Where We Live
Communities in the US, Canada and Europe, in particular, have turned into multicultural societies whose ethnocultural makeup has been shaped over time by their first peoples and then other immigrants and their descendants. This means nations with ethnocultural mosaics as indicated by their immigrant population, the ethnocultural backgrounds of their people, the minority populations, linguistic characteristics and religious diversity.
The Challenge We Face
With this diversity comes various challenges in communication, from differences in language to differences in culture. Of course, understanding these differences and what they may accidentally communicate is critical to effective communication and building cohesive communities.
However, there is a lot more to pay attention to – things that are common among us as human beings; some basic characteristics, our primordial settings and factors that may lead the wrong way if not properly understood and addressed, or if deliberately misrepresented or misinterpreted.
A glaring example is the campaign of intolerance, hatred and extremism against the perceived “other” in almost all societies. As a result of this, many communities of faith – whether Muslims, Christian, Jewish or any other – and communities of various ethnicities, colours and ways of life are being violently targeted.
The Point We Miss
Unfortunately, other than the contemporary ways to analyze, explain and deal with these issues, we do not go deep enough to understand the root causes of mistrust among people of all faiths and ethnicities which lead to extremism, hatred and sometimes violent actions – not against one specific group but all faith and identity groups. If this is a common problem, it must have a common root cause and a common solution as well.
Unfortunately, just as the perpetrators of intolerance, hate and violent crimes vary by their background and affiliations, so are the responses to their actions without any coordinated attempt, except some interfaith meetings/dialogues, etc.
Also, the intended work to address the issue of extremism, hate and violence is:
1) happening in isolation from one another;
2) devoid of a focus on the root causes of the issue; and
3) as mentioned, not effectively coordinated to leverage on each other’s strengths.
Bridging the expertise in the social service sector with the faith communities mean that there needs to be a deliberate effort to engage expert facilitators and trainers from the mainstream organizations to understand the core issue, and then develop appropriate content for sharing it in effective ways to address the curse of extremism as reflected in so many different forms.
PeaceQuest aims to facilitate bridging the gap between faith communities and the mainstream social service sector.
PeaceQuest frames the message of Islam for youth, new-Muslims and all others in a way to help them see the value, the relevance and the truth – to clear the misconceptions and deliberate misinterpretations.
PeaceQuest will become an active online channel for engaging scholars, experts and community leaders in conversations about the key issues we face today. The aim will be to support community service agencies, faith organizations, law enforcement and others in developing appropriate, integrated and informed strategies.
How We Get There
The work begins with sensitization followed by education and earnestness. PeaceQuest aims to provide a collective platform and collective voice to all organizations working to address intolerance and hate in one form or another.
Where We Begin
To begin with, PeaceQuest has started framing the core teachings on Islam in a way to address the general misconceptions and deliberate misinterpretations. The work is mainly focusing on helping youth and non-, and new Muslims understand Islam from a new perspective of living a peaceful and contented life by following – the Straight Path – middle course; exercising moderation and avoid going to the extremes.
This very basic work is intended to broaden the conversation and engage various scholars, community leaders, youth and other experts to discuss what we have in common and what we can address together to develop empathy and compassion.
Moreover, keeping the broader vision in mind, PeaceQuest has started working on developing some content about our search for pleasure, fun, and success in life as the alternative to seeking tranquillity of mind and contentment of the soul. The work so far has focused on helping overcome our feeling of emptiness and the purpose of our life from an Islamic perspective.
We have also picked up a couple of important issues that are directly linked to youth education and some myths and misunderstandings about Islam. The hope is that these topics will later become part of the conversation when we engage leaders from across communities and across sectors in discussing the contemporary issues from youth involvement in drugs and crime to the larger issues of intolerance and extremism in the society.
The Future Work
The conversations that PeaceQuest intends to launch will hopefully address the vast gap that currently exists between the various faith communities/leaders and the facilitators and change-makers in the social service sector. Faith communities need the facilitators in social service sectors as their allies to communicate the core message to the masses to address misunderstandings and myths that lead to hatred and violent crime down the road. Of course, specific initiatives have to be launched to assist the facilitators of change in developing relevant courses and programs for mass outreach – with one collective voice – but the connection between these divided worlds has to begin somewhere, and PeaceQuest wants to make that happen.