Peacemaker Fridays: July 1, 2016

Muslim farmers build a Christian church in Pakistan; Arabic-Hebrew bilingual schools teach peacemaking in Israel; and former members of the Syrian National Orchestra—now refugees—perform for peace.

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

Muslim farmers in Pakistan build a Christian church for their neighbors 

“Muslim farmers in a village in near the city of Gojra in Pakistan’s Punjab province are putting their savings together and helping build a church for the Christians in their neighborhood. How does such tolerance and harmony exist in a place known for religious violence?” Too beautiful for words. Just… watch. 

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Hebrew-Arabic bilingual schools create a new, peaceful reality for Israeli children

In 2014, the Hand in Hand school in Jerusalem was firebombed by extremists and graffitied with the message, “There’s no coexisting with cancer.” The following day, 98% of the students returned to school, undeterred and insisting it was the only way to prevent future attacks. Hand in Hand, which runs 6 schools across Israel promoting bilingual, bi-cultural, peacemaking education for Jewish and Arab children, is challenging centuries of prejudice. They want to raise children in a “new normal,” a place where Jews and Arabs grow up together, play together, speak each other’s language, and learn that “the other” is not the enemy. “Of course, we don’t always agree,” says a Jewish student as he stands next to his Arab classmate. “But it doesn’t really matter, because I still know Yasmin is my friend and we’ll overcome this.” Yasmin smiles. “We’ve known each other for more than 10 years… nothing can hurt our relationship.” Read more…

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Syrian musicians reunite for peacemaking performance in London for performance 

This past weekend, former members of the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music reunited for a livestream performance in London, so listeners could “experience the humanity of this [so-called] homogeneous shadow [of Syrian refugees] which they feel so threatened by.” The performance is one of a series that brings together musicians who are scattered across the globe—some as refugees, some still living in their home countries. The orchestra is a ray of hope for the future of a peaceful Syria—the performers are divided between supporters of the regime and its opponents. “We have to find a way to bring [different groups] together…we can become one,” says violinist Sousan Eskandar. “When there is violence in the world, you have to make more beautiful music, and make it more intensely.” Read more… 

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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!