Peacemaker Fridays: September 23, 2016

Reconciliation through tourism; honoring deceased refugees; and a teenager who created an app to stop bullying.

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

How one Palestinian teachs forgiveness through tourism

Palestinian Aziz Abu Sarah was only 10 when his 19-year-old brother, Tayseer, was murdered by Israeli interrogators for throwing rocks. Tayseer’s death plunged Abu Sarah into anger and despair, catapulting him into a quest for revenge. Growing up in Jerusalem, he spent the next 8 years in constant conflict with his Jewish Israeli “enemies,” leading violent political protests. 

However, at 18, Abu Sarah realized he had to learn Hebrew—the language of his enemies—to graduate from high school. He grudgingly enrolled in a Hebrew class. “For the first time, [I] found myself face-to-face with Jews who weren’t soldiers or settlers. Talking with them, discovering their mundane normality, our mutual love of coffee, country music, [and] food slowly—very slowly—brought down my walls.”

Painfully, Abu Sarah realized that his hatred was turning him into the same kind of person who had killed his brother—someone who could dehumanize another person. He had reached a crossroads: “I could choose whether to respond with hatred and violence, or with grace and love.”

He chose love, and that changed everything—it taught him to forgive. “I remember waking up every morning and saying to myself, ‘I forgive, not because the person who killed my brother deserves it, but because I want to forgive.'”

Through forgiveness, Abu Sarah found his passion in life: bringing people together. He founded MEJDI Tours, a company dedicated to breaking down barriers through relationship-based tourism. Abu Sarah explains, “Forgiveness is not about condoning violence or renouncing justice. It’s setting yourself free from anger so that it doesn’t consume you. That energy can then be used to bring people together.” Read more… 


“Forgiveness is not about condoning violence or renouncing justice. It’s setting yourself free from anger so that it doesn’t consume you.”
   – Aziz Abu Sarah


Italian village builds cemetery for refugees

Last week, we shared the story of refugees who, despite intense anti-refugee sentiments across Europe, rushed to the aid of earthquake victims in Italy. This week, we introduce you to the people of Tarsia, Italy, who are demonstrating their love for the families of 8,000 refugees who paid the greatest possible price…


Bullied teen creates a lunchtime app to prevent bullying 

Natalie Hampton spent all of seventh grade eating alone at lunch, which left her vulnerable to bullying, Hampton, now a junior in high school, decided that no one else should have to feel the same way. So she created an app called Sit With Us.

The app gives students a tool to reach out to those who feel isolated and alone.  A group of friends can become “ambassadors,” and post open lunches on the app to welcome others to eat with them.

The app just launched and is already having an impact. People are already posting open lunches at my school,” said Hampton in an interview on NPR. “So I’m very excited that things are already kicking off with a great start.” 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!