The world has united in many ways to support Ukraine and voice their concerns for the ongoing violence that Russia is imposing on them. It can be difficult to comprehend how peace skills can make a difference when such large conflicts are taking place around the world. However, I try to remind myself that the kind of work that TREE does in teaching young adults and students to be better equipped to handle conflict of any size does impact our world in significant ways.
When I need to remember why it’s so important that I prioritize peace education in my own life, I think about the stories that I have heard and read about where lives have been forever changed by peace work. One of my favourite peace-related documentaries is called My So-Called Enemy, directed by Lisa Gossels. I was first exposed to it in a first-year university peace class and I watch it often, especially if I need a perception shift once again.
The documentary features young women who have traveled to the United States from Israel and Palestine, who hold very different views about the war that they experience on a daily basis. It features the work of Building Bridges for Peace, an organization that does active peace work through summer camps and other gatherings, and is the girls’ home for a short time while they work through their own peace journey.
The documentary follows the young women for seven years, analyzing how their lives change after they have live-altering conversations with someone they consider to be an enemy. The Israeli and Palestinian conflict is one that is important for us to be educated about and aware of like we are with Ukraine, and this documentary is a great start. It uses real human stories to shed light on the complex nature of experiencing religious, political, racial and physical divides.
This statement from a Palestinian Muslim woman named Rawan who takes part in the documentary particularly stands out to me: “There’s many things that a person might look like and you’re one hundred percent positive who they are. And when you talk to them, you’re shocked that they’re completely the opposite.”
It’s important to remember that behind every messy conflict, no matter how large or small, is other human beings. Watching the Israeli and Palestinian young woman, similar in age to myself, commit to shifting their perspective of the “other side”, reminds me that I have the capacity to do the same in my own life.
Beyond the exploration of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the documentary offers insight on what women offer to peace-making spaces and showcase how conflict transformation can take place in practice. It shows how women navigate their identity as they grow up, and how they learn to celebrate diversity and coexistence with someone they consider to be their “other”.
The recommended age for viewing this documentary is twelve and up, and I believe it’s a great, relevant watch for trying to understand global affairs through a peace-related lens. I find that it helps restore my hope in the work that we do in our personal lives and with our programs here at TREE.
I encourage you to take a look at how these girls could transform their views in very powerful ways and make friends with “their so-called enemy”.
Check out this link to learn more about the documentary and check it out for yourself!
Image from Documentary
Olivia Miller is a current undergraduate student at the University of Waterloo with a double major in Peace and Conflict studies and Social Development Studies, minoring in Political Science. She holds a certificate from the University of Pennsylvania in Positive Psychology. Olivia loves speaking with youth, particularly about coping and development, through her previous experiences in public speaking in classrooms, youth leadership groups, summer camps and more! She was the recipient of the 2018 Ontario Leader in Action award for her mental health awareness initiative in Waterloo Region, the Bridges of Hope Project. Her hobbies include volunteering with St. John’s Kitchen, The Activist Collab and K-W Community Fridge. When she’s relaxing, she’s adventuring somewhere new or writing in her journal.