I was humbled and grateful to attend the UN High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace with four other HDS students and an alumnus. We represented Harvard and the Religions and Practice of Peace initiative. You can read our joint report here.
My favorite part was a panel titled ““The Role of Youth in advancing the Culture of Peace.” I loved hearing from and meeting Mr. Ahmed Alhendawi, the UN Secretary General’s very first Envoy on Youth. He speaks with conviction and urgency. I believe he’s doing some fantastic work in this world.
I liked his urgency because while virtually all of the diplomats proclaimed the importance of peace and the evils of violence, only a handful of representatives named a concrete project instituted in their country that worked to alleviate human suffering. I had hoped to leave the forum with new ideas of what to do in order to improve the well-being of oppressed individuals living in nations rife with conflict; upon leaving, however, I had more questions than answers. Perhaps this is not such a bad thing—questions are vital—but I want to learn details about how leaders from various sectors might effectively come together to respond to dire needs of millions of people living in, and working to escape, areas of conflict. Escalating crises in the Middle East continue to call for the special attention of leaders committed to uniting across disciplines—and across cultural, racial, religious, and linguistic differences—in order to not only speak to, but also respond to, blatant violations of human dignity.