Peacemaker Fridays: August 19, 2016

A Muslim and a Christian defying stereotypes in Gaza; healing for Yazidi women through photography; and a Palestinian girl receiving a new bike from an Israeli.

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

“I Am His Eyes” – A Remarkable Friendship Brings Light to Gaza

Kamal and Hatem have been best friends in Gaza for 15 years. They spend most all of every day together, visiting the market, attending prayer services, discussing current politics, and reminiscing. “Hatem and I… we have been through joy and pain,” says Kamal. Five years ago, Hatem, a pharmacist, lost his vision while preparing a prescription and could no longer work. Kamal became his eyes: “I always accompany him.” This pairing might not seem unusual, except for one detail: Kamal is Christian; Hatem is Muslim. In some ways, it’s like a modern-day version of the story of Mohammed and Sameer, two friends in 19th-century Damascus, one Christian and one Muslim, who helped each other see and walk. 

RELATED: 127-Year-Old Photo Shows What Peace in Syria Can Look Like

After losing his vision, Hatem felt lost and alone. “But after my Christian friend… volunteered to help me go to the mosque and started spending most of his time with me, I felt better because the void I was struggling with got filled,” he says. Both men agree that their friendship illustrates the reality they strive for in Gaza. “Christians in Gaza protect Muslims, just like Muslims protect Christians. They are both united. They support each other and rejoice for each other.” Read more…


Photo project empowers, heals Yazidi women

Two years ago in northern Iraq, ISIS invaded Sinjar—abducting, massacring, and enslaving tens of thousands of Yazidi men, women, and children. ISIS was pushed back late last year, and we’re helping our Yazidi friends as they rebuild their lives. 

Others are finding creative ways to support the Yazidi community, too. Recently, UNICEF launched a photography workshop for 25 Yazidi women who survived the ISIS attack. Their photos tell stories of healing and hope: a childless couple teaching displaced students, a widow’s thriving salon, New Year’s celebrations.

See more inspiring photos here.


Israeli man replaces Palestinian girl’s bike destroyed by Israeli guards 

Two weeks ago, Israeli border guards made headlines when they damaged the bike of Anwar Burqan, an 8-year-old Palestinian girl. Two days ago, another Israeli, Sami Jolles, made headlines again, by sending little Anwar a new bike. It seems the story hit close to home for Sami. Nearly a century ago in Europe, his father was the target of an anti-Semitic attack, during which his bike was thrown into the river. Giving Anwar a new bike was Jolles’s way to “close that circle.” Jolles added, “I think that my father would be proud of me.” As for Anwar, her eyes shone when she received the gift. Read more… 


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!