I have a long history with Seeds of Peace: I participated in the Beyond Borders Arab-American cultural and political exchange program in 2004 and 2005, and I was a Jordanian Delegation Leader to the Seeds of Peace Maine Camp in 2017. I have also taken part in several regional and local Seeds of Peace gatherings and community service activities.
Seeds of Peace has broadened my practical skills in conflict transformation and nonviolent approaches to conflict resolution. It has also enhanced my cross‐cultural awareness and sensitivity, as well as my interpersonal skills. I learned that life is about your connections with others. It is therefore important to be authentic and communicate openly and consciously with others.
The Camp dialogue sessions developed my empathic intelligence: I learnt how to put myself in someone else’s shoes and unlace mine. I also learned to master active listening and become more attuned to what the people around me are really saying to understand their needs, fears, and challenges.
The Seeds of Peace experience has underpinned my commitment to supporting grassroots peacebuilding initiatives. I integrated the knowledge and skills I gained through Seeds of Peace into my work as a director of the United Religions Initiative for the Middle East & North Africa. In this role, I facilitate peacebuilding and interfaith workshops, and organize regional gatherings for tens of affiliate groups across the region.
I have already introduced nonviolent approaches to conflict resolution and empathetic listening to these events. Moreover, I have engaged many Seeds of Peace Delegation Leaders in the Initiative’s peacebuilding work.
How have you impacted your community?
I left my career as a banker to dedicate my life to interfaith and intercultural bridge-building. Despite living side-by-side for ages, the majority doesn’t know much about the minorities, who are facing increased persecution in many parts of the Middle East.
Ignorance has contributed to major negative stereotypes about minorities’ cultures and religions. And the Arab Spring has shown that ethnic and religious minorities are particularly vulnerable to prejudice and discrimination during periods of social and political instability.
There are so many walls between us and few opportunities to get to know one another.
My GATHER Fellowship project seeks to provide young Muslims in Iraq and Jordan with a unique opportunity to get to know religious and ethnic minorities. I want them to gain first-hand experience with “the other” so that they base their judgments on knowledge rather than assumptions. I want them to visit their houses of worship, attend their ceremonies, and talk to their religious and community leaders.
We are working on a documentary film series to share these learning opportunities with a larger audience and are planning roundtable discussions to spark dialogue. We seek to break down negative stereotypes, build empathy, and foster understanding for the challenges faced by minorities—to have people realize that diversity is as a blessing.
“Hostile assumptions are challenging our social cohesion and are escalating social unrest. Denigrating stereotypes are preparing the ground for violence.”