Peacemaker Fridays: April 1, 2016

One man's journey to nonviolence in Palestine; singing and dancing across ethnic divides in Bosnia; supporting refugee youth through soccer in Arizona; and committing 10,000 acts of peace in Nebraska.

Here are the week's best stories of people reaching across enemy lines, loving the other, and waging peace...

From enmity to empathy: one Palestinian’s journey to nonviolence
Bassam Aramin was a 17-year-old Palestinian militant in an Israeli prison, looking for ways to destroy his Israeli enemies when the most unlikely figure changed his heart: Adolf Hitler. He expected to enjoy watching a movie about the Holocaust on Israeli television. Instead, he cried. "I cannot believe that there are human beings that can do such things to human beings in this way," he said. For the first time he saw life through Jewish eyes. Now, 30 years later, Aramin leads nonviolent efforts toward an independent Palestine through understanding and dialogue. Even after his 10-year-old daughter was killed by an Israeli soldier on her way home from school, he did not change his nonviolent resolve. He joined an Israeli-Palestinian group for those who have lost loved ones to violence. His work for a peaceful future has had a profound impact close to home: bringing about a change of heart in his own son. Read more... 

The arts encourage communication among divided youth in Bosnia
In the Bosnian city of Mostar, divisions between Serb, Croat, and Bosnian—which led to a genocidal civil war—can still be felt. According to a local survey, "more than 50 percent of locals under the age of 18 have never interacted with someone from 'the other side.'" Many Bosnian and Croat children attend school in the same buildings at different times using different history books; "the dynamics of conflict are now a part of the regular language." But two arts centers are working to foster change. They believe that "art is a great gateway drug to reconciliation." The two schools bring kids from different backgrounds together to pursue creative projects, including a rock-and-roll school and a graffiti festival designed "to turn shelled buildings into pieces of art." The schools face an uphill funding battle, as "it’s in the interest of many political parties to keep people divided." But they are committed to giving Mostar youth the best chance of "growing up without fear of one another." Read more... 

Unity, acceptance, and support: a program in Arizona gives refugee youth a new start
Being a teenager is never easy. Starting over in a new country after fleeing violence and persecution is even harder. Arizona is the seventh highest state for refugee resettlement in the United States, meaning there are a huge number of teenagers searching for a community. Nearly 200 refugee youth have found it in the North Phoenix Christian Soccer Club. More than just a place to play soccer, boys and girls who join receive  support, advice, and guidance from coaches. The club is open to kids of all faiths and backgrounds and now has members from 13 countries. Head coach Myles Grunewald started focusing on refugees 25 years ago and makes sure every child who wants to participate can, regardless of ability to pay. Zara, a Muslim girl from Chad, will graduate high school this spring and said her life is different because of Grunewald and his dedication: "God just sent him (out) to help refugees… he doesn’t want us to be on the street, doing drugs, doing anything that teenagers could do. He wants us to be here to enjoy ourselves." Read more...

Peacemakers in Nebraska pledge to commit 10,000 acts of peace
The pursuit of peace is not passive. It cannot be obtained by simply abstaining from violence. To create peace requires work—and sometimes it is hard, countercultural, and inconvenient. That is why Lincoln, Nebraska’s Interfaith Peacemaking Coalition "decided to mark its 30th anniversary by actually making peace±and inviting people 'to commit 10,000 acts of peace.'" They are adding their 10,000 acts to PeaceJam Foundation’s call to One Billion Acts of Peace in the hope that their effort will inspire others. So far, members have done things big and small, such as inviting a Muslim to coffee, getting to know Haitian neighbors, purchasing new books for a school library, and filling gift bags for individuals visiting the neighborhood food bank. Read more... 

Stay tuned for more hope-filled peacemaker stories next Friday!


About Kristin Giuliani

Storyteller and program developer at PLC; wife to a would-be farmer; mom to three crazy girls, including one with a mended heart; lover of quiet, camping, and the Great Reconciler.

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Peacemaker Fridays: April 1, 2016
Peacemaker Fridays: April 1, 2016
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