Peace in the Middle East

15 03 2007

Last night, at our church’s Lenten Soup Supper, Ian and I heard Dr. Saliba Sarsar share his thoughts on peace in the Middle East.

Dr. Sarsar is currently a professor of Political Science and associate vice president for Academic Program Initiative at Monmouth University. He was born and raised in Jerusalem. As a child he lived through the Six-Day War and attended a Christian school in the Old City of Jerusalem. He completed his undergraduate education at Monmouth and received his Ph.D in political science from Rutgers University.

In his analysis of how to achieve peace, Dr. Sarsar distinguished peace-making activities from peace-building ones. The former, he said, is peace from the “top down” such as when government leaders sign accords that assert peace. The latter, and arguably the more effective, peace-building, happens from the “ground up” where individuals take action as part of their daily activities to build bridges and find common ground with their enemies.

Presently, Dr. Sarsar is a member of the American Task Force on Palestine and recently completed a peace-making tour of Jordan, the Palestinian territories, and Israel as part of a 10-member delegation. He speaks and writes actively on the topic of achieving peace in the Middle East, drawing heavily from his personal experiences and his theories on how such peace might be possible.

Dr. Sarsar is also active on a peace-building level. He described his on-going efforts  in a 5-year project to bring together Israeli and Palestinian people to compose a side-by-side narrative of their stories.

Dr. Sarsar tells a fascinating story about his childhood in Jerusalem, his Greek Orthodox and Russian roots, and his journey to the United States. His views on Middle East relations and how to bring about a peaceful coexistence in such a complex and sensitive situation are plausible and thought-provoking.

Although realistic about what can be achieved, his overall outlook is optimistic and hopeful. I left the dinner thinking that leaders like Dr. Sarsar could actually diffuse the tensions and bring about change…if only they could be allowed to work their “magic” without interference from divisive and destructive forces or “hard-liners” as he refers to them.

Bravo, Dr. Sarsar, for all your peace-making and peace-building efforts! It takes guts (and boundless energy) to continue to speak out, to reach out, and to be involved in such a prodigious undertaking.

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