Peacemaker Fridays: May 20, 2016

Israeli and Palestinian teens connect over Facebook; a Malaysian makeup artist challenges prejudice against hijab-clad women; love conquers hate in Islamberg; and high school students break down barriers at the prom.

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

Facebook bridges divide between Israeli and Palestinian youth
For Palestinian teens, it started as a way to express their frustration over the way they were treated by their Israeli counterparts. For Israeli teens, it began as a way to chastise Palestinians they saw as terrorists. But Facebook conversations over the past several months "became fascinating conversations about life in Gaza, life in Israel, dreams, aspirations and ideas to resolve the conflict." Some converse daily, practicing Hebrew and Arabic together. They discuss fashion, sports, and school. As most of the students had never before interacted with someone from "the other side," these conversations have been life-altering. Participants have heard about atrocities on both sides. They have learned that not everyone on the other side is an enemy. They have realized that media on both sides have skewed facts, and that the only way to even begin to understand what someone on the other side has experienced is to listen. Most importantly, they have realized that they are all just teenagers with hopes, dreams, opinions, and fears—and a desire to make a difference. Read more... 

Malaysian makeup artist challenges hijab stereotypes through magical transformation
People find many ways to break down stereotypes, but few are as creative, colorful, and fun as Malaysian artist Saraswati. Saraswati, whose work has exploded on Instagram, is a Muslim mother of two who uses her artistic skills and her hijab to create incredible likenesses of characters ranging from Disney princesses to comic book heroes. "I have never claimed to represent all the hijabis… I am just staying true to myself and doing what I’m passionate about," Saraswati said in a recent interview. “I am really glad I could inspire some women [and] girls out there—especially those who are afraid to wear hijab in public. And [I’m] glad I could change some people’s opinions about hijab." Read more... 


Love overcomes hate as 400 stand in peace with Islamberg residents
We believe love is the only force strong enough to dissolve hate. This past Sunday, a group of 400 New Yorkers demonstrated t beautifully. An "anti-jihad" bike rally was planned for the tiny Muslim town of Holy Islamberg, New York. Despite assurances from law enforcement officials that the town posed no terrorist threat, it has become a scapegoat for anti-Muslim sentiments. When Islamberg’s neighbors of all faiths learned about the rally, they offered to show up and stand with town residents in solidarity. "The show of support from the local community was 'heartwarming,'" according to Islamberg resident, Dr. Bilqees Abdullah, "To see so many people come and join and actually say: 'This isn’t right, this isn’t fair, and we’re not going for it,' it’s wonderful." A day that was intended for harm became a day to spark new conversations that may blossom into lasting friendships. Read more... 

Students cross social boundaries at prom
Prom—that dichotomous milestone of teenage years that is often either traumatizing or exhilarating. In New York last weekend, one group of students turned it into something extraordinary. Thanks to the student-organized group DAWGS, Doing Activities with Great Students, a group of special-needs high school students were able to attend prom for the first time. DAWGS is dedicated to reaching across social boundaries to connect with students with special needs, or those who may otherwise be bullied or ostracized. They work to make sure these students are included in the high school experience: they get coffee together; practice life skills, like counting change; attend school functions; and now they share prom together. DAWGS impacts the "buddies," as they're called, too. Senior Mike Beiter says, "It just makes me realize...w e should all be involved in making the world a better place." Read more... 

Do you have a story to share? We would love to hear how you and your community are waging peace right where you are. And 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: May 20, 2016
Peacemaker Fridays: May 20, 2016
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