The Middle East is a region that I have traveled to and deeply care about because of the people I have met and because of the friends I have made who are currently living there. Ignorance about the Middle East has many believing in multiple negative stereotypes, but the organizations listed below exist to remind us that the region is not beyond saving.
Rony Edry created the Israel loves Iran campaign back in 2012 when tensions between Israel and Iran were at a breaking point. In one picture with the intent of spreading peace, Israel Loves Iran created a ripple effect of various online communities composed of every day people from countries of conflict sending messages of love and peace to one another. These communities have become part of what is now called the We Love You movement, and are connected through the Peace Factory, a website created in 2013 with the purpose of connecting all of these Middle Eastern communities together.
This page is run by a member of the peace factory, a young Palestinian who goes by the name of Joujou. Its mission is to “stop the fear of each other, to get to know each other, to get into a dialogue for peace and to become friends.” Joujou’s constant updates and messages of peace even in times of violence and war remind me of a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
This is a Facebook page composed of Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Secular Arabs promoting peace and dialogue from all over the region. On this page you will find articles, memes, and opinions that give a glimpse of the diversity within the Arab world. Some are funny, some are sad, and some are thought provoking, but all of them share the same common goal: promoting peace over polarization.
The Parents Circle-Families forum is a reconciliation group composed of Israeli’s and Palestinians who have lost family members due to the conflict. According to the PCFF,
“These bereaved members, armed with the credibility of their loss and the uncommon path they have chosen, have opened a crack in the psyche of a hardened populous. They have begun to stir an awareness about the conflict that transcends history and politics. For many, it is the first time they have seen “the other side” as human.” While the forum has been successful in humanizing the other, they consist of more than 600 Palestinian and Israeli families. In their own words they don’t want more members, justifiably so.
There is a Buddhist saying that says, “it better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”. I am sure many have read this before, but with the constant bombardment of terrible news, it is important to remember even the most overused words of hope and encouragement. Personally, I don’t think these organizations are burning candles in a world of darkness. Candles don’t provide enough light to lead those who cannot see. I think these men and women are lighting torches that will eventually lead us into a future of understanding.