Share your voice
Leslie Lewin (Executive Director, Seeds of Peace)
At Seeds of Peace, we create rare spaces—spaces filled with people who wouldn’t otherwise find themselves in the same room together, let alone in the same room working together, learning together and leading change together.
We know that our work is not always easy and not always popular either. It takes enormous courage to engage and speak up when pulling back feels so much safer.
Our work rests on a set of core values: courage, respect, critical thinking, and impactful engagement. The actions and orders of the past few weeks stand in stark contrast to these values. In fact, the very notion of shutting people out and choosing to disengage undermines the very reason why Seeds of Peace was founded nearly 25 years ago.
We stand for bringing people together—even when hard—and will continue to fight to create these opportunities. Our community of 6,500+ changemakers from communities around the world has ample experience in tackling challenges, standing up for their values, and leading change.
I hope that their stories of activism and leadership over these past few days, weeks, and months inspire you and motivate you, and am grateful to know that their voices and actions are playing key roles in bridging divides in this moment.
If you are linked to Seeds of Peace in any way, it’s because you see the value in bringing people together across lines of difference. And because you know that change doesn’t happen all by itself. We have to commit to learning the necessary skills to effect social change. You have come to us because you believe in the power of human interaction, conversation, and learning. You know how hard it is to have conversations that challenge assumptions and make you feel uncomfortable.
Too many of our Seeds live in regions where walls of bias and discrimination are daily realities. We know that peace, security, freedom, and justice will not come without knowledge and courage. Change will come from patience, resilience, respect, compassion—and brave leadership. In recognizing the humanity of others despite political difference.
Our Seeds remind us that there are not easy answers to complex problems, but they are willing to stand up for these values when it counts the most. They inspire us every day and we hope they will inspire you too.
Mohamed N. (2013 Maine Seed)
I am the proud son of Somali immigrants who traversed oceans and continents to escape a brutal civil war and to seek the American dream for themselves and their children.
My family has endured hardships, ranging from discrimination and poverty to violence. I have always struggled to understand who I am, and where I belong. I didn’t believe that my family was welcomed in this country, that we were too Somali, Muslim, Black, and Foreign. I felt that the American Dream that my family has fought so hard to obtain was out of reach. I didn’t believe I belonged.
But then I met incredible friends and mentors who have pushed me to think otherwise.
They made my family and I feel welcomed, valued, loved. There is no way I can ever repay them for their kindness. I’ve learned that I have a place in this country, and no one can tell me otherwise.
This Muslim ban is not only unconstitutional and un-American, it is an affront to our values and to basic human decency. This is not the America my family and so many other families have struggled so long to call home.
Despite some of the hatred our country continues to grapple with, I still believe that there are good people willing to fight. The protests across the nation have been inspiring to witness, and I hope that this energy can persist. We cannot stop, we have to resist. We cannot allow this administration to distort and dismantle the core values of our country, including diversity and the freedom to be who you are.
I vow to continue to fight for what I believe in and do what I can to make my community, city, state, and country a better place.
I love this country, and will continue to love it despite it never reciprocating the feeling. But I hope one day that it can. I vow to fight for the schoolgirl from Syria, for the young entrepreneur from Iraq, for the old poet from Somalia. I vow to fight for them, and for all of us because anything less would be to spit in the face to all the people have struggled and endured before me.
There’s a Somali proverb people say when they see injustice: “Dhiiga kuma dhaqaaqo?” which means “Does your blood not move?”
My blood is boiling and I refuse to do nothing.
Shamma (2016 American Seed)
President Trump has actualized his calls for institutional racism and discrimination.
As a Jewish American, the “Muslim Ban” does not yet impact me. I can travel as I please. My religion is not a blemish on my citizenship, as Trump suggests of Muslims.
Nevertheless, it hurts me as a human. Turning away families fleeing from death and destruction and relegating an entire religion to a criminal regard is barbaric and ignorant. It is less than human.
Upon hearing of Trump’s executive order, I assumed that all my friends were in a similar state of mourning and shock. I was wrong. Some of my peers praised Trump for exacting vengeance and protecting our red, white, and blue soil.
I wanted to scream at those of my friends who channeled Trump’s racism and Islamophobia. I wanted to leave class and confide in my liberal friends. I did not want to face opposition.
