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PeaceGeeks Jordan team member named a United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Fellow!

Our Meshkat Community Digital Engagement Officer Tasneem was recently accepted as a candidate for the 2019 United Nations Alliance of Civilization Fellowship Program! The UNAOC was formed in 2005 for the purposes of exploring the roots of polarization between contemporary societies and cultures, and to recommend a practical vision and strategy for actionable approaches to this issue. The UNAOC identifies four priority areas of action: education, youth, migration, and media. The Alliance’s activities are build around these key themes.

The goal of the annual fellowship program is to “foster intercultural understanding by engaging with young civil society leaders from Europe, North America, the Middle East, ad North Africa.” The program takes place over a two week period of extensive travel, and fellows are provided with comprehension tools to help them “understand the plurality and the complexity of their surroundings,” and to “get an extensive grasp of their host country’s culture, politics, society, religion, and media.” As part of the program, Tasneem will travel from Amman, Jordan, to the United States, Germany, and Spain in October! The UNAOC fellowship aims to challenge perceptions and deconstruct stereotypes, empowering participants to become better “equipped to position themselves as informed stakeholders and develop cross-cultural partnerships while bridging divides between people from different faiths and cultures.” The fellowship program addresses issues related to Intercultural Dialogue, and this year, the thematic focus centers around the role of women in peacemaking and conflict prevention. This theme aligns closely with the UNAOC mandate and priorities as well as the UN Global Agenda.

We are prouder of Tasneem than words can express! Our summer intern Kate Morford, based in our Vancouver office, chatted with Tasneem in Jordan over the interwebz and asked her a few questions about her big news.

Tasneem is from Zarqa, a region slightly east of the Jordanian capital of Amman. Prior to joining the PeaceGeeks team as a Digital Engagement Officer for the Meshkat Program last year, Tasneem worked with a community-based organization called Qaf. Qaf is a non-profit organization, and the name in Arabic is an acronym of three words which translate to “leadership, excellence, and intellect.” Qaf’s projects focus on promoting a culture of dialogue and acceptance of the “other” among youth, and on channeling the energy of youth toward voluntary and community work. Qaf hosts book and film discussions, convening public dialogues and lectures, and conducting workshops. Qaf has worked with over 1,500 youth since its inception in 2017. Qaf joined Meshkat’s National Alliance in 2018, and Tasneem joined the PeaceGeeks team! Tasneem believes the intersection of art, technology, and peacebuilding is the space in which sustainable and positive social change occurs. At PeaceGeeks, Tasneem manages the digital content of the Meshkat project in Jordan, facilitating website and social media content and engagement with the online communities. Tasneem also lends a hand across all of our Meshkat initiatives, including the Peace Awards, the Artists-in-Residence program, and capacity-building workshops.

Tasneem is most looking forward to meeting new people and having her perceptions and perspectives challenged by her travel and interaction with communities in regions of the world she hasn’t yet explored. One of her goals going into the program is to write about her experiences and especially the people and communities she encounters. She is most looking forward to exploring Berlin, Germany.

“Women make up half of the world’s population,” Tasneem reflects. “It’s insane that half of the people across the planet do not have half the say when it comes to peacemaking. Women have a major and essential role to play, and they can only do so if they are empowered to contribute. Women know the meaning of loss, grief, pain, and love, and the effects of conflicts on their lives. Women have demonstrated how powerfully they can advocate for peace and social justice. The women’s peace movement in Liberia in the early 2000s played an enormous role in ending 14 years of civil war that claimed the lives of 250,000 Liberians. Those women were armed with only their faith and white t-shirts, but they were instrumental in the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female president of a country on the African continent." 

Please join us in giving Tasneem a heartfelt congratulations! We're so thrilled for her and we can't wait to follow her along her UNAOC journey in the autumn! 

Find out more about PeaceGeeks' Meshkat Community Program in Jordan here

 

This article was written by PeaceGeeks staff member Lauren Hyde.

May 7, 2019
Category:

How to respond to hate with love

“We will have to repent in this generation ― not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” ― Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On the morning of March 15th, Canadians woke to headlines detailing an act of pure evil that had happened overnight. It is hard to explain the surreality of making coffee while hearing about 49 people who lost their lives across the ocean in New Zealand. A country not quite close enough to be a brother or sister, but perhaps a cousin. A place we always thought nothing like this could ever happen.

Until, of course, it happens.

