Monday was the first significant awkward moment at Cambridge. It has only a little to do with the picture, but I’ll end this post explaining it which has a relieving element.
When I applied for this Summer School for Interfaith Between Abrahamic Religions, it was clearly stated that the program will tackle controversial issues. Secondly, the learning also aims at developing skills on how to disagree better.
So far the conversation and engagement between the participants have been high on a number of issues, some easy and some tricky. At times it can be exhausting because different people are at different levels as well as coming from a community which deal with a different set of issues than the other. Generally though, there is a intention and motivation to achieve something good, if not better.
Almost everyday, there will be a guest speaker(s), to conduct a short module or to discuss their work. On Monday, it was Bassam (pic: centre) and Robi who centered their work largely between Muslims and Jews in Palestine and Israel. On Tuesday, Pádraig Ó Tuama of Corrymeela came to discuss about peace building in the Irish Christian conflict.
Bassam Aramin is a Palestinian Muslim who lost his 10 year old daughter. He came with Robi Damelin, a Jew and an anti-apartheid activist originally from South Africa. She lost her son an Israeli solider, who didn’t even want to serve the army. Bassam and Robi are part of a few projects which are rather remarkable. Here are two of it.
The Parents Circle – Families Forum (PCFF)
‘A joint Palestinian Israeli organization of over 600 families, all of whom have lost a close family member as a result of the prolonged conflict. Joint activities have shown that the reconciliation between individuals and nations is possible and it is this insight that they are trying to pass on to both sides of the conflict.’ See more here: http://www.theparentscircle.com/
Bassam was once a Fatah fighter at age 13 with his other teenage friends, who went to prison for seven years. After his daughter died, Jewish families from the PCFF came to build a garden in her name at the place where she was shot. Many things happened overall. Pleasant and unpleasant. I’ve only chosen what’s relevant for this post.
The Israeli Palestinian Blood Donation Project. It is best for you to watch the videos to understand the meaning of the project. This is important. In terms of how it works, one side donates blood for the other side. YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMqR3i4p4clVThYGGQxxOig
Once Robi spoke to Muslim girls at a school in East Jerusalem, a student stood up and said ‘your son deserved to die.’ She controlled herself and in that, noticed that the girl too had lost a family member in the conflict. They spoke and she told about the suffering of her family. The student later hugged and apologized to Robi.
What they emphasize:
1. To focus on the future, the outcome.
2. Understand what the other side is going through and went through, as it shapes their identity and mentality.
3. Build trust. Reconciliation takes a lot of energy and time.
4. Forgiving is key but do not deny facts and situations, it must be dealt with.
5. If you can’t do anything to help achieve a better situation for them, then keep silent.
The film screening after lunch break was cancelled as we all wanted another session with them (point 3). Things went deeper (point 4). This was the point where some of the people in attendance felt awkward, perhaps targeted and offended as we begin to speak of facts and situations.
I won’t go into that here as it’ll be understood out of context. But it was understandable why they felt that way (point 2). Many of us can’t even accept truths about our own personal self. But the reality is we won’t get far with conflict, personal or international, until we are seriously driven by the future (point 1). The concept of eternal Afterlife says a lot here.
Pic: the Sunni and the Shi’a. One is on the right side, and the other on the correct side. Point 5.
Between the two I’ve witnessed and participated in jest and laughter.
Many of which were jabs toward the personal belief of the other.
In seriousness we learn from the knowledgable banter.
For it’s clear that we have come to know our brother.