In June 2020, alumni of Rose Castle Foundation’s Emerging Peacemakers 2018 residential programme re-gathered; one of a series of alumni gatherings being held over the summer.
This group of 45 young leaders comprises Muslims and Christians from the UK, Egypt, and the Gulf, all in their twenties.
Since the programme, where they were joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, the participants have gone on to pursue peace in a wide range of fields.
Going around the group, each peacemaker then shared a challenge and blessing they had faced during the Covid times.
Dr David Farag, now working in Cairo as a pyschiatrist, shared: "The blessing of being a peacemaker and a psychiatrist is that you learn how to understand people, how to actually listen to them, appreciate their point of view instead of dismissing it instantly as ignorant or old fashioned."
"A challenge that pops up always is dealing with your inner instinct to fight, to condemn, to release anger towards the people because it is easier than working for change, and to accept that people are different."
"It is a journey worth going through because peace is worth it and because everyone matters."
Volunteers from Rose Castle Foundation were struck by the incredibly brave and honest way each of the group went about sharing their stories. This was a space where two years after last being together as one group, people felt comfortable to discuss their isolation in foreign countries, difficult periods with their mental health, and loss of loved ones.
Yet as the group responded to the changes their lives have seen in this crisis, they were also so quick to offer support and encouragement to one another.
In the second hour of the call, the peacemakers broke into smaller groups and discussed the question: “where are you seeing increased need for collaboration across divides?”
This brought them into some amazing discussion and offers of mutual support.
The Emerging Peacemakers are one of several groups who have convened in recent weeks, each addressing this question and others like it.
A direct consequence of the pandemic that they have seen, in Egypt and the UK alike, is the inscription of new lines of division and the collapsing of those which formerly seemed irresolvable.
As the ground around us continues to shift and shake, we need more than ever to stay connected to those around us and nurture the all-important relationships that sustain balance and collaboration in our communities.
That was the commitment made by this group of peacemakers, and echoed by many more.