We, Seeds of Peace, young people representing 22 war-ravaged nations, hereby declare that we are tired of hatred, violence and terror.
At Seeds of Peace Camp, we ascended together to the peak of appreciation that peace is possible. We entered Camp full of stereotypes and prejudices against our enemy; after three exhilarating weeks of coexistence, we returned home with an understanding of the other side and acceptance of our common humanity. We learned that we are strong together.
In our home countries, by contrast, we have grown up in tense, fearful environments. We have lost loved ones and seen our sense of security and normality in life shattered … In the wake of so many tragedies, we have come together to search for enduring solutions to hatred, terror and violence. We define hatred as the wish that another human being or human group not exist, or that their existence be filled with suffering. The common physical expression of hate is violence, the intentional use of aggressive force to inflict pain upon other human beings. Terror is the organized implementation of violence against civilians in order to spread fear and achieve political or ideological goals.
Do not dismiss this as youthful idealism.
Many of us live in places where killing and humiliation, poverty and homeless refugees are commonplace. We are surrounded by an atmosphere of hatred created by unjust realities. Violence does not begin when a gun is pointed or a rock is thrown, but in the hate-filled graffiti and political posters decorating the walls of our cities …
Yet at Seeds of Peace, we have experienced real equality, unity, understanding and joy.
Having faced this stark contrast, we now refuse to accept what is, when we know what can be if we truly implement these principles in our homes and our hearts.
We refuse to be victims. We know it is possible to redirect human passions, even calls for revenge, toward the positive goal of creating peace …
There are people who call us traitors because we recognize our enemies as equal human beings—but we are true patriots. Instead of creating dead-end situations for our nations, we are putting an end to an endless cycle of suffering. We are working together for peace, the only way to achieve optimal living conditions for our own countries and people. We were raised in societies which taught us to hate each other. Despite that, we have united here to fight together for a better future for us all, in the name of the dead and the generations to come.
In succeeding here, we prove to ourselves and our governments that a solution exists and peace is not impossible.
Written by 120 Seeds from the Middle East, South Asia, Balkans, Cyprus and United States—the delegates to the November 2001 Uprooting Hatred and Terror Summit at the United Nations in New York.