Pax Christi Flanders inaugurated 4 new ambassadors for peace
A new impetus to peace work. That is the beautiful result of the official ceremony on Thursday evening, December 8, 2016 in St. Peter's Abbey in Ghent. In the historical context of this static abbey laureates Peter Peene, Jessika Devlieghere & Shadi Zmorrod and Babs Mertens were inaugurated. It was the 18th time that Pax Christi Flanders organizes such a ceremony and after all these years proved it is still possible to find new candidates, said Annemarie.
VRT journalist Phara de Aguirre interviewed all the winners.
Awake for Peace
Peter Peene of “Awake for peace” tells how he started several years ago with an initiative in the framework of the 2014-2018 commemorations, to ask, where we are with Peace, 100 years after the war. He planted a few seeds and today he coordinates a team of more than 100 volunteers that each year plan impressive events. Inspiration for Peter came from Dorothee Sölle, who used to organize gatherings in the 60’ies in Germany to reflect about injustice. At these gatherings, reflection was coupled to action. That was what Peter wanted: look how we can do something against injustice and violence. Peter dreams that after 2018, the gatherings will not end and that he can continue to mobilize people.
Ud-player Tarek Alsayed Yahya and nay player Tammam Alramadan, both Syrian, brought a beautiful musical intermezzo. Tarek briefly presented their repertoire. Their music is partly based on traditional Syrian melodies, on which Tammam and Tarik continue to improvise. They themselves are only two and three years in Belgium and through their music, want to show Syria has much more to offer than war.
The Palestinian Circus School
The second prize is a couple: Jessika Devlieghere and Shadi Zmorrod. In 2006 they founded the Palestinian Circus School in Ramallah. Through Skype we had a direct contact with Shadi in Palestine. He admitted being initially surprised to be named 'Ambassador for Peace'. There is little peace to be found in his world. Shadi told them that this peace is above all an inner experience. "If I had not come into contact my 12th with culture, theater, I was maybe taken a different path”. Now he wants to offer mainly inner peace to children and young people training and performing with the circus. "Palestinians want to live in peace, we also have a right to life, we have hopes and dreams," he said from Ramallah.
Jessika Devlieghere told in the interview how her concern for the Middle East grew after traveling to Lebanon in 1998 where she stayed at Palestinian refugee camps. In 2005 she finally went to live in Palestine. She reiterated that the title did question them first. "What kind of peace could we look for in Palestine?” With the circus children and young people, which from September to May come practice circus on a weekly basis, they instill trust, a way to regain control over their lives and to work in teams.
Jessika further spoke about their colleague Mohammed Abu Sakha, which is already a year 'administratively detained'. No one knows why and for how long, because his file is secret. The appeal against his detention has been dropped several times, most recently on Monday, December 5th. The new Ambassador for Peace made an appeal during the celebration to raise the issue of 'administrative detention' in Israel with our politicians, and follow up on actions of other human rights organizations. Jessika concluded with her "naive dream": that many more hundreds, thousands of children may pass by the circus school, and that it can remain a beacon of life for children who have hardly any prospects.
Dialogue with Muslims as inspiration
Barabara Mertens, the third Youth Peace Ambassador, came in touch with Muslims when working for the integration services and most of her colleagues were Muslim. These contacts became very strong and questioned her own meaning in life. These questions lead her to an internship at Deir Mar Mousa Monastry in Syria, where the Italian Jesuit Paolo Dal’Oglio and his community were in very good contact with the Muslims. Paolo was a man of dialogue, someone that welcomed all people with an open heart. Dal’Oglio was and still is her big inspiration, also after he disappeared in Raqqa in 2013. Probably it was exactly his desire for dialogue that became fatal for him.