Archive for the ‘Peace’ Category
I remember reading true stories as a kid about the era of kingdoms. In them, I remember kings often used to send their messengers to the rival kingdom to declare war, to threaten, and to capitulate. The unwritten, unenforced, but sacred rule was very simple: messengers were not to be hurt, detained, or even slightly touched. They were often the bearers of bad news, but also the first to bring peace.
I was invited to speak at the Opening Ceremony at the Just Peace Summit last night in NYC. As part of the ceremony, former 2008 Global Teen Leader and citizen journalist Mahmoud Jabari (see blog post from 2/28 about his story) was Skyped in from the West Bank. He told his story, his ambitions, and his reason for pursuing peace and conflict resolution journalism in a region so ridden with strife.
As the messengers of today, journalists have the unique ability to hear both sides of the story and paint as unbiased of a picture as possible. They must be able to assure to both parties, in a conflict, that their stories and views are being heard. They serve often as the first people from one side to listen to the other side. They exert immense power, and therefore extraordinary responsibility. They can prod the path to destruction, or help shape a new frontier of peace.
But what happens when either party transgresses the unwritten rule? This is a threat to any journalist but it was particularly interesting in Mahmoud’s case to understand how a pledged peacemaker would respond to-and reflect- his own victimization in his role as messenger. Mahmoud made two statements that intrigued me; to paraphrase: 1) he did not understand why the Israeli police imprisoned him and accused him of throwing stones, and yet 2) he chooses to and will still seek, champion, and embody peace through his journalism in the region. His words made me wonder, can we achieve impartiality if we have not yet forgiven? And can we forgive, if we do not yet understand? Mahmoud says we can, and he promises to in his own work as a journalist. But in any conflict, the exchange between messenger and belligerent must be reciprocal, the trust mutual. We will have to wait and see, therefore, if the world that Mahmoud paints with his words accepts the painter and the colors that he affords it.
Last year, I had the priviledge and honor of being a Global Teen Leader (GTL) by the We Are Family Foundation (WAFF). WAFF, founded by musician and producer Nile Rodgers, created its Three Dot Dash GTL program in honor of the life of peacemaker Mattie JT Stepanek. Mattie, who died right before his 14th birthday, was a child prodigy and peacemaker, writing a book with Jimmy Carter. According to Mattie, each one of us has a heartsong, or a special gift within us that is meant to be shared with the rest of the world. Each of the GTLs, now at 90 worldwide, shared Mattie’s committment to making the world more peaceful.
Yesterday, I received an email on the Three Dot Dash Global Teen Leader listserv that went something like this:
Our brother Mahmoud Jabari – 2008 GTL – from Palestine was arrested by the Israeli troops two days ago during the Hebron Protests!
The GTLs have launched a global campaign, including a petition to free him. He was chosen by the United Nations to deliver this message to the Security Council in a few months, and we have thus reached out to Ambassador Susan Rice to notify her and ask for her guidance to ensure minimal pain.
Mahmoud, a peacemaker, journalist, and founder of Lens for Change, represents what the Middle East needs. As the generation of those who were not alive, and whose parents were not alive, during the creation of Israel about 60 years ago begins to enter their early 20s, people like Mahmoud will be critical to bringing peace to the region. As the stories of the aftermath and the atrocities become more and more distant and as Israel becomes remembered as something that has always been there, the window of peace will crack open a little bit more. When it does, I hope the globalized Generation Y, led by people like Mahmoud, feel the breeze of peace rather than shut the window completely.
Update (3/3/11): Mahmoud was cleared of all charges and released. Thrilled and deeply inspired by the tremendous effort of the PBSNews Hour, Seeds of Peace, The Daniel Pearl Foundation, iEarn, Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation, Relief International, the We Are Family Foundation, and the GTLs!