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Peace It Together
Nourishing Ideas > Philia in the Community > Peace and Reconciliation

In his speech, Reconciliation: A Dialogue for Modern Life, the Hon. Douglas Roche described the kind of world he wants to live in: "a world that is human-centred and genuinely democratic - a world that builds and protects peace, equality, justice, and development&a; world where human security replaces armaments, violent conflict, and wars...In short, I want to live in a culture of peace."

One hopeful initiative that is contributing to the culture of peace is Peace It Together, a three-week summer program in Vancouver that uses arts, team-building, and dialogue to build bridges between Canadian and Middle Eastern Arab and Jewish youth. Peace It Together was started in 2004 by the Creative Peace Network, a diverse group of individuals committed to fostering a culture of collaboration and justice through creativity and dialogue.

The Creative Peace Network believes that peace can be achieved through creativity and education. Now, more than ever, the organizers feel it is essential to break the circle of fear, pain, hatred and revenge, and to build bridges between the Palestinian and Israeli communities. Through the creative process, participants and organizers alike cultivate a culture of mutual respect and understanding that will eventually lead towards peace.

In 2004, five Palestinians, five Israelis and two Canadian teens came together in Vancouver to tap into their creativity, share adventures in nature, and transform their relationships. In 2006 the program expanded to ten Palestinians, ten Israelis and ten Canadians, and added a new component: filmmaking. After meeting each other in Vancouver, the youth spent two weeks at the Gulf Islands Film and Television School (GIFTS) on Galiano Island. There, they worked in small groups to create original films about their lives, their hopes and their fears. While learning about filmmaking, the youth heard each other's stories, learned new communication skills, and worked to break down the barriers that prevent sustained peace.

The program was mentored by leading filmmakers and educators from British Columbia, including Velcrow Ripper, a documentary filmmaker, winner of two Genie Awards (Scared Sacred, Bones of the Forest), and co-founder of GIFTS. "In this tragic time of dramatically escalating war and bloodshed in the Middle East, we desperately need stories of hope, possibility and reconciliation", said Ripper. "Peace It Together is one such flower rising from the wreckage, offering a critical opportunity for Israeli and Palestinian youth to step outside the pressure cooker of war and spend time learning to recognize their shared humanity, using creativity to help tear down the walls of misunderstanding, building new bridges to peace."

By the end of the two-week program, the youth had created seven short films: two animations, two documentaries and three dramatizations. The films were launched on August 20, 2021 at a gala public screening in Vancouver. After the launch, the participants will return to their homelands with their films in hand - a message of hope they will be able to share with the world in international film festivals - but most importantly, share with their families, friends and classmates back home.

The organizers of Peace it Together believe their program is more relevant now than ever. "As violence escalates, people become more polarized and more emotional", says Reena Lazar, a Jewish-Canadian and an executive director of Creative Peace Network. "This, of course, is the exact opposite of what is needed. While our program is unlikely to solve the current crisis, it will give the participants the unique opportunity to work through their fear and anger in a safe environment and with the very people to whom their feelings are directed". Adri Hamael, a Palestinian-Canadian and an executive director of the organization adds, "Through dialogue and filmmaking, the youth and their audiences will have the chance to struggle with and make sense of the conflict that impacts so many lives."

You can view all the films online, on the GIFTS website.

View a video report on Peace It Together at Global National Online.

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