It is with both pleasure and sadness that I write these lines. Pleasure, because it gives me a rare opportunity to publicly express my appreciation for what Jean-Francois has managed to achieve with Ahimsa over these many years. An out-of-the-box, imaginative and impactful initiative that has helped countless people in need and has drawn the attention of many others, such as myself, to the imperative need to pay attention to, and address, the needs of those most at risk at the grassroots level, and to learn from the many extraordinary ways in which they help themselves for the benefit of their communities, and giving us, in our more well-off parts of the world, inspiration for innovative public health interventions.
And with sadness, because we will lose an inspirational organisation and leader, or at least an important part of it, and a locus where many of us met with extraordinary and inspiring human beings that Jean-Francois always has had a knack to assemble around him. We will miss those get-togethers!
Dear Jean-Francois, You can and should be proud of what you have achieved with Ahimsa. Many people accross the world are in your debt and that of your colleagues!
I wish you the very best in the next chapter of your, undoubtedly equally busy, life and look forward to staying in touch as we, all, collectively attempt to right the egregious global wrongs of our era.
President of the Diplomatic Forum of the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator Foundationn, Senior Adviser at Macro Advisory Partners, Former DG of United Nations Office at Geneva
Setsuko Klossowska de Rola
Comme la vôtre sûrement, ma vie s’est faite au fil de rencontres décisives. Alors la main tendue, les bras ouverts, le visage rayonnant d’intelligence et de bonté, le visage humain m’enveloppait dans sa lumière et j’étais accueillie. Alors je me sentais pleinement moi-même, je participais, je pouvais être utile.
Pareil sentiment de plénitude, les rencontres d’Ahimsa me l’inspirent chaque fois. Ahimsa, c’est un précieux fil d’or dans la trame de ma vie.
Cher François et ta famile, Olivia et tous les participants d’Ahimsa, je vous envoie mon coeur.
Avec toute mon affection,
Setsuko Klossowska de Rola
Painter and ceramist, Unesco Artist for Peace
Partnership is a central theme these days, across many domains but perhaps most challenging and crucial in international development. The tendency towards siloes is pervasive, separating different actors. Ahimsa and its indefatigable founder and director Jean-François de Lavison set out to create connections. These often involved improbable links. The important and often unappreciated work of faith actors, in faith communities and beyond, is a prime example. Each Forum that Ahimsa has organized has brought together actors from faith communities with policy makers, academic protagonists, business leaders, and others, in settings that encouraged innovation and creative contacts. This appetite for contact and collaboration comes with a deep commitment to the next generations of leaders and actors, and thus each Forum has brought in young leaders, and encouraged to translate their ideas and passions into action. And a love for the arts adds to it all. The World Faiths Development Dialogue (WFDD) has been part of this journey over the decade, challenged to broaden our perspectives but still more to build satisfying partnerships and above all friendships, across so many divides of geography, background, and heritage. Ahima’s spirit lives in us all.
Executive Director at World Faiths Development Dialogue (WFDD)
Ahimsa has touched the minds and hearts of many people of all ages, and across many countries and cultures. Its ideals and practical demonstrations have both challenged and inspired a generation.
In our complex and fractured world, Ahimsa has sought to show the path of peaceful co-existence and sustainable development. We all know that this is never a straight road but Jean Francois has been persistent and assiduous, and his optimism has been a much-needed antidote for the despair and cynicism that we see so much.
And so, the seeds planted by Ahimsa will grow and bear fruit in many ways in their own different contexts. It has been a great privilege to be associated with Jean-Francois, Olivia, and the Ahimsa team.
Senior Advisor at Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, Professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs at the University of Manchester
Over the last 12 years the Ahimsa Fund has certainly more than achieved its noble goal of making good health contagious and promoting dialogue between unusual stakeholders. There are many international health organizations, but no one has excelled like Ahimsa in bringing together stakeholders from the diverse fields of health innovation, arts, the faith communities and young people. I have wonderful memories of the annual conferences in South Africa and in the beautiful Les Pensières Center for Global Health of the Mérieux Foundation. These conferences have led to deep inspiration, lasting friendships, new initiatives and sometimes joint publications.
The spirit of the Ahimsa Fund and the richness of exchanges between its numerous friends around the world need to continue, now more than ever. We are living in an increasingly fragmented and polarized world. Better health for all will not be possible without the principles and values for which Ahimsa stands: non-violence, respect, reducing inequalities between and within countries and the belief in the ingenuity and benevolence of human beings representing different cultures and generations all over the world.
Thank you Ahimsa!
Director Global Health Diplomacy at Joep Lange Institute, Geneva
Intrigued by the name of Ahimsa, I was delighted when Katherine Marshall introduced me to Jean-Francois de Lavison in 2016. Jean-Francois spoke of Ahimsa in a compelling way. It was clear that in his vision, Ahimsa was not only benevolent and timely but also strategic given the context of the emerging clarity in international development and especially public health circles, about the imperative to work more synergistically with both religious actors as well as the business sector. Jean-Francois and Olivia organised excellent consultations on the role of public health partnerships with the business world – particularly some of the established pharmaceuticals with a corporate social responsibility consciousness -and some key actors working in the religion and development field. As per usual where Jean-Francois is concerned, the high calibre of the exchanges and the learning which took place by all sides, was significant. Thanks to Ahimsa’s seminal work, the question is no longer should religious entities work with the business sector, but how best to do so, so as to maximise benefit for all sectors of society, especially the most vulnerable.
