Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A GLIMPSE AT PEACEFUL CO-EXISTENCE (SEEDS OF PEACE)


I was surrounded by teary faces all clad in green shirts with an olive branch and three ‘alien’ like figures printed in front of the green shirts... across from park (field) was the last bus carrying some of the most beautiful people I have ever encountered in my life...... as I started walking back to my bunker I was hit with the reality that in just a few hours I will be getting ready to go back home to my every day life , where instead of listening and sharing ideas on how we can contribute to change our world, I will be bombarded by images on my TV and articles in newspapers that describe the 'other side' of all conflicts as the ones who don’t want to have peace and are the evil ones'. Who are going to kill their neighbors at the drop of a coin.. etc.
In the winter of 2007 I met a man whose looks, olive or tanned skin ,(thinly features) and gently manners reminds me of my late grandfather...... He is the father of a very good friend of mine . My friend introduced me to him and I took his number... not knowing that I just took my first step toward being part of a program whose goals and mission have eluded mankind for generations, I call it 'a peaceful co-existence'. I am talking about the Seeds Of Peace International camp in Ottisfield Maine. Located by the banks of the beautiful and calm pleasant lake it is every Peace lover or activist’s dream of a camp grounds. I was offered a position as a staff with the Delegation leader program at the camp. At first my job looks easy all I was supposed to do was be part of a team to facilitate 'Adult groups from (India and Pakistan) and Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Palestine. We are supposed to facilitate these group through conversations about how the conflict in their various part of the world have affected their lives and what in their opinion can help bring peace. And trust me I was working with two ladies who have numerous experience and achievements facilitating conversations like this across the United States and beyond...
My first taste of what lies ahead came when the first bus arrived after the music and drumming to welcome the campers had died down and we started helping the group to their various bunks , here is a sample of conversation I had with a gentle man as I showed him into his bunker, lets say his name is Mr R..
R: thank you very much my friend, but why do I have two beds?
Pious: You are welcome, you have a roommate
R : what is his name and where is he from?
Pious: His name is Mr Q and he is from the country on the eastern side of your country.
R: W-H-A-T? no ,I am not going to sleep next to 'him' can you change the arrangement?
Pious : I am sorry , there is no more empty bunkers , I will bring it to the notice of the person in charge of this tomorrow morning..
R : Please do that 'I cant stay in the same room with him or any of ‘those’ people' for three weeks..
( Similar conversation too place between my co workers and some of the delegation leaders we help into their bunkers)
From the flag raising ceremony through all the different dialogues sessions and exercises we had I saw a group of people who came with determination to defend their country's stand on the conflict and to show how patriotic they are or how far they can go to defend their country's stand on issues, change into best friends, who are planning how they will plan cross boarder sleep over activities and build network of peace seeking friends not only from their regions but across the world once they get back home.
From the first through the last day (before the buses started departing ) I was surrounded by smiling faces and positive energy from people of all ages and from many different countries who I have known for less than a month. The delegation Leaders group will remain in my memory for a long time to come, how can I forget Avi's energy, or Ajay’s beautiful smile and Honesty. How can one forget Saroj's peaceful saintly approach to everything in life and Salim's creative mind and strong Baritone voice that always yells ‘Open the door the Seeds Of Peace are coming' any time we are returning to camp from one of our educational field trips. One will always remember Sahab’s appetizing Jordanian dish and pleasant personality. I will always remember Rehabs intellectual conversations and Zaki’s beautiful voice anytime he sings in Hebrew. Harb's volleyball skills was amazing so was Maha and Orly's balanced point of views during dialogue and Rehab’s Scholarly approach to conversations.
I love listening to Hussain's opinion on everything, I learnt a lot from this gentleman. So was Arafat's believe in non -violence means of tackling the conflict..between him and his neighbors.
My Roll call will not be perfect without Farzana from Pakistan who will make sure that she serves everyone present a cup of tea anytime she is having one herself, neither will I forget about Carmit , Yahaya, and Muhammad each of who gave the process their all. Maysoon and Avi's love for the campers they led is worth mentioning so is Ajays beautiful pictures that captured every aspect of the camp life. the delegation leader 'staff roll' a lot of amazing people like Fatma, the camp co-ordinater whose energy is beyond my imagination , Inessa the the office manager/ accountant and Daniel whose leadership style is one of a kind. The camps smooth running lies on the shoulders of two of the most wonderful people I have ever seen... Will and Leslie the two camp co-directors and of course Bobby and Tim Wilson the two pillars of the camp will always be in my heart and so will Sam’s (Leslie’s son) beautiful smile..
Generally everyone I met at the camp have giving me a reason to believe in Peace again.... please for more information visit www.Seedsof peace.org..