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Conversations with Francesca Po

Today we’d like to introduce you to Francesca Po.

Hi Francesca, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
My life’s work revolves around spirituality, peace activism, and the arts. I encountered some powerful spiritual experiences at a very young age, which really set me off on a trajectory of devoting my entire life to helping people connect to more purposeful things in life.

I believe that spirituality truly only has value when supported by real, tangible works of justice. When I was young, I noticed that “world peace” is known to be the quintessential ultimate goal to end all of the world’s problems – so much that it’s used as a laughable, unreachable cliché – so I thought, “Why not actively pursue it here and now?” Then, things just started to connect: my parents were major players in the People Power Revolution in the Philippines, which was always empowering for me, knowing that I’m part of a lineage of activists of an effective peace movement. At Berkeley, I met Michael Nagler, the world’s leading Gandhian, who inspired me to pursue a life path in nonviolence. Finally, as the first step in my new-found life purpose, I served in the Peace Corps.

The arts are arguably the most effective tool for encountering spiritual experiences or simply leading people to moments of inspiration and purpose. By cultivating the arts in ourselves and others, we also cultivate individuals to play their part in making the world a better place.

All of my work aims to combine all three of these things – spirituality, peace activism, the arts – in hopes that I am doing everything I can to making the world a better place.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Oftentimes people feel disempowered—whether in their own lives or just don’t believe there’s anything they can do to make positive change. People also have many misconceptions about peace-building and nonviolence as well, which adds to a lot of that disempowerment. For these, I recommend two resources which offer very practical answers:

1. This article: www.mettacenter.org/nonviolence-concepts-principles-resources/misconceptions

2. This film: www.thirdharmony.org

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
As part of my work as a peace activist, I serve as a member of the Board of Directors at the Metta Center for Nonviolence (www.mettacenter.org), which is a nonprofit that advises, educates, and advocates for nonviolence globally.  Our founder is Michael Nagler, who is the world’s leading Gandhian.  Ela Gandhi, Gandhi’s granddaughter, is also a member of our Board.  As you can imagine, this work is very timely in the current geopolitical landscape.

One thing that I am most proud of with the Metta Center is our work with Kyrgyzstan.  Back in back in 2010, Michael and I co-wrote an article (https://worldpress.org/Asia/3590.cfm) making an analysis and offering suggestions to Kyrgyzstan about how to nonviolently defuse the early stages of a potential civil war.  At that point, I had recently returned from working in the Central Asia region with the Peace Corps, so I had some experience with the situation.  Some months later, in response to that article, the president of Kyrgyzstan at the time, Roza Otunbayeva, took our advice and invited Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) to work in the country to help with the situation.  This marked the first time in history that NP was ever invited to, as opposed to infiltrate, a country.  Currently, NP no longer has any projects in Kyrgyzstan, indicating a sustainable level of peace and stability in the country.  Furthermore, NP currently uses excerpts from that article in their training handbook.

In 2020, we released a documentary, “The Third Harmony”, a film about the theory and practice of nonviolence. Not only that, it showcases the evidence behind nonviolence and how it stands much more effective against our previously held notions of the “effectivity” of more violent and coercive tactics. It also provides practical guidelines in how to play a part in peace-building using nonviolence in our daily lives and beyond.

The namesake of “The Third Harmony” is the one that focuses on what the individual: practices that one can do in one’s daily life that help oneself as well as the world at large. This is where my work in spirituality and the arts comes in. I offer holistic services in Nonviolent Communication (NVC), meditation, the Enneagram, and Astrology, among many other modalities (www.francescapo.wordpress.com/services). What makes my work different from others is that I have formal training from grounded traditions in all of my modalities—not arbitrary appropriations. I am available for individual sessions, couples sessions, speaking engagements, community-building events, workshops, and retreats, in both religious and nonreligious contexts. Helping others find peace within themselves and others – to find the Third Harmony – is a step in moving towards that goal of world peace.

Lastly, this year, I am publishing a book, “Religion and Peace”, which also brings together the work that I do with spirituality and nonviolence.  It showcases how religion and spirituality play a major role in global peace-building. My chapter is called “Witchy Activism: Self-religion in Global Peace Movements”, which focuses on the role that contemporary forms of spirituality has in peace-building. You can find the details of the book here: www.wiley.com/en-gb/The+Wiley+Blackwell+Companion+to+Religion+and+Peace-p-9781119424345

Where do you see things going in the next 5-10 years?
I do hope that the message of “The Third Harmony” is spread far and wide in the next 5-10 years and even expands further and deeper than I can imagine. I hope that people will see and recognize the power of nonviolence in themselves as well as in making the world a better place.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Desk photo – Andrew Roberts Theremin photo – John Godin Crystal ball photo – Andrew Roberts Book circle photo – Saul Barnabas Group photo – Self-owned

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