By Tanvi Wattal
Given the current political environment, learning how to accept and embrace various ideologies is essential, and seventeen-year-old Durya Nadeem agrees. The Pakistani American came to the realization that hatred and violence against unfamiliar cultures existed beyond the confines of her daily interactions. Rising to the occasion, she worked together with an Ohio nonprofit to come up with a feasible plan of action to combat the issue. She launched Peace-Builders.
I interviewed Durya to learn more about her inspiration and plan to start Peace-Builders.
- What inspired you to start Peace-Builders?
Since my childhood, my parents have raised me with the principles of humbleness, acceptance, but most importantly peace. Along with that, I’ve grown up in an extremely diverse environment, so acceptance of those around me who were different was natural. However, when I got older and saw the world beyond my diverse community, I saw hate and violence against people just because they are different from one another. I realized that this hate was fueled by ignorance and it will only continue to fuel more hatred unless an effort is made to enlighten. That is where Peace-Builders comes in. We aim to enlighten those who spread this racial/cultural/religious hate because of ignorance and want people to realize that although we may read different holy books and call God by different names, inside each and every one of us we have one heart that can love.
2. How did you go about starting it once you had the idea?
I reached out to a local non-profit named the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio (IACO) and they aided me with the resources and people to start up the organization. Along with that, we entered into a competition called the PeaceFirst Challenge and were selected as a finalist to receive a $2,000 grant from the Allstate Foundation and a trip to Chicago to take part in the Good Starts Young Rally which allowed us to build a network of connections and support.
3. What is it that you ultimately want to achieve with this project?
As Peace-Builders, our ultimate goal is to break chains of ignorance and build bridges among different cultures and religions through positive interactions. We want to create an interfaith youth front that will combat hatred and violence and as a result create a brighter future, a future without religious, cultural and racial intolerance.
4. How do you go about recruiting people to join Peace-Builders?
We present Peace-Builders at different gatherings. We prefer to present to a youth audience so that if they are passionate about the topic, they can directly contact us right then and there. Through these presentations and word of mouth, we are able to recruit more Peace-Builders that want a brighter future as well.
5. What do you hope to achieve on the Family Fun Day on Sept. 17th?
*Family Fun Day is an event that Peace-Builders is hosting alongside the Safe Alliance of Interfaith Leaders in Ohio to promote interfaith cooperation.
We want to prove that people from different backgrounds can come together and just simply have fun in the midst of all the religious/racial/cultural injustice. The event went very smoothly and honestly, exceeded my expectations because a large portion of it was a cornhole tournament and I did not think many would be interested. However, to my surprise, almost everyone played and during the finals, the whole crowd was electric.
6. How will Peace-Builders help the youth, considering the current political environment?
We teach youth how to behave in a diverse environment. The diverse environment does not always have to be racial or religious diversity, it can also be ideology and opinion diversity as well. Therefore we will aid the youth with the skillset to converse with a person who has differing political viewpoints than them and get to know people and respect them rather than knowing their overarching opinions and avoiding them.
7. Do you think educating others about different cultures and religions would be vital in combating racism?
Most definitely! In my perspective, hatred (Racism in this case) will only continue to fuel more hatred unless an effort is made to enlighten. By educating others about different cultures and religions, we provide people an opportunity to break down the ignorance present in society and combat it with the knowledge they gained.
8. How do you plan on growing the organization outside of Ohio? What can we expect to see from Peace- Builders in the future?
Although we are still in the starting stages, we most definitely want to expand. Therefore we are in the midst of presenting at a variety of places. Down the road, we do want to see Peace-Builders outside of Ohio because as a group we believe that this message is universal.
9. Has being Muslim impacted your desire to help with this project? If so, how?
Being an American Muslim is what made it clear to me that it is vital to combat intolerance to ensure a bright future for all. The principles I mentioned before by which my parents raised me are fundamental aspects of my religion. Along with that, this work allows me to make an effort to break down the terrorist stereotype that many people hold against Muslims. This project lets me prove that all Muslims are not driven by hate and war, but rather prefer to live and spread peace and tranquility for all.
Be sure to check out more of the positive work that Peace Builders and Durya are doing at Peace-Builders.info!
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