Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith
“When I see anybody who suffers with AIDS, I don’t see them as other, I see them as an extension of myself.”
Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith’s life is a living testament to building an all-inclusive spiritual community, one that includes those infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS. In the 1970s, he began an inward journey into the teachings of East and West. Today, he teaches universal truth principles found in the New Thought-Ancient Wisdom tradition of spirituality. Gifted with a vision of a trans-denominational spiritual community, in 1986 he founded the Agape International Spiritual Center upon his faith in that original vision. Agape’s outreach ministries feed the homeless, serve the imprisoned, and partner with community service organizations active in children’s schools, camps and shelters. The ministries also support programs that advocate the preservation of the planet’s environmental resources.
One of the planet’s most precious resources receiving the organization’s help is the continent of Africa. Agape Global Works is committed to long-term financial gifts that fund and support orphanages, schools and AIDS service organizations from Johannesburg to Ethiopia.
“I was moved by the fact this was a silent killer,” says Dr. Beckwith of his motivation to become involved. “Our (Agape) community as been at the forefront of education and prevention since the early days. People are more cognizant now, but there are times when people still put their heads in the hole, primarily out of fear and denial—the feeling that it can’t happen to me. But everyone needs to make sure they get checked and have safe sex. Don’t play Russian roulette with your life.”
Dr. Beckwith’s inner vision reveals a world joined together by humankind’s highest development spiritually, philosophically, educationally, scientifically, governmentally and socially. His renown as a harbinger of the world’s quest for peace has drawn into his visionary orbit names synonymous with his goal. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas K. Gandhi, shares with Dr. Beckwith the national co-directorship of A Season for Nonviolence. SNV promotes and teaches the principles of nonviolence embodied by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and is endorsed by UNESCO on behalf of its Culture of Peace and Nonviolence Appeal by Nobel Peace Laureates. Other notable supporters include Dr. C.T. Vivian, Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne of Sri Lanka, His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet, Coretta Scott King and Dr. Robert Muller.
But it’s neither the company of high-profile individuals nor the accolades that motivate this self-proclaimed emissary of peace. “When you achieve success, you should give back,” says Dr. Beckwith. “You don’t do things like this for awards. You have to find ways to share, to give and radiate your gifts. When I get letters back from AIDS service organizations and kids—just the fact that my life and our organization makes a difference—I feel like I’m living my purpose.”
As co-founder and president of the Association for Global New Thought, Dr. Beckwith stands, along with other co-creative leaders, members and friends, at the threshold of an evolutionary leap that dares to call an end to human suffering of every type. As its voice, Dr. Beckwith guides activities such as AGNT’s annual Awakened World conference, bringing together scientists, sociologists, spiritual leaders, economists, international forecasters—individuals with proven track records in guiding humanity to its highest potential. Each year the Synthesis Dialogues are held with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama of Tibet, drawing together impresarios of peace, the true lovers of humankind.
AGNT is also the convening organization of A Season for Nonviolence, and of it the Dalai Lama has said: “Both Gandhiji and Martin Luther King are inspiring examples of the power and truth of nonviolence and the actions that arise from them. They not only embraced nonviolence in principle, but implemented it in action. This Season for Nonviolence is a very good tool to remind us of their witness, but also of the large unfinished work we have together in transforming awareness on our planet.”
Part of the awareness is recognizing the challenges facing the Black community in dealing with AIDS. “African Americans just don’t like going to the doctor,” notes Dr. Beckwith, “partly because of financial priorities and education.”
So how does he keep faith amidst the seemingly insurmountable struggle?
“I’m an eternal optimist and I stay focused on planting seeds, knowing they’re going to grow.” Dr. Beckwith says the question he often puts to himself remains: “How can my life be used to make this place a better planet when I leave?”
Dr. Beckwith’s humanitarian activities have earned him and Agape International accolades from organizations around the world, including the Africa Peace Award (which he shares with notables including former President Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu), the California Legislature Assembly Award for Meritorious Service to Humanity, the World Festival of Sacred Music Local Hero Award, the Gandhi-King-Ikeda Award from Morehouse College, the Thomas Kilgore Prophetic Witness Award from the Southern Christian Leadership, and the Humanitarian Award from the National Conference for Compassion and Justice.
Despite all the acknowledgement of his efforts, the work is far from over for Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith. And as far as AIDS is concerned, the work won’t be over until the pandemic is a thing of the past.
“Black people have such tremendous gifts that we need to harvest for the salvation of the planet,” says Dr. Beckwith. “We are rich inside with tremendous capacity. By our own creation, we don’t want to cut that time short.”