Also noteworthy is the courage of Jean-Francois, in his endeavors to establish an innovative tripartite set of partnerships, to ensure that the challenging issues of women’s rights were not only not ignored, but that womens’ leadership and gender-balanced discussions were very much a defining feature of his discussions and programmes. Ahimsa was pathbreaking. It’s legacy, and that of its architect(s), is enduring, and whether in my work in the United Nations or in Religions for Peace, I have only admiration and gratitude for the visionary leadership Ahimsa/Jean Francois, provided.
Secretary General, Religions for Peace International
It is both with joy and with a slight nostalgia that I look back at the achievements of Ahimsa over many years.
Joy because the forums – a highlight of Ahimsa activities – were faithful to the original bold aspiration to bring together creative leaders from different sectors and regions. Driven by strong ethical beliefs, the forums sought to change the status quo to uncover solutions to making global health innovations accessible to the most vulnerable populations of the world. We invariably came back from the forums re-energized, ready to change the world!
Nostalgia because there will be no more Forum… but nothing lasts forever, and I wish my friend Jean-François all the very best for a new page in his life.
Director of Research, International Institutional Cooperation, INSERM
Reflection on cooperation between EFSA Institute and the Ahimsa network
I can still remember my thoughts when a received the first invitation from Jean-François to attend the Ahimsa Roundtable on Global Health and Faith-Inspired Communities in Annecy. What kind of person and institution would dare to call such a wide spectrum of participants – from business, from academia, multilateral organisations, international donors, faith representatives and governments to a joint consultation on health challenges – knowing how difficult it is in South Africa to establish dialogue and collaboration between different sectors? Not only was it a remarkable enriching exchange of inputs that gave me new insights from specialists and case studies from across the world, but it was also the start of many new friendships.
Apart from the fond memories of several Annecy consultations – given the exceptional facilities, food, hospitality, and friendships – the 2015 Ahimsa Roundtable in Kleinmond, South Africa, was also an outstanding event for me. The high-level global participants that took time to attend the conference, the participation of South African leaders like our former Minister of Health, Dr Motsoaledi, Archbishop Dr Thabo Makgoba, and business leaders like Dr Brian Brink, made this a very important event for our dialogue amongst different partners in South Africa. This was definitely one of the outstanding conferences where we have been a co-partner in an international event.
Even if Ahimsa formerly comes to a close, I am sure our friendships and cooperation will continue – based on the remarkable facilitating and mediation role that Jean-François de Lavison has played over the years. I hope that I can welcome touring visitors for a glass of wine in Stellenbosch.
CEO at CDDC Trust, EFSA Institute, NRASD
A story of oysters
Many good memories of a fruitful collaboration with Ahimsa over the years come to mind and many thanks to Jean-François for having put on the table innovative topics, with a great mix of talented people coming from all horizons. The part I will miss the most is our brainstorming sessions, traditionally organized by Jean-François around a platter of oysters at Les Halles Paul Bocuse in Lyon. A great environment for open discussions about future projects, bouncing ideas back and forth and dare I say, contributing to the development of new ideas. The end of Ahimsa will leave a vacuum in the global health ecosystem but no doubt we will find good reasons to meet around a platter of oysters again!
Senior Vice President, Global Access at Cepheid
We’re all sad to hear that the Ahimsa Fund and Partners is coming to an end after 12 years of life-transforming engagements with global health stakeholders and impact across many countries and peoples’ lives. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have met and worked with you and Olivia albeit for a very short period of time and thankful for the many interactions and connections I have gained from being a part of the Ahimsa network. I know that your partners and friends all over the world will miss you and Ahimsa dearly and feel the void your absence will leave. Do enjoy your well-deserved rest and time with your loved ones.
Associate, ACT-Accelerator, at FIND, the global alliance for diagnostics
Jorge Everardo Vivanco Topete
I am convinced that people’s ultimate purpose is to practice compassionate love. Throughout our lives we instinctively seek to be educated, then, build, teach, and ultimately, give.
The richest way to give is to use our time and this time will have greater significance in the future when we give it to those most in need.
This cycle makes it possible for the human species to survive and fulfill its most important end.
Ahimsa has -for many years- been a tool that hundreds of people have used to practice this compassionate love by pouring it out on thousands throughout the world.
This seed born in the heart of Jean François de Lavison, has already borne this fruit in the members of the Ahimsa network themselves and now a new stage of this initiative begins.
That is why I join this celebration of gratitude and hope that humanity will be increasingly supportive and that we can end the greatest inequalities that still affect many communities around the world.
My best regards.
Jorge Everardo Vivanco Topete
CEO at ZUKARA
Dear Jean Francois,
Is with a mix of happiness and sadness that I am writing you these few words about Ahimsa.
The happiness comes from the idea that after a very long and successful career in the WW health care sector, you have finally come to the conclusion that it is time “not” to retire (people like you “ never retire” ) but to open up a new chapter in your personal life that will bring new challenges and new objectives to achieve !!
My sadness comes from a very simple consideration: I have attended hundreds of conferences, symposiums, and meetings in so many parts of the World but….none of them gave me the same level of enthusiasm, passion, involvement, and desires… as the Ahimsa meetings !! I am really going to miss them !!! I have attended only the last 3 but each time I came home with the conviction that only working together, recognizing that our differences are the reasons why we should talk more to each other, are the ways to design a future World better than the one we have today!
Jean Francois, not only you founded Ahimsa …you were ( and hopefully you will continue to be in a different way..) Ahimsa !! The work, the projects, the ideas, the dreams and …the people that you have put together in the last several years are not going to disappear. They should not disappear !!
Private Investor, former CSO of BIO-RAD