Authorities in Christchurch determined the tragedy was a well-planned terrorist attack. A manifesto of hatred, a plan to start a ideological war, driven by white supremacy and a loathing of immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries.

These values seem to be repugnant to most Canadians, and indeed to most decent people in the world, yet here we find ourselves again. In New Zealand, in the Netherlands three days later, we can’t forget that just two years ago the site of the barbarity was here in Canada, in Quebec City. Six Canadian Muslims died while they prayed.

But that was Quebec. Home of the Burqa ban and inflammatory comments by political leaders. Again, we can draw the line between us and them.

We don’t hold the same values here in on the Liberal west coast, do we?

Perhaps the most damaging thought that emerges from all of this is that ideologies don’t start to take hold when someone picks up a gun and intends to murder those his system has judged unworthy of life. The seed was planted a long time ago.

Surprising numbers that challenge our idea of our tolerant community on the west coast include that in 2017 we witnessed a 47% rise in hate crimes in Canada. There were 321 hate-motivated attacks against black people and 221 attacks against Jewish people. The number of attacks against Muslims more than doubled, rising to 349. That is a 243 per cent increase over four years.

While Canada may be a tolerant culture, as is New Zealand, we are no longer dealing with a world in which the culture you live in forms the bulwark against hateful or extremist ideas. Virulent ideologies do not stop at borders and they need only one person ready to hear them to grow that seed in darkness and isolation.

The New York Times recently acknowledged the mega-groups forming on social media, those connected through online spaces if not shared borders to offer a profound idea on the spread of this hatred:

“Radicalization might start with casual conversations among video gamers. What begins with a few racist slurs may lead to exposure to overt white supremacist propaganda. A seemingly innocuous YouTube channel may recommend other, more inflammatory channels, which in turn may recommend ever more extremist content.”

The blame here seems to rest at the feet of social media, as if algorithms and trending topics lead someone down the path from mainstream to fringe to irredeemable. What accountability can be ascribed to the family? To the community? To the responsibility of the individual? And what of the provocateurs? What of the simply careless? Should those who know not what they do be forgiven so easily?

When we think back over the last few years, and we remember the growing list of images burned onto our consciousness — a doll lying beside a bodybag, a memorial of stars outside a synagogue, a single gun raised at the entrance of a mosque — it can be easy to be overwhelmed. To think that there is nothing we can do when we command only, in the end, ourselves.

This seems, to this writer, the wrong way to look at it. Everything you can do, starts with you.

How will you guard yourself from violent ideas, how can we prevent them from spreading inadvertently, how can we reach out to others of different faiths, faces, and creeds to amplify voices of peace? We must hear the words again of Dr. King, that the good people must not be silent. And when we speak, we must consider our words, and who might be listening.

Now more than ever.

7 things we can do to combat hatred and intolerance in our own lives:

1. Make it a point of reaching out and connecting with communities that you don't connect with in your daily life. When you do, focus on listening to what they have to say.
2. Acknowledge where you have biases and stereotypes and be open to challenging those stereotypes. Be aware that there are biases that you don't know you have.
3. Write to your MLA and MP about your concerns around rising racism in Canada and ask them to develop stronger policies and actions against white nationalist hate groups.
4. Talk to your family and friends openly about these issues and about what actions can be taken in your communities to promote understanding and healing.
5. Organize events in your community that focus on promoting understanding and inclusion. Many Neighborhood houses in Vancouver have small funds around strengthening community connections.
6. Be more than a bystander when you witness acts of racism and discrimination.
7. Consider making a donation to one of the crowdfunding pages set up to support the families and communities affected by this tragedy

The families and friends of the victims of these attacks are in the forefront of our thoughts here at PeaceGeeks during this time.

This article was written by Daniel Morton and edited by Amelia Mitchell, two dedicated and passionate PeaceGeeks volunteers. 

Mar 26, 2019
Category:

Announcing Meshkat Community Peace Awards

peacegeeks.org/peace-awards/ar لمزيد من المعلومات باللغة العربية، يرجى زيارة الرابط التالي:

Meshkat Community announces the launch of our annual Peace Awards contest. The awards are targeting content creators, youth and community-based leaders and peacebuilders to create innovative, relevant, and timely content that promotes constructive conversations, inclusion, understanding, and resilience in areas such as women, youth, religious communities, minorities, refugees and people with disabilities.

