bakuKMU youth representative to United Nation Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Youth Forum, Baku Azerbaijan and his team from Palestine, USA, Lebanon, Japan, Morocco, Burkina Passu, Kenya, UK and Indonesia had successfully produced a final the Narrative of Tomorrow: Living Together in Inclusive Societies: A Challenge and A Goal from An Interfaith Perspective

“From Daesh to Teenage Peace Leader, A recipe of transformation”

Two young teenagers, Adam and Omar (made up names for privacy reasons), fled their home as it was being bombarded during the civil war in Syria. They were best friends who faced the cruelty of life by waking up one day and realizing that their entire families were killed in a glimpse of an eye. Adam and Omar struggled their way to flee the war zone towards a more physically secure refuge: Lebanon. In Syria, they needed no one to self-sustain, they lived a full dignified life where they used to go to school, and come back home where a warm meal was being prepared by the caring hands of their mothers. In Lebanon it was different, they understood how undignified it was to knock on doors and ask for assistance, clothes, and shelter. They lost track in believing how they can be positive contributors to their community, their sense of dignity and most importantly their identity.

Once a person loses his or her sense of identity, nothing matters anymore. Being alive or not is irrelevant. Adam understood that and was in search for meaning. Daesh was next door, offering dignity, revenge, and sense of belonging and an embracing community with a higher transcendent cause. He decided to join Daesh. Before doing so, Adam decided to consult with a local Imam who he trusted. As the Imam was struck by Adam’s decision, he had no convincing narrative to pull him out from such suicidal thoughts. Adam went away, joined Daesh and was killed in one of the bombings.

Haunted by the death of Adam, the Imam realized the responsibility he has between his hands. He understood the importance of guiding these young men out of the suicidal circle. The Imam, as many other civil leaders and priests, decided to join Adyan NGO psycho-social program which aims in building and equipping trainers and animators with skills to deal with traumas when faced by one. They were taught the value of diversity and interfaith understanding in countering stereotypes, dehumanization, and extremism.

Unable to cope with life, Omar received the news of the death of Adam as an invitation to join his path and surrender to the ideology of revenge and violence. Omar was so convinced that this was the only way to avenge the killing of his family and his best friend Adam. After few months, Omar also went to the Imam to inform him about his decision and take his blessings. This time, the Imam faced this challenge differently. He was now able to process the different traumas Omar was suffering from — having his family killed, to fleeing his land, the suffering in the host community and the death of his best friend. Omar was introduced to other peers and friends who belong to a different faith who were suffering from the same issue. Omar realized the mistake of generalization he fell into concerning demonizing “the other”

After many session, and few heart to heart talks, Omar finally changed his mind. His exposure and openness towards people from different faith and background made him realize what he was missing and his worth. Moreover, Omar decided to volunteer with a local NGO to help other refugees and host community member to get out from the hate cycle with a single story “Without the guidance of my educator and what he tell us about peace, I would have joined Daesh just as other kids did”. Omar Life was saved.

Not only the life of Omar was saved, but also of the Imams’ as we learn later that he also harbored pain and revenge wishes for his brother death during the past four years. Faced with Adam questions and death, the Imam realized the responsibility he had for the future of Syria and bringing up a generation which will build Syria instead of destroying it.

This is the true power of openness, education and having spaces for encounters between different individuals of a society to find solutions to their common challenges. We don’t need only food and shelter, but also social and psychological support to remind us how much we are valuable to our communities and how much we can positively contribute by making this world a better place to all live in it.