Peacemaker Fridays: May 6, 2016

An Indian teenager challenging world leaders to wage peace; touching the untouchables in Nepal; a Greek WWII survivor housing Syrian refugees; and pursing reconciliation on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Here are the week’s best stories of people reaching across enemy lines, loving the other, and waging peace…

Indian teenager’s video challenges world leaders to wage peace
Gurmehar Kaur was only two when her father was killed by Pakistani soldiers during the 1999 Kargil War. Like her father, who served in the Indian army, Kaur sees herself as a soldier. Over the past 17 years, she has gone from being a soldier of revenge— fueled by hatred of all Pakistanis (and consequently, all Muslims)—to being a soldier of peace. She made this powerful video to share her story in the hopes that world leaders would follow her example, lean in to the “other,” and wage peace.

Becoming blood brothers with the “untouchables” in Nepal
Miteri is an ancient, but declining practice in Nepal where two children are chosen to be “blood brothers,” a special friendship sealed by a ceremony. At age 5, the grandmothers of Gani Ansari, a Muslim, and Ram Narayan, a Hindu, decided they would be forever a part of each others’ lives. For 24 years, the boys ate together, played together, and celebrated religious holidays together. They were considered part of the same family at wedding ceremonies. In a country where Hindu and Muslim communities are often at odds, where many Hindus consider Muslims to be “untouchables,” this special Miteri relationship serves as a unifying beacon of hope. Read more… 

save lives on the frontlines of war

Greek WWII survivor houses Syrian refugees
Panagiota Vasileiadou, an 82-year-old woman living in a tiny Greek border village, understands how it feels to watch violence unmake everything you know and love. Seven decades ago, she and her family fled with only the clothes they wore, as Nazi forces burned their home. She remembers the hunger, the cold, the fear. So two months ago, despite living on a fixed pension of $515 per month, she welcomed five Syrian refugees into her home—overcoming her initial fears that they might be terrorists. This amazing gesture has changed her view of Syrians, as well as their view of Europeans. “It has given us an amazing impression of people,” says one of the men living with Vasileiadou. Still, Vasileiadou laments the many others living in tents in the cold and the rain. “I wish I was younger and with more money and [could] take with me half of the camp,” she says. But because of her kindness, these five men have been changed forever. Watch her story and read more… 

Reconciliation on Holocaust Remembrance Day
Yesterday, May 5, was Holocaust Remembrance Day, a moment when millions around the world pause to remember the devastation of the Holocaust and the murder of 6 million Jews. People observed the day in a variety of ways, including a national two minutes of silence in Israel, a ceremony of remembrance in Austria, a documentary screening in Belgium, and museum events in the U.S. Members of the Jewish and Christian communities in Northern Ireland, participated by marching in solidarity and reconciliation. March for Life is part of a worldwide initiative started by German Christians and descendants of Nazi soldiers, who sought to organize “memorial and reconciliation marches” around Europe. Read more… 

Do you have a story to share? We would love to hear how you and your community are waging peace right where you are. And Stay tuned for more hope-filled peacemaker stories next Friday!

Photo: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum by Ted Eytan / CC BY-SA 2.0