You can apply with one of the following types of content:

  • Fine arts (paintings, murals, etc.)
  • Music or soundtracks
  • Video content (animations, documentaries, short and long movies) including:
    • Short films (1 - 5 minutes)
    • Feature-length films
  • Performing arts and shows
  • Creative writing including script writing, storytelling, etc.

Eligibility Criteria
In order for your application to be considered eligible, you must:

  • Be a resident of the Kingdom of Jordan
  • Submit an original piece of content using one of the above types of content
  • Use a theme relevant to peace, inclusion, understanding and resilience
  • Apply by midnight on April 19 2019
  • Describe how you will use the award to produce more content related to Meshkat themes

Winning submissions will be decided by a panel of local jury of celebrities, experts and influencers who will evaluate the content for quality, creativity, coherence, impact, technical strength and thematic relevance. Awards will be presented on May 10 at 6pm. Details on location to follow.

Apply now! https://goo.gl/forms/ij7fpkngzxehmZ102

For more information, please send an email to awards@meshkat-community.org or call Ahmad at  +962 7 9765 2111

Meshkat Community empowers digital content creators in the Arab World, particularly youth to respond positively to hate, polarization, discrimination and extremism both online and offline spaces.

Join us Online!

Facebook - https://web.facebook.com/pg/meshkatcommunity
Twitter - https://twitter.com/MeshkatComm
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/meshkatcommunity
YouTube - https://goo.gl/wdmr8e

Meshkat Community is a PeaceGeeks project. This project is funded by the Government of Canada.

Mar 19, 2018

Can Colombia Find Peace?

    
Sometimes the world seems bent on driving the optimism from us. This year has brought news of wars turning the Middle East to ashes, terrorism stalking the streets of Europe once again, and of the slow and relentless grind of the refugee crisis. Trump and Brexit. There are weeks when it seems that each day breaks with news of some fresh atrocity. Peace seems far away.

But there is always hope. We need only look to Colombia, where peace is closer than it has been in decades. President Juan Manuel Santos has presented the Colombian people with a peace deal that would end their civil war after 51 years. The last war in the Western Hemisphere stands on the brink of coming to an end.

This grinding guerrilla conflict has been burning off and on since the ‘60’s, in largely rural Colombia, leaving deep scars. FARC conducted a systematic campaign against both military and civilian targets. Both sides have been accused of kidnappings, torture, and terrorism. In the five decades of war, over 200,000 people lost their lives and close to 7 million were internally displaced. FARC entrenched themselves in the jungle and the government offered little quarter. The ‘long night’ seemed endless.

It’s hard to say when things started to change. Historians might claim that an American backed campaign against FARC in the early and mid 2000’s helped weaken them to the point where they were better to negotiate. Maybe Colombians just grew too sick of war to keep going. In 2010, against all the odds, Colombia and FARC entered a tenuous peace process.

Setback after setback promised to plunge the country back into war. But, after 6 years of negotiations, a peace deal finally emerged. FARC was ready to lay down their weapons, while the Colombian Government, then led by President Santos, was prepared to offer a chance to join the political process.
It would come down to a national vote by the people of Colombia. Allow FARC to reintegrate and take seats in the congress, or let the war continue. President Santos and FARC leader Timochenko both were clear: if the vote failed, there was no plan B and both sides would return to war.

On October 2nd, the first trickles of results started to come in. Polls taken before the day of the plebiscite had shown a comfortable lead for the ‘yes’ side. World leaders had gathered in Cartagena to celebrate the historic signing of the agreement. People packed squares draped in colourful Colombian flags. This was the day when it ended.
And then it didn’t. As the day dragged on, it became clear that the result would be close, but negative. By the smallest of margins, Columbians had voted no to the peace agreement.

The idea of offering guaranteed political power to war criminals was among the key  stumbling blocks. How could FARC soldiers have their crimes be not just forgiven, but rewarded with political power?

The rejection of the peace deal was a crushing blow. To rub salt in the wounds, only five days later Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing about what was assumed to be the end of the war.
But when the vote was examined closer it became clear how close it was. And rural Colombians, who had been disproportionately affected by the conflict, voted overwhelmingly for peace, some driving for miles through the jungle in order to do so. Maybe something still could be salvaged. The deal wasn’t perfect, but perhaps it could be made just a little better...

So the Colombian government took the bold step of going back on their commitments and choosing to instead try again with an understanding and added urgency, that the peace process could still be salvaged. After a month of negotiation, a new deal was put into place and signed this week.