However, I cannot let Trump shut down dialogue. Instead of retreating in antipathy from my friends who support the ban, I must engage and understand them, however inhumane the policies they promote may be.
Pious (2008 Educator, 2017 Fellow)
The executive order is in direct opposition to what most Americans value.
This is a country that values welcoming the stranger, and it will do everything to save and protect its citizens from danger both abroad and here at home.
As a Muslim immigrant and an elected city councilor, it is highly disturbing to see the President issue an Executive Order denying the same opportunity I have been given from others.
Amr (2002 Yemeni Seed)
Over the past year we saw a presidential campaign that was run on a platform that encouraged divisiveness.
It rode a wave of rising racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia. It used people’s frustrations and fears to demonize the ‘other’ for political gains. In doing so, it normalized hateful sentiments and emboldened some to partake in hateful speech and acts.
Last week’s executive orders helped institutionalize this hatred, giving way for the government to discriminate against people based on religion and national origin. I felt it personally because I hail from a country affected by the executive order. I felt I was a target.
Over the past two weeks, however, I also had cause for hope. I took part in the Women’s March in New York and in the rallies against the executive order at JFK International Airport and at Columbia University. I saw people of different backgrounds who had left the comfort of their homes and daily routines to rally together against hatred and divisiveness.
I also received many messages of concern and support from friends all over the US and abroad. The sense of solidarity was immense. I once again felt I was a target, a target of love and support and appreciation. And in a way, I felt I was back at Seeds of Peace.
Mina (2017 Fellow)
The Nile Project is currently touring the United States with artists from 11 African nations, many of whom are Muslim and Middle Eastern.
None would be here had they arrived a few days after the travel ban.
As we perform, we are reminded about what made America great: diversity, openness, and a sense of hope and possibility.
Mohamed O. (2016 Maine Seed)
When my mother immigrated to this country, she left Somalia for three reasons: safety, a better education for her children, and peace.
I asked my Mom a couple of days ago if she’d received and or found peace here in America, the land of liberty, the land that screams “all men are created equal.”
Her response was, “You were born in this country; have you yourself found peace yet?”
And I sat there and thought and thought and realized that in this country, it is hard to find peace. It is hard to find peace in a place where you can’t be yourself. It is hard to find a place where you won’t be discriminated against because of your skin color, your religion, your culture, your sexual orientation.
Islam is a religion that promotes peace, not hatred. If you can differentiate between a white man and a KKK member, then I am 100 percent sure you can differentiate between a Muslim man and an ISIS member.
I stand in front of you today as a black Muslim man. Do I look like a threat to you or this country?
I am angry. This country has institutionalized racism with this ban, and now it is time for every single one of you white people to help change that.
Anam (2013 Pakistani Seed)
Yet. Yet is a powerful word that has been associated with not only comfort but also fear, relief, uncertainty and anger, all in one weekend. The unpredictability of our current affairs and inevitable future has reduced us all to a bundle of nerves. Amidst the seven banned countries, Pakistan was not one of them … yet.
I do not have enough information to know where I stand as a Muslim woman currently residing in America on a visa. Hence, I will not talk about my qualms regarding whether I can ever go back home in the next four years or not, and if I would have to give up the university I worked so hard to get into or not. What I am able to talk about, however, is how I and perhaps many others feel.
Reading The Diary of Anne Frank and imagining the horror of her time sends chills down our spines; it seems almost inconceivable that humanity could stoop so low and close its doors on those most in need. Let us not allow history to repeat itself.
I am enraged, but I am not losing hope. When you push people to their limits, you realize who they truly are and where their passions lie. You discover their strength and resilience as they turn their pain into their power.
For the first time in quite a while, the world is watching. As it unites in the name of humanity, I would like to remind us that nothing is ever a lost cause.
Bobbie Gottschalk (Co-Founder, Seeds of Peace)
One of the by-products of Seeds of Peace participation is the expanded circle of concern each one gains.
We no longer only care about people who are just like us. We acknowledge our common humanity even among enemies. We have a worldview that is both joyful in good times and painful in uncertain times.
Knowing that bans on visas and permissions can ruin long-held dreams of safety, education, and opportunity, we ache for those who are denied.
