I have a hunch Malala Yousafzai has been a challenge to her parents since she was a baby. She is one of those strong-willed, articulate people not easily persuaded to depart from a path she has chosen. When Taliban militants…
Only someone who’s been hiding under a rock is unaware of the tragedy unfolding between Israel and Hamas. Whatever our judgments of both sides, those of us not living in the region have the luxury of safety while we express our opinions. For young people in the path of conflict, the cause of peace is no abstraction. It is a necessity.
In 2013 the Peres Center for Peace collaborated with Google and the ORT Education Network to bring Arab and Israeli youth together via Googe+ Hangouts. The video collage they created of their daily life does not need translation to make its point: teenagers’ lives across their two cultures is more alike than different.
Even better than the video itself was what preceded it. Youth from Arab and Israeli high schools got to know each other through a series of Google+ Hangouts. They used Google Maps to plan a tour together, of archaeological sites sacred to both.
As Wasim Jaas of Ort Hilmi Shafie School says in the video below:
There are Arabs who hate Jews without even meeting or getting to know them, and now they found out that we have a lot in common. To be honest, I felt the same. After participating in the project I learned that we can cast off the hatred and plant love in its place.
Hanging onto hatred is always harder when we get to know the ordinary, beautiful, flawed people behind the label of “enemy”. As these young people become tomorrow’s leaders, they will carry the seeds of peace planted by this project.
Karima Bennoune, professor of international law at the University of California-Davis School of Law, is telling the stories of women and men risking their lives to counter right-wing fundamentalistm. She asks us to do the same.
Always in her mind is the bravery of her father. In the 1990s the University of Algiers professor faced death threats for his vocal opposition to fundamentalism and terrorism. Although he was forced from his university position and had to flee his apartment, he remained in Algeria, publishing denunciations that kept him in the crosshairs of those he saw as the destroyers of true Islam.
In the TEDxExeter talk she gave in March 2014, she introduced four of the people she interviewed in writing her book, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism. Until his death of a heart attack in 2012, Faizan Peerzada and the Rafi Peer Theatre brought children’s theatre to Pakistani audiences in spite of terrorist attacks. Maria Bashir, Afghanistan’s only woman prosecutor, fights for the rights of women in spite of threats to her life. Abdirizak Bihi works tirelessly in the Somali-American community of Minneapolis to counter the recruitment efforts of the militant Al Shabaab. The 22-year-old Algerian law student, Amel Zenoune-Zouani, refused the fundamentalists’ order for women to halt their studies and was murdered as an example to other young women. That was in 1997. Today Amel’s sister Lamia practices law in Algiers.
When she spoke to CBC’s Michael Enright in December 2013, Bennoune said the people she interviewed for her book have been abandoned by the west. Their stories are virtually unknown. She wants to change that, with our help.
If we are serious about supporting the struggle for social justice, we need to know and share the stories of these courageous people. They are putting their lives on the line. They give me hope.