A Lesson for Congress: Creativity for Peace

Santafe.com - August 2, 2011

"There are no enemies, only new friends..."

Thinking about how our U.S. Congress lumbered to a painful solution this week, I had to ask: is there another way? All parties seem to be committed to damning those with different beliefs. Solutions-based thinking is not an option and my-way-or–the-highway is the call to action. Compromise is no longer considered a noble effort, but a mark of giving up position. “Just say no” has taken on an entirely new meaning.  Ongoing circles of blame foster more engrained camps of the “us” and the “them”—and round and round we go.

I was thinking about Congress and how things might be done differently when I fortuitously attended the Creativity for Peace camp outside of Pecos. Invited by a friend, I had no knowledge or history of the organization. What I walked away with was a respect and desire to learn more. Creativity for Peace focuses on nurturing understanding and leadership in teen girls from both Israel and Palestine. Focusing on developing the next generation of female leaders and peacemakers, they bring together a group of young girls that have been kept apart because of differing country loyalties and their family’s beliefs. Five minutes into it I was pretty impressed. That is no small challenge.

The promotion of faceless enemies continues to be taught and believed. Camp gives these girls a chance to meet, talk and befriend those that have been labeled as an enemy. I was amazed and delighted to see their great love and respect for one another. While their laughter and giddiness is still that of teenager girls everywhere, their day-to-day lives include the challenges of counties at war. It was refreshing to see young girls involved in such serious discussions about the challenges they face, and yet with the ability to laugh joyously. The camp allowed them to explore and learn from each other, barriers dropped and the group became “we”.

With unusual grace, these girls shared their stories and their surprise in discovering they are more alike than not. Personal internal work is always difficult and groups are even more so. Through art, shared intimate time and tears, this group of young women now stand together with a common goal—that of understanding and peace. There are no enemies, only new friends, and that experience will be the most important piece they carry home.

The group's 162 young girls have completed the camp and gone home changed. What they do with that experience is yet to be seen, but one can only imagine their impact. As citizens, mothers, teachers and participants in the armed forces, I am confident these girls will make a difference by how they choose to live their lives. With courage, open hearts and new-found friends, they will wind their way into their future with a commitment towards understanding. Reflecting on my way home, I thought about the promise of change—and I wondered if maybe we shouldn’t encourage Congress to go to summer camp.

To learn more about Creativity for Peace: