Terrorism to tourism? Hostility to Hospitality? Seems like changing these realities should be impossible tasks. Yet this is what anthropologist and peace negotiator, William Ury is promoting with Abraham’s Path at a recent TED Conference.
He is Chair of the Harvard Negotiation Project and a founder of this unique Middle East Project that seeks to promote peaceful coexistence through cultural understanding and economic development. In essence, the billions who share the common story of Abraham or Ibrahim have a vested interest in this sometimes violent region. Yet we are reminded that for the millions who live in this region, life is lived to its fullest every day.
Watching this video reminded me of a class in my college days when I painfully sat through a film watching the murder of a child at a watering hole in Africa killed by a warring tribesman from a neighboring village. This film was used to weed out those who were social activists from true sociologists. I quickly started looking for a new career. The interesting difference for me was that this project had me step out of the role of cultural observer to an observer with a voice to be added to the discussion.
By walking in the path of this man (and his wife) we are sharing in his journey of discovery of a common tie among many peoples. He is revered in three major faiths and is known for both receiving and giving hospitality. In my faith, he is known as the friend of God and placed in the bosom position to God. He earned this right by taking this journey looking not at the many gods being worshipped in these lands but for the one true god that embraced all of mankind.
The positive message though of this talk is that individuals on both sides of the conflict are given a voice through this project. Families are being changed as the the travelers on this path contribute to local economies. Small steps on a long journey. Yet for many this is a huge leap of faith.
I hope you watch this video, look at the Abraham’s Path website and even look at the Board of Directors for the organization. It is a mix of academics, diplomats and tourism professionals with an expertise in the Middle East. The board even includes a Professor of Islamic Studies from nearby Oberlin College.
After you watch this, let me know what you think.