The fight for Peace/ Reaction to #ParisAttacks #BeirutAttacks

Love and prayers to our brothers and sisters in Paris and Beirut who are enduring–first-hand–the violence that Syrian refugees have been fleeing for more than four years.

Resistance is not ISIS or extremist groups killing innocents. Resistance…real resistance is lighting a candle instead of cursing the dark. That is what we must do in our breath, our actions and our intentions as we face this darkness.

With love, hope,  and humor, ‘s youth fight unseen battles against darkness each day. I see it with my own eyes each time young refugees are sharing water with their neighbors. I see it each time a young girl walks upon desert rocks for miles under the sun to attend a class or to teach younger kids in a make-shift school. I see it each time a family in a tent shares a meal together in a dusty trailer or tent and prays for peace and a return home. I see it in the smiles and eyes of those like you, me and anyone else.

Anyone that has lived and worked with Syrian refugees will know that r youth are the solution, not the problem. A mantra of #MeWeSyria is: While the world continues to fail the people of Syria–now entering its fifth year of war– Syria’s youth will not fail our humanity nor our world.

Sustainable peace and development requires our world–ALL OF US– to hold tighter to the ingredients of peace, love and hope–not retreat from them. The images of Germans and Austrians opening their homes and sharing love and peace with Syrians fleeing war was a devastating blow for ISIS and extremists…the equivalent of a 9-11 for the extremists and terrorists. Such actions and images are what ISIS does not want to prevail.

As soon as we leave these ingredients of peace and hope, or lose faith in them, then we lose our past, present and future.

#MeWeSyria stands with Paris, with Beirut and with the youth of Syria…we stand with our collective humanity.

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A Piece of Me: from Syria to New York City

MeWe Syria and refugee’s film honored at United Nations Alliance of Civilization Youth Film Festival. 

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In a dusty tent city home to tens of thousands of refugees, dozens of teenage Syrian youth wrote, filmed, directed and acted in their own short stories through the MeWe communications initiative. One of the films, ‘A Piece of Me’, is making its way to the Plural + Youth Film Festival, hosted by United Nations Alliance of Civilization. The short film has received honorable mention and will be screened a the Paley Center for Media in New York City on Thursday.

As the founder and project leader of <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mohsin-mohiud-din/post_7799_b_5490889.html&#8221; target=”_hplink”>#MeWeSyria</a>, I will also deliver a short presentation of the MeWe project. Given the deteriorating situation in Syria, and the international community’s failure to provide the promised support for hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees–it is not without a heavy heart that I will speak on the extraordinary project completed by the brave refugee youth in Zaatari.

The news as of late has been disturbing. The brutes within the Islamic State are still screaming; the media continues to give the extremists the microphone; and public discourse in America remains fixed on questions of whether or not Islam is the threat. Funnily enough, the questions on Syria overlook the undelivered/deteriorating international aid necessary for refugees’ stability and survival. The World Food Program has been forced to stop cash and food assistance for December, and Jordan has been forced to cut its free medical treatment for Syrian refugees. In the cracks of such unfortunate developments, however, Syrian youth are doing extraordinary things in the darkest of places.

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Throughout the two-month MeWe workshops, we explored what communications means and how it can be a tool for empowering youth, discovering innovation and disrupting a sometimes harsh reality. In the beginning it was nothing but blank stares and much hesitance in talking about expression and communications. This silence eventually led to a roar of creativity and inspiration louder that the fighter jets patrolling the dry sky. The development of communications as a skill is often overlooked in informal education programs for disadvantaged youth. But once youth are challenged to communicate effectively, both internally and externally, the results are undeniable. The refugee girls and boys I worked with exhibited greater confidence and grew increasingly comfortable with pluralism, critical thinking and team work–all the ingredients needed for peace, dialogue and social development. The NGO Questscope believes this also and were brave enough to host the project.

In Zaatari refugee camp, we were of course limited in what we could do. Security concerns and weather in the refugee camp meant we could only work within the confines of the trailer and caravan of the Questscope NGO. The landscape of Zaatari consists of dust, fences, barbed wire and rocks. The props are tents, a deflated soccer ball, trailers, wheelbarrows and the harsh sun. The tragedies of the war just over the border gave the young storytellers, survivors and dreamers no relief.

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In such a context, one could assume that the MeWe short films are tragedies. Some may even question the ability or willingness of refugees to learn about communications and expression. Those assuming such fatalism would be proven wrong. In the film ‘A Piece of Me’, a young Syrian refugee named Ali,(actual name withheld for privacy reasons), relays the story of his uncle who had lost his leg in a bomb attack in Syria. Instead of the story being about only loss, we transformed it into a tale of resilience, hope and triumph.

In his film, ‘Ali’ has a lesson for us all: “I want to send a clear message to anyone like me that has lost a part of themselves. Hope is not lost.”

Every day that the Syrian conflict is allowed to continue, the world fails the people of Syria and the future of the Middle East. Yet this is not where the story ends, if one listens to the youth. I have seen with my own eyes how Syrian youth like ‘Ali’ and the children in Questscope will not fail our world. They have something to say. The question then becomes: ‘Who is listening?’

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The youth and project were hosted by the incredible NGO, Questscope. Learn more about how you can help Questscope provide vital services to Syrian refugees, here.

Donate to WFP and help feed Syrian refugee families, here.

MeWe was made possible thanks in part to funding provided by the government of Germany.

PLURAL + is a joint initiative between the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and the International Organization for Migration.

United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Fellowship Selection

 

I have been given the privledge of being part of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Fellowship. Myself, along with 12 other emerging leaders, are traveling to the Midd East in April to work meet with government officials and civil society members, in order to learn more about how to improve East-West relations and cultural exchange. Countries currently visiting include: Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia Click here for info:

 

 

 

Presentaion @ Asia Society

Asia Society article on my presentation and video of my presentation about Lollipops Crown at the Asia Society: http://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/mohsin-din-kids-kashmir-and-controlled-chaos

 

Last night I was invited by the Asia Society to participate in a fantastic panel of cultural ambassadors, international journalists and activists. I discussed developments in the Muslim World and I also spoke about the Lollipops Crown project and showed video clips of the children in action during the workshops. Thanks to the accomplished panelists for allowing me the opportunity to speak and show videos of Lollipops Crown in Kashmir and thanks to the wonderful Asia Society for being so supportive of the work. This panel is part of the Creative Voices in Islam in Asia program of the Asia Society. Take aways form the panel: ‘music is homeless’ Nusrat (MTV Iggy) ; cultural forms of expression are equally important as political developments-Zeyba (Cultural Ambassador) ; and author of Rock the Casbah, Robin Wright–the counter jihad will define the next generation. Watch the video from the link above to hear the amazing programs being done for cultural exchange and see videos from each of the panelists.