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Listening is an Act of Peace, Love and Basketball

Posted on Sunday, August 16th, 2009.

Recently a group of teens from Faith to Faith – Face to Face visited the StoryBooth in Lower Manhattan. The organization invites youth from the U.S., the Middle East, Northern Ireland and South Africa to engage in multi-faith education and communication-building workshops.

When participants Mustafa Ganem and Karl Coulter entered the StoryBooth to tell their story they seemed a little nervous, but quickly settled in and opened up. Karl spoke of the challenges of growing up Protestant in the midst of political and religious struggle with Catholics in Northern Ireland and his desire for a peaceful conclusion, while Mustafa discussed the challenges of growing up as an Arab in Israel.

Mustafa said, “I feel hopeful that there can be peace when I see other people like myself or like you who are willing to talk and get to a common ground and understanding. Like when I meet people at Face to Face. (They) let people talk about their conflicts and their own experiences and how did it feel, and it teaches you to listen. I think also the problem back home is no one from both sides are willing to listen to each other.”

When Mustafa joined Face to Face in 2006 he was part of a group of six Arab and six Jewish students. During his conversation with Karl he had an opportunity to reflect on the impact the organization had on what had proven to be a contentious relationship.

“They taught us the skills of listening. After that our group changed. They suddenly shut up and stopped arguing, we began to understand why this happened and why each of us reflects that way.”

Karl said, “It’s the same where I’m from as well. Everyone’s brought up to not talk, not really communicate with the other. Whenever I went to Face to Face and met up with people like Pierce McConkey who is a Catholic and another guy who was affiliated with the IRA…you can see what they’re thinking, share their opinions, see they’re not the bad people they were made out to be. They’re just normal people with the desire for peace.”

By the end of the interview both vowed to remain hopeful and positive while keeping their ears open and the dialogue flowing. And what better way to break down cultural barriers and defenses than a hoop-less game of basketball in Foley Square?

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