I would like to express my condolences to the family of Daniel Braden who was killed in the Bali attacks in 2002. Without you, I would not have been able to partake in the Journey of Understanding, and your devotion to promoting peace has directly addressed the roots of cultural and national conflict.
I am still in awe from this experience. I never want to forget the tribulations, courage, joy, sadness, and hope which incurred during our nine days together. Some of my own personal despairs have been uplifted. I am proud to have met people from different walks of life, people who dispelled common cultural and national stereotypes largely informed by the media, peers and family.
Our theme this year was ‘Challenge to Change,’ and we addressed many issues that need changing, including stereotypes, racial profiling, media propaganda and self-importance. In respect to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, it was painful to hear experiences painted through friends and family; specific experiences pointing out the violence, sense of insecurity, and degradation experienced by citizens. Both sides were somewhat restricted in some of their views of the other side; feelings closely referred to resentment, anger, injustice, humiliation and appropriation. Fear was a common denominator, albeit from different notions. It was comforting to see that by the end of the week, we all managed an appreciation of each perspective, contrary to that narrated by media. Collectively, we found something that brought us together as one human race; a human race regardless of colour, ethnicity, social demographic and religion.
I would like to thank the participants from Palestine and Israel who spoke about life in their respective countries. The stories about people being bombed, or having missiles thrown at them within an inch of their lives, to the degradation and humiliation experienced by some at check points, to the countless number of friends and family lost to a war which began generations before their own, are all narratives of a life I have grown up sheltered away from. It was with humility that I was able to understand the term ‘power and privilege’ in a global context. It is my dream that every citizen of every nation will one day be able to enjoy freedoms and social progress in equal measure.
It was refreshing to be with people who all shared their different viewpoints on various subject matters. Personally, the most fundamental lesson was about ‘minding the gap’ rather than forcing one’s opinion onto others. It was the integrity, honour and maturity of words spoken that founded a silent unity amongst us all. A unity that respected cultural, religious and personal values.
I am honoured to have met people from different faiths, ethnic backgrounds and cultures of life. On a personal and intimate note, I have been able to reflect consciously and alter my way of thinking. I am confident. Confident that I am beautiful, intelligent and loved. Confident that I have made lasting friendships. Confident that as we part physically in life, we will always be unified in some form of manner. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of you who made this experience for us all.
Ratidzo, UK, JoU February 2016