Words from the founder
About Spiritus Mundi
To lay the first bricks to Spiritus Mundi from the ground has been an incredible trip which had not been possible without all the responsive support we have gained on the way from so many different directions. Today we are many to share the vision and to help it grow.
To run an NGO is a challenge. We never take anything for granted in our survival or in our growing. It takes patience, cost-effectiveness and a huge amount of voluntary efforts to be able to act in this field. There has not been many days of rest in the creation of what we are today, but there is comfort in seeing the effects of the successful meeting grounds we have been a part of forming.
Spiritus Mundi’s focus is on Sweden and the Middle East, but there are plans to expand our network to Africa and Asia. We are also planning a couple of projects in Europe, which we will soon tell you more about on our website.
Working in the front edge and with the Middle East also brings challenges. Perhaps that is partly why we do it! Preconceptions about each other create fear and conflicts. It can be the fear of losing one’s identity or fear of other belief systems and cultural differences.
The meeting grounds we create internationally fill a void in that they, as western initiatives, contribute to internal dialogue and processes of change where we act. Examples of this are intercultural awareness, new thinking in education and promotion of children and youth’s creativity. Our projects also bring processes of change to where we act on a local level in Sweden.
Intercultural dialogue should not be something only between countries as Sweden and Denmark or other democracies and like-minded. There is value in intercultural dialogue between countries with great fundamental differences. Is it not more important to create meeting grounds between those who don’t think or live the same way? Dialogue is not to agree with one another, it is being a part of change. It is better to loosen knots than to tighten them.
It’s the children, the youths, the people – those who have been involved in the projects and the work – that are living examples of being a part of creating a better world with curiosity for one another, understanding and tolerance, instead of the opposite. Children and youths we have met on the trip carry the answers and we listen to them. We are a tool in the creation of these meeting grounds no matter where they happen to be born.
We are often told that what is so unique about Spiritus Mundi is that the projects and the meeting grounds we create nationally reflect our international work. One example is our large-scale and demanding project Wag the City, which took place in both Malmö and in Botkyrka. Wag the City forms Young Culture Ambassadors who, through this project, have gotten a platform to create their vision of what a future problem-solver is, how they can act and how their experiences can be implemented and be spread.
During this project the Culture Ambassadors has gotten possibilities to practice their experiences in our international projects. The voices of the youths are a part of the design of the project that includes both education and practical work to make the experiences visible.
Wag the City is young culture dialogue in practice, where the finale stages the experiences in the creation of lyrics, speech, pictures, films, songs and the examination of the Young Culture Ambassadors linked together through music from the process as Young Culture Ambassadors in the making.
There are a number of good examples of successful meeting grounds we have been a part of in Malmö and Skåne since 2004. Through meeting and talking we can all – children as well as pedagogues – work together for a better society, characterized by dialogue and free from infringement. To initiate projects ours are, in general, small but important steps in the right direction.
About Henrik Melius
For as long as I can remember I have always been curious about other cultures and external languages. My father, Ivan Melius, inspired me and my brother not just to learn about our Swedish heritage, but to search for knowledge in a wider perspective. My father was a lector in methodology at Lund University and spent the most part of his working-life to educate teachers. My mother was a pedagogue as well and loved her work with the younger children. Both of my parents gave me a good foundation in wanting to work close with people.
During my childhood we spent periods in North-East England where my brother and I got to learn the English language at the same time as Swedish. My interest in languages I got from my father.
On the journey with Spiritus Mundi in Malmö I have often met people who tell me how much dad meant to them. It makes me proud and thankful to hear how his work and commitment to people and languages lives on. It is a pleasure to continue his appreciated pedagogic journey in through the many projects Spiritus Mundi has carried out since 2004.
It was not only during my childhood that I got to discover and live in other cultures. As a young adult I have been settled in several different countries. I went to high school in USA for a couple of years, was working as a professional musician in Germany and Austria and worked as a manager for a pop group in England.
In the early 90’s I moved back to USA, where I stayed for nearly ten years. During my time there I studied at UCLA, worked with market surveys and started a business that, among other things, ran a recording studio and arranged music events. I also worked as a yoga instructor and as coach at a spa. My years in USA were exciting and learning. I got to know lots of different people, several of them from the movie and music industry.
My years in USA have blocked me, perhaps with both advantages and disadvantages, but in general it was a lovely enrichment. During a time in the 90’s I went back and forth between USA and France.
When my father became older in beginning of the millennium I chose to spend more time in Sweden. During this time I was busy as a producer and songwriter and had a hit on the American radio with my song “The Forgiven World”.
Eventually I did my first trip to the Gulf region. I have many lovely memories from this time when the first thoughts of Spiritus Mundi were born. I made new friends, both with Swedish and local people. The first trip in the region I did as founder of Spiritus Mundi went to Oman, a pearl on the Arabian Peninsula.
My first meetings in Muscat went well and the journey with Spiritus Mundi had begun. The rumours about “the Swede that wants to create culture exchanges” quickly spread from Oman to the kingdom in the Persian Gulf called Bahrain, which in many is the foundation for the network Spiritus Mundi have in the region today. I lived in Bahrain for a while where I, except from working with relation building, played and sang on different events.
I remember the first meeting with the government of Bahrain very well. It started off as a pretty stiff and “correct” meeting, until the former Information Minister asked me:
- So how many people do you expect to attend the event?
The question was about the concert I suggested to be held by the Spiritus Mundi Orchestra in Bahrain in connection with our first culture exchange programme.
I answered the minister:
- I expect an audience of about 500–1000.
The room became silent and the minister looked at me with big eyes and soon said:
- 500 000?!
When the gathering of government people and the Swedish consul realized the comical in the situation of an unknown Swede that arrives to Bahrain and, to the minister’s understanding, expects 500 000 of the total of 700 000 living in Bahrain to attend this event, everyone burst into laughter. The ice was broken and the record was so far left behind after this hilarious laugh that followed the funny misunderstanding. Ever since then, we have had a good, developing dialogue and successful culture exchanges with this country. From this time I also remember me looking at the bridge between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and I was hoping to be able to create projects even there. Several years later that became a possibility.
Our most important asset is children and youths. They show the way to the future and help us adults see similarities instead of differences.
The journey of Spiritus Mundi has just begun and there is so much more to discover.