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The bigger picture of coexistence in the Middle East

Together we are stronger, together we are mightier, together we are able to overcome our fears and our anxieties, and together we can break down the barriers that we have put up around ourselves.

Coexist CEO Tarek Elgawhary trip to the Middle East

While the rest of the team was enjoying the long weekend, I traveled to Amman, Jordan for a conference on “The Challenges Facing Arab Christians” convened by King Abdullah and the King’s Chief Advisor for Religious and Cultural Affairs, H.R.H. Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad.

The goal was to provide a platform to empower the Arab Christian voice as the key minority group throughout the predominantly Muslim Middle East. It was an opportunity for them to voice their concerns and to offer suggestions for improved relations.

The premise of coexistence, in this case along religious divides, is not something solely based theological conversations and academic discourse, but of practical partnerships between people. The greatest example many of the church leaders gave is of the importance of having Christians and Muslims open small businesses together. The use of economic incentive to bring people together leads to larger social cohesion in their experiences.

The representative of the Coptic Pope Tawadros II spoke of the importance of having initiatives in the Middle East be grassroots, and not imposed programs from abroad. Many of the church leaders offered wonderful examples of the work they are currently doing in their own countries that bring people together across divides and engender a more powerful feeling of coexistence.

What they really need is more support to expand these programs and more media attention. I think we can do that.

Pastor Rick Warren summarized my experience best when he used the example of redwood trees. Although the tallest and mightiest of trees, they never grow alone and, in fact, interlock their roots with one another to create strength.

Whether we are talking about disparate communities in Uganda and India, religious minorities in the Middle East, or factions in inner cities across America, our work of creating understanding can only be done together. Together we are stronger, together we are mightier, together we are able to overcome our fears and our anxieties, and together we can break down the barriers that we have put up around ourselves.

In our own way, we have imbibed this message with the Coexist Campaign. We have found a way to bring people together across divides, to use practical, grassroots methods to engender social cohesion and to do so sustainably. My extended trip to the Middle East has given me a renewed conviction that the Coexist Campaign can have a large impact throughout the world.

We are stronger together

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