While the full text of the new deal has not been released, the main differences relate to removing guaranteed political seats for FARC members, where the original deal promised 16. There is no assurance that Colombians would vote in favor of this amended agreement, but there are reasons to be optimistic. Some will be unhappy and even betrayed. Some will feel the peace agreement didn’t go far enough. There still remains a risk of public backlash.
But many Colombians want peace and are willing to work to make it a reality.

If peace can come in Colombia, it must be recognized as a historic moment. Pessimism is creeping into the veins of the world and beginning to harden, giving rise to demagogues and isolationists. But if the world’s longest conflict could now be ending what else might be possible?

Colombia offers an opportunity for all of us to ask why we seem more focused on war than peace. The level of coverage of the Colombian peace process has been paltry compared to the amount of focus on the world’s conflicts. The trend toward Journalism for clicks and eyeballs requires ever more shocking content and war is fertile land to draw from. Peace doesn’t seem to generate the same sort of attention. This is a challenge both for peace builders and optimists. Will the good work of President Santos be quickly forgotten once the deal comes into place? Will bilateral donors invest development funding to help strengthen prospects for sustainable peace? Sometimes it seems as though peacebuilders struggle not just against forces of war, but also against media apathy. Peace is given short shrift compared to the headline grabbing shock of war and violence.

It must frustrate those who worked so hard on this historic accord to see it glanced over by Western media in favour of endless stories of the suffering world. Because this is something that demands to be known world wide.
Let  social media be alight with it. Let us be drunk and giddy with the news. Civil wars often spark others. Can we hope here for the opposite? That peace in Colombia might tip the world scales in the other direction? We can’t know this. 

But we can hope.

 

Nov 17, 2016
Category:

PeaceTalk #12: Liberia Past to Peace

Guest Speaker:
Kent Bubbs Jr.
Date:
Sep 11, 2013
Time:
6:00 7:30PM
Venue:
Calabash Bistro

Military conflict, dictatorship and civil war are all aspects of life that are often better left in the past than built on for the future. There are lessons to be learned from our past but how does a country and culture reconcile their past so they can make this shift from conflict to development to prosperity? In 2005 after 14 years of civil war and dictatorships Liberia, West Africa had the opportunity to do just this. What does this process look like? What does Liberia look like today? Are they on a course to prosperity?

Speaker Bio: 

As a child I was exposed to the idea that this world of ours in much greater and more complex than a 10 year old is capable of comprehending. In reflection, I thank my parents for exposing my siblings and I to the experience of having new immigrants come to live with us while they transitioned to life in Canada. It was only later in life that I realized the impact of this opportunity to connect, observe and communicate with people and cultures that were so vastly different from ours. Presently, through my work with Universal Outreach Foundation, I get to explore my desire to collaborate with change agents in developing countries. For the past 6 years I have been living in Liberia, West Africa working closely with Liberian's in the development of contextually appropriate projects and programs that focus on education, water and sanitation and economic development.

 

Thank You To:
Partnership With:
Aug 21, 2013
Category: PeaceTalks
Labels:
Time 2:
3 PM

PeaceTalk #5: On Peace, Beauty And Freedom

Guest Speaker:
Manuel Pina-Baldoquín
Date:
Nov 7, 2012
Time:
6:00 7:30PM
Venue:
Calabash Bistro

The history of 20th century art suggests a continuing belief in the liberating power of art. Yet in retrospective the question still remains - Is there a true potential in art for the liberation of the individual? Can artists actively contribute with their practice to the betterment of society and the creation of durable universal peace? This PeaceTalk will explore moments of history to shed light on the plausible realization of the liberating power of art and its ability to impact peace.

Speaker Bio: 

Manuel graduated as mechanical engineer in Vladimir, Russia in 1983. In the early 1990's, he started artistic practice.His photographs and video pieces often depict urban spaces as a departure point for narratives concerning social issues. He is interested in the relationships between power, utopias, history, and the city as both site and embodiment of these relationships. Manuel's work has been exhibited in the Americas and Europe including the Havana Biennale, the Estambul Biennale, Kunsthalle Vienna, Grey Gallery, N.Y., LACMA, U.S.A., DAROS Museum, Zurich. He currently teaches in the Department of Fine Arts at UBC, Vancouver, and divides his time between Vancouver and Havana.

 

Thank You To:
Oct 17, 2012
Category: PeaceTalks
Time 2:
6 PM
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