Peacemaker Fridays: April 8, 2016

An Israeli soldier sees the world through the eyes of a Palestinian child; Syrian refugee girls dream about their future; a Muslim exchange student finds acceptance in Minnesota; a Brussels bombing victim who is Jewish denounces Islamophobia; and athletes celebrate the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.

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

Victim or Oppressor? An Israeli soldier sees himself through a Palestinian child's eyes
Last week, we shared the story of a Palestinian man whose view of his Jewish neighbors was changed by seeing the reality of the Holocaust for this first time. This week, we're sharing a story from the other side. Noam Chayut, an Israeli soldier, knew it was his job to never let the Holocaust happen again. “I was a victim of the Holocaust... and a victim is a good guy. So I was one of the good guys.” Then one day, while was out on a mission, he encountered a young Palestinian girl. He smiled at her. To his surprise, she ran, terrified. In that moment, he says, “I became an occupier—a victimizer—of a... kid.” Everything he thought about good guys and bad guys changed. Listen here... 

Helping Syrian refugee girls dream of what they can be
Our friend Brendan Harvey recently shared this beautiful story from the "Vision not Victim" project, in which Syrian girls share their career aspirations. Read more... 

Pakistani exchange student finds love and acceptance in rural Minnesota
Seventeen-year-old Pakistani Usman Nawaz "was nervous about coming to the United States." Family and friends tried to dissuade him. But he was determined to reach out to Americans in his new home in rural Minnesota. After seven months of relationship building, he has made a huge impact, “proving love can exist between people of Islam and Christianity, despite the centuries of conflict.” His Christian host family says Usman changed their perspective—they love him and don’t want him to leave. "We can’t let the media... make us think they are terrorists and that we need to be fearful of their culture," says Usman's host father. In June, Usman will leave Minnesota "as a new person. One who sees Christians as loving people. One who is excited for future trips to America.Read more...

Brussels bombing victim who is Jewish denounces Islamophobia
Walter Benjamin, a 47-year-old Jewish man, was hurrying through the Brussels airport on his way to visit his daughter in Israel when a bomb exploded, taking his leg and the lives of most of the people around him. Benjamin cried out for help. The first person to respond was Hassan Elouafi, a Muslim technician at the airport. "Everything was darkness. People were screaming. I thought I was in a nightmare," Elouafi recalls. He climbed over corpses to reach Benjamin, who wanted desperately to call his family. Elouafi didn't hesitate. "He reached for his phone," connecting the two men forever. Since that day, Elouafi has visited Benjamin in the hospital nearly every day. Benjamin is determined to stop the tide of Islamophobia in the wake of the bombings. “THIS MAN IS NOT A TERRORIST,”  he wrote on Facebook. “I will plant a tree in Israel for him, his wife and his children." Read more... 

Waging peace around the world: 2016 International Day of Sport for Development and Peace
April 6 was International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, a time to share stories of how sports are allowing people to lean into enemies and wage peace. Here are two stories of how sports are healing hearts across enemy lines.

Ibtihaj Muhammad is an American Muslim who will lead the US Olympic fencing team in Rio this summer. Originally drawn to fencing because she could hide her hijab, she now uses her position to break down stereotypes of Islam, Muslims, women and sports. She hopes to encourage more Muslim girls to pursue sports and help move Americans toward unity. Read more... 

Eric Murangwa, a Rwandan soccer player, is alive today because his soccer friends hid him during the early days of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. His friends were not so lucky—they were killed for hiding genocide targets. Now he uses their sacrifice to teach other kids how to use soccer to wage peace and heal hearts across Rwanda.


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 8, 2016
Peacemaker Fridays: April 8, 2016
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