John Neligan – Archives of Service Civil International

John Neligan

First Contact with SCI

I was 21 years old when I first encountered an S.C.I. work-camp. It brought together for me the possibilities of living the ideas and ideals I had had at 16, which my 5 year training had said was ‘unrealistic and impossible’, and to see there were other ways for people to live and work together outside the ‘conventions’ of our society.

LTV in India, 1973-1975, then Camphill

Increasingly as I worked with S.C.I. in India, I and other volunteers talked constantly about “how do we live and work in ways we believe in, with a long term commitment?” It is a longish story, but, I believe for the last 30 years I have worked in Camphill (a Rudolf Steiner community with people with mental disabilities), mainly as a farmer, working with all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds and tackling difficult social questions. I hope I have done my little bit to the ‘long term commitment’.

Ways of living together

In the Communities I have lived in, and our society at large, I feel the aims of ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ are so important, and the work of ‘Non Violent Communication’ (ahimsa) and ‘living and working together’, are tremendously valuable.
It is quite clear to me that we need support, books and guidance to work systematically through problems and conflicts; with skilled people to be called on at certain points. In the past this has sometimes been through religion, I believe that we must always find ways suitable to ‘the group concerned’ to enable misunderstandings, conflicts, assumptions, joys, enthusiasms and ideals to be worked on, taken further and hopefully built into a better world.

Final thoughts

As I write this it is the last day of a 2-week holiday that my wife and I have had on Crete. All around is the history of violent conflict, especially the Civil War and the ‘Battle of Crete’ in 1941 and the ‘German Occupation’. 65 years later, there are quite a lot of British tourists in Crete, but what is evident is that membership of the E.U. has brought tremendous material development to Crete. However, when you look at the cars, consumer goods etc., it is quite clear that Japanese, Korean, German, Italian and Spanish, i.e. the ‘Vanquished’ Axis powers, dominate vehicle and consumer goods sales, and it is European currency in the tills! You can well wonder what was the battle of Crete about?
I feel tremendously grateful for the time I spent on work-camps and S.C.I. related activities, I do not believe we have had major impacts in the world but I do believe we have been able to make major impacts on peoples’ lives and have enabled people to feel empowered to change things around themselves and in their circles of influence. I have been able to see the reality that violent and negative thoughts are just as harmful as actually hitting someone in the face! What we do, strive for and think is important.