“I now believe that my own liberation as a Palestinian is not only about ending the Israeli military occupation, but also about addressing all aspects of violence – be they political, social, economic or environmental. Nonviolence is not a tactic to be taken out of the box when it seems fit to use. It is a way of life.”

- Sami Awad, What One Palestinian Learned From Gandhi, Huffington Post

 

Zd77LY8uA peacemaker with a rich and conflict-riddled heritage, Sami Awad is a Palestinian Christian who founded and is currently Executive Director of Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian non-profit organization in Bethlehem established to build peace through nonviolence.

Sami, though born in the U.S., is the son of two Palestinians, his mother from the Gaza Strip and his father a man who became a refugee at the age of nine and later founded Bethlehem Bible College in Bethlehem. Besides this, Sami grew up under the peacemaking influence of his uncle, Mubarak Awad, a Palestinian activist who promoted nonviolent resistance during the first Intifadah and who was deeply influenced by the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi.

Sami has degrees in Political Science and International Relations from U.S. universities but always knew he would return to his homeland to work toward peace. He founded Holy Land Trust in 1998 and has since been working for peace in the Holy Land through nonviolence, both on a local level and a global level, speaking in many different countries around the world, including a trip to India with the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.

A Jesus-centered peacemaker in one of the most extreme conflict zones in the world, Sami Awad is a powerful force for peace both in the Holy Land and around the world and someone whose life, work, and philosophy it would benefit peacemakers of all walks of life to be familiar with.

Recommended Links:
Sami’s Blog
Little Town of Bethlehem movie
Little Town of Bethlehem clip

by Rick Love

Why did more than a million people, including forty world leaders, march for freedom in France after the Charlie Hebdo massacre?

charlie hebdo march

 

My colleague Jennifer Bryson explains: “The Paris attack was an attack not only on people but on a fundamental principle which is essential for the functioning of a democratic political system and a democratic civil society, namely freedom of speech.”

The world was moved by this stand against violent extremism and for freedom of speech.

Today (January 16, 2015) we celebrate Religious Freedom Day in the United States. And one of the best ways to celebrate religious freedom today is to understand and practice free speech in a multi-religious world. Without free speech there is no true religious freedom.

Some people wrongly conclude that religious freedom means we can never say anything negative about any other faith. But that is a misunderstanding of religious freedom. Promoting and protecting religious freedom means we protect the person, not her ideas; believers rather than their beliefs.

Freedom of religion is about a marketplace of ideas. We can and should engage in robust dialogue about our differences, preferences, and convictions. To do this well, we need to learn the art of dialogue instead of diatribe, invitation instead of intimidation, persuasion instead of coercion.

Promoting and protecting religious freedom means that we protect the rights of people of all faiths and those who have no faith (atheists and agnostics). They too have the right to promote their ideas. Even those who use cartoons to poke fun at or mock others’ beliefs, like Charlie Hebdo.

Promoting and protecting religious freedom also means that we do so for the good of all. In other words, there are boundaries to free speech. Hate speech and violence against those who disagree with us undermines religious freedom. As the Global Charter of Conscience affirms, “The constant negotiation between the rights and responsibilities of each citizen and the wider common good is an ongoing challenge for societies that would be both just and free” (Article 8).

Navigating between the rights and responsibilities of each citizen and the wider common good is complicated, with both legal and social components. Changing the law is beyond my pay grade, so I won’t address the laws of the land; I want to speak about the habits of the heart.

In The Global Public Square: Religious Freedom and the Making of a World Safe for Diversity, Os Guinness show us how to navigate these differences with civility. He encourages us to follow the “three R’s” of religious freedom: rights, responsibilities, and respect (p.167). We acknowledge the rights of others to free speech and religion; we realize we need to be responsible in our speech and the practice of our religion toward others; we show respect toward other faiths. And we expect the same rights, responsibilities, and respect from others.

One way we can celebrate Religious Freedom Day is to practice and promote these three R’s of religious freedom – which are in fact peace practices. Peace begins with me… and you!

 

(Stay tuned as I continue this series on religious freedom.)

Today I’d like to share a video interview with one of my favorite peaceworkers, Sami Awad, as he describes how nonviolence empowers people to deal with injustice and oppression and breaks down the barriers that prevent people from relating to one other. Sami is the founder and Executive Director of Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian non-profit organization established in 1988 to promote nonviolent resistance and work toward peace in the Holy Land.

 

Peace Catalyst’s Martin Brooks created this video conversation with his friend Imam Wasif about what it looks like for Muslims and Christians to be friends, given that we have both similarities and differences in our faiths. This is an incredibly powerful picture of peacemaking and what we’re all about at Peace Catalyst. Feel free to leave comments with thoughts and your experiences with friendship like this.

 

Conversations: ~ Differences and Similarities from Human Kind on Vimeo.

More from Martin at seguesintl.com

As we close out 2014, we wanted to extend a special thank you for your partnership this year. It has been a big year for us – where the hearts of thousands of Christians and Muslims have been softened and changed, where we firmed up our infrastructure and attained our 501(c)(3) status, where we have begun to counter violent extremism, and where we continue to enjoy friendships with Muslims throughout the U.S. and the world.

As we look toward more of the same in 2015, we covet your participation, your prayers, and your partnership. Would you consider making a year-end gift to our Waging Peace Fund before January 1? Thanks so much!

Deeply grateful,

Rick Love, Ph.D.
President