Learn how peace seeds are planted

Posted Online: March 04, 2011, 12:00 am
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By Leon Lagerstam, leon@qconline.com
Peace seeds planted in Maine have weeded out some conflicts witnessed by Egyptian, Israeli and Palestinian teens and show others around the world what happens when peaceful resolutions take root.

Learn how by attending a free film and lecture at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 9, in the Rogalski Center at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.

Guest speaker will be Barbara Gottschalk, co-founder of Seeds of Peace, a program that has brought 4,300 young people from 26 countries together to explore and learn conflict-resolution tools and ideals since 1993.

The topic of her presentation is based on a 13th Century poem written by an Afghani poet named Rumi, featuring the verse ''up beyond the idea of wrong-doing and right-doing is a field, and I'll meet you there,'' she said in a telephone interview from her Washington, D.C., office.

''What we're basically doing is sewing the possibility of peace with young leaders,'' she said.

Ms. Gottschalk and journalist the late John Wallach created Seeds of Peace in 1993 to bring together 46 Israeli, Egyptian and Palestinian teens to attend an Arab-Israeli conflict-resolution camp in Maine.

Camps continue to be held in Maine to ''empower youth from regions of conflict with the leadership skills necessary to advance reconciliation and co-existence,'' according to promotional materials.

''We picked Maine because we thought it would be advantageous to hold our camps in a neutral setting, away from all the broadcasted troubles, and give them an opportunity to think, without hearing gunshots or bulldozers, about what their lives would be like to live in peace,'' Ms. Gottschalk said.

The next camp will be held from mid-June to mid-July. About 185 campers are expected from Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

''We also will have 25 American teenagers joining us,'' she said.''The things we do at camp are intended to build up their confidence and emphasize teamwork.''

It also gives teens a chance to experience different sports they never could before, Ms. Gottschalk said. ''Seeing someone from the Middle East on water skis for the first time is amazing, to say the least.''

For information, or for applications, visit seedsofpeace.org.

The first group of campers are in their 30s now, she said. ''One is an anchor on Channel 2 in Israel, and two are clerking for the Supreme Court in Israel.''

Others she's kept track of are representing negotiating teams on Palestinian and Israeli sides.

''And there are quite a few filmmakers and photo journalists, and many doctors, international lawyers and businessmen,'' she said.

Ms. Gottschalk was a civic leader and social worker in a Jewish community in the Washington, D.C., area when Seeds of Peace formed.

''It occurred to me then that there was a whole group of people -- the Palestinians -- who thought the homeland, so enamored by the Jewish people, was their homeland, too, but didn't have it as good as the people in Israel who had their freedom, so I started meeting with the Palestinians and discovered they were human, too,'' she said.

Since then, her work has garnered a medal of honor from King Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, a Peacemaker Award from Earlham College in Indiana, and an honorary degree from Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire.

Her March 9 appearance in Davenport is part of a week-long visit as part of Ambrose's Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows program, established in 1973 to encourage the flow of ideas between the academic and nonacademic sectors of society.

Ms. Gottschalk will leave time for questions and answers, and said she expects to field several inquiries about the political unrest in Middle East countries some of her teenage campers hail from.

''I hope people will understand how much courage it really takes by these young people who are trying to get freedom after being so oppressed for so long,'' Ms. Gottschalk said.

She also would appreciate any donations for Seeds of Peace.''We have pared our budget down from $6 million to $3.5 million, but it costs $5,000 to $6,000 to bring them to the U.S.,'' she said, so donations would be well spent.

''And in this day and age, we know we are all in this together,'' Ms. Gottschalk said. ''I hope I can help people see, as I have seen year after year, that peace is possible even in the most intractably held conflicts or disagreements.''

If you go

What: Free film and ''Beyond Ideas of Wrong-Doing and Right-Doing'' lecture from Seeds of Peace co-founder Barbara Gottschalk.

When: 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 9.

Where:Rogalski Center, at the corner of Ripley and Lombard streets, one block west of Harrison Street.


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