - it was a great way to start the morning. ”
Community building reminded us all in IofC Norden of something very valuable; that we are all a family, and that with strong bonds of friendship we have the power to make a change together, in each other's lives and in our own lives. It also taught us the value of sticking together in times of challenges - whether physical or digital. And as one of the participants recalls, “It was quite interesting to try to come together online, especially when we talked about how we can improve our co-operation in the Nordic region. This was particularly enriching because of the diversity we had during these meetings. I look forward to the future and to what we can achieve together. ”