By the Rotarian Action Group for Peace
In January, the Rotarian Action Group for Peace’s (RAGFP) Executive Director, Reem Ghunaim, journeyed from the RAGFP headquarters in Portland, Oregon, to conduct a peace tour in her home country of Palestine. Reem is a Rotary Peace Fellow from the Duke-UNC Peace Center in North Carolina, USA. As a native of Palestine, she is pleased to promote positive peace-building within her community.
RAGFP’s mission of supporting Rotarian peacebuilders was both accepted and appreciated in this fragmented part of the world. Reem’s travels allowed her to build peace while bridging Rotarians and influential Palestinians including business and legislative leaders, educators and students, human rights advocates, and even a pop star.
Rotarians in Palestine are visibly active in their communities. Reem met with Rotary peacebuilders who are making a difference by undertaking infrastructure projects and serving public needs that might otherwise be neglected in the region. In Ramallah, Rotarians are working to rehabilitate the water infrastructure in 50 public schools within the West Bank. This allows schoolchildren to enjoy a clean, healthy environment for learning. Access to clean water is a basic human need, which is not always available for kids in schools surrounded by conflict.
Educators for peace
Palestine is home to some of the greatest minds in the world. An-Najah National University in Nablus, West Bank, is training the next generation of leaders. The university invited Reem to present about Rotary’s role in peacebuilding to students.
“The students were amazing and smart. I noticed they were exhausted of politics,” she says. “Their eyes lit up when I shared about my Rotary Peace Fellowship and described what it taught me about peace through development. Developing individuals and human minds is the key to peace. They loved learning about Rotary as a global force for peace” she says.
Reem shared information from the Global Peace Index and described how an affiliate publication of RAGFP, the Peace Science Digest, synthesizes peace and conflict resolution research and makes it easily available to peace practitioners.
Reem also visited the Cultural Center for Child Development in Tulkarem, located in the Palestinian territories. The center teaches children how to respect each other through the arts: English, music, reading, artistic performances, and many other amazing activities. Reem and the children discussed how language is an important tool to better understand and interact with other cultures.
“Children are my heart. They are the future of peace” she says.
Peace through art
Reem’s peace tour came full circle for her when she met the Palestinian Pop Star who inspired her during the time she spent as a student at the Duke/UNC Rotary Peace Center. Her Rotary Peace Fellowship provided her opportunities to travel for an applied field experience oversees and inspire peace through art.
“While I was evolving as a Rotary Peace Fellow, a Palestinian singer, Mohammad Assaf, won Arab Idol for the first time. He was from Gaza and he inspired Palestinians to unite in joy, pride and peace. It fascinated me how the voice of music became louder than the voice of war. I have seen how music empowers people who long to have a voice” she says.
Women of peace and action
It is noted in history that women are the glue that holds entire societies together. What peace tour through Palestine would be complete without consulting and sharing Rotary’s peace vision with leading gender equality experts in the Middle East?
Reem met with leaders of Women Media and Development/Tam, an organization of human rights supporters who empower women to have a voice through media. The organization gives women tools to speak up positively through various forms of communication. They help women directly affected by conflict and provide them ways to integrate into productive society and find a path to success.
As a native Palestinian and Rotary Peace Fellow who now leads our global Rotarian Action Group for Peace, Reem offers a shining example of how Rotary International’s global focus on peace engages and empowers women of all religions, socioeconomic backgrounds, colors or creeds, to become advocates for peace action in every corner of the globe.
The Rotarian Action Group for Peace (RAGFP) is a group of Rotarians, their family members, program participants, and alumni working together for the purpose of advancing peace throughout the world. Learn more about the group and contact them to get involved.