Alexa (2010 American Seed)
I think this is one of those crucial moments in history in which we must critically assess our ability to talk to each other.
I learned empathy and interpersonal skills at Seeds of Peace that now seem more important than ever. The country needs programs to equip people with the ability to have productive, open conversation.
Janet Wallach (President Emerita, Seeds of Peace)
John Wallach created Seeds of Peace with the belief that people of all religions, races, and ethnicities deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. It is why we welcome boys named Ali and Ari and Arush and girls named Sarah and Sara and Sarayu. It is why we raise all our flags together, share our meals at the table together and talk openly together in our dialogue sessions. It is why we cheer every group that arrives on the first day and why we hug and cry together when we leave for home.
The ban against Muslims entering the U.S. is a grave affront to our values and to all people. It is an outrage to the citizens of the U.S., 98 percent of whom come from families that emigrated to this country. Today it bars Muslims; tomorrow it might be Jews, or Hindus. Today the new administration decided to exclude Muslims from seven countries. Many of them fled oppression at home and found safety in our country. They are our neighbors, not numbers. They have names, families, livelihoods, dreams. Tomorrow another group may be randomly discriminated against. Where will it go from here?
The executive order smacks the face of the Statue of Liberty and shakes the ground she stands on. As human beings and as Seeds we must stand together and work together to help those who are at risk, no matter what their race or religion or where they are from. There are no boundaries when it comes to human dignity and no borders when it comes to respect.
Lauren (2014 Syracuse Seed)
I can’t possibly imagine my high school experience thus far without playing soccer with refugees who were shocked that a white girl who had never lived more than an hour from where she was born could hold her own in a soccer game.
Or comparing holiday traditions with my Muslim, Jewish, and Christian friends in a Seeds of Peace-inspired interfaith dialogue right before December break.
My experience has been greatly enhanced these exchanges, ones that my friends in overwhelmingly white communities cannot begin to understand.
I woke up sick one a few days after President Trump announced his immigration ban targeting immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries as security threats.
The first thing my parents asked me when I finally went downstairs was if I was feeling well enough to protest the ban at the airport.
Although this ban doesn’t directly affect my family, it has a tremendous impact on people I care deeply about, and I knew I couldn’t miss the protest, so I spent the afternoon on the couch making signs.
Trump’s ban has an immediate and terrifying effect on so many people that I know, ranging from acquaintances at school to some of the people in the world that I am closest to, and I refuse to let them fight this battle on their own.
I arrived at the protest late and immediately found myself surrounded by a mixture of familiar faces and total strangers. What astounded me about the event in itself was all of the different kinds of people who were there.
A group of Somali girls, about my age, who I recognized as going to a different school in my district, took over the protest for 20 minutes, leading the crowd in a variety of different chants.
Later, I was asked to take a picture with a girl who went to a predominantly white suburban high school because she liked my sign. Even though she didn’t live in my community, or even in the city at all, she was still there.
Everyone there stood in solidarity the refugees and immigrants that out community just wouldn’t be the same without. I couldn’t be prouder of my city. And I won’t stop standing together with my friends in opposition to this ban and any future actions that so negatively impact people I have grown to care tremendously about.
Muna (2012 Maine Seed)
I am a Somali-American Muslim. My parents are immigrants.
I have family members who are Green Card and visa holders. And if I have learned anything through my experiences as a woman who falls under so many intersections of erasure and violence, I have learned that people don’t always see me as a human when they look at me.
It is a shame that we still have to resist systems of power which do not recognize the humanity of people fighting to be seen and heard.
It is a shame that I had to learn at a very young age that I need to equip myself with armor to protect myself against bigotry.
People come to the United States for safety and protection, but America can be just another battlefield painted in a facade we call the American Dream. I am not surprised, and none of this is new.
I might feel scared, or strong, or hopeless, or helpless. However, there is nothing more resilient than being Black and Muslim in America today—and you can’t ban that.
Learn about our United States Program
Our program brings together a diverse group of immigrants, first generation Americans, and multi-generational Americans of all backgrounds from across the United States for a dynamic identity-based, experiential learning program at Camp. Learn more about our growing United States Program and help us to expand it.
Share your voice
If you are a Seed and would like us to share your reaction to the Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States Executive Order, please send us your response via the reply form below, and include your year and delegation.