“I want others to know that Islam is not a religion of terrorism.”
Dr. Corbitt asked each of the participants today to write expectations of the coming week. What do you hope to learn? What do you hope others learn about you? One of the girls wrote the above statement on her card. It may be that she has come to this place to say this one simple thing, I am not the evil that others would have me be. And indeed, on this first day, I think we can see the beginning of this proven.
These are joyful youth; they are similar to joyful youth that one would like to find next door or in one’s own neighbourhood. There was no hint of hatred or mistrust today and there is an evident intent among us all to learn about each other and grow in understanding. At the risk of putting thoughts in people’s heads or becoming overly optimistic, I would like to speak about what I hope for in kids like this. I think they would just like to be normal joyful kids and live in a normal joyful world. How curious that the people who mistrust Moslems so much would also like the same thing (let me note here that fifty percent of the Palestinians who came are, in fact, Christians. So when you see Arab faces in these pictures and on television, they may have more in common with your beliefs than you had imagined). I think the potential for understanding among peoples of different faiths and ideals is always planted somewhere in our sense of joy and the hope for joy. I hope this week gives us all a chance to be joyful together. We, of course, run the risk of too much “understanding” during an exchange such as this. It would almost be easier to gloss over the significant concerns Moslems and Christians should have between each other. We could then just have a pleasant week and all go back to our places in line afterward. That’s not the intent; perhaps we will have some pointed questions. But hopefully those questions will be answered in a way that generates goodwill.
I still think it’s ironic that the hostel the groups are staying in is right next to the synagogue; we were on the receiving end of some fairly odd looks today (the Jewish Sabbath; as we were beginning, everyone was on their way to the synagogue).
Tomorrow we will start to get more in-depth into discussions and “issues.” However, I think the real substance of the week may simply come from people meeting face-to-face and becoming friends. That may sound slightly cliché; but, no matter how elaborate the planning or how large the exchange, we’re really just trying to help people make new friends.