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Turn the Other Cheek


Robi Damelin

Preaching Peace Robi Damelin reached out to the family of her son's killer.

In 2002, Robi Damelin's son was killed by a Palestinian sniper. After four months of anguish and sleepless nights, she wrote a letter to the sniper's family:

"I am the mother of David, who was killed by your son. I know he did not kill David because he was David, if he had known him he could never have done such a thing."

Her letter described the work she had done helping both Israeli and Palestinian families overcome painful loss and talked about the need for peace. "Our lives as two nations are so intertwined, each of us will have to give up on our dreams for the future of the children who are our responsibility."

Robi read this letter as just one part of a large, carefully organized peace education forum to mark the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. The forum, titled, "From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe: Creative Responses to Conflict," was jointly organized by TC's Peace Education Center, the Center for International Conflict Resolution (CICR) at Columbia's School for International and Public Affairs (SIPA), and September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.

Andrea Bartoli, Director of CICR, said the common theme of the conference seemed to be "No more suffering. When you encounter suffering, one shared response is that you may want to prevent other suffering from happening, even if it is in your name or justified by revenge."

The all-day event, held at SIPA and attended by hundreds, was ambitious in its design. With the collaboration of Peaceful Tomorrows, an organization of families of 9/11 victims, more than 30 people from around the world who, like Damelin, had been victims of violence but chose peaceful responses, led 25 concurrent discussion workshops.

George Mitchell, former U.S. Senator and senior fellow at CICR, was also on-hand for the event. Peace educator Joanna Berry thanked Mitchell personally for his brokering of a peace deal between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the British government. Her father had been killed by the IRA in 1984, and thanks to the stronger relations fostered by Mitchell, she eventually met Patrick Magee, the man who had planted the bomb that killed her father. Since meeting, she and Patrick have worked together in peace education.

Bartoli would like CICR to partner with the Peace Education forum again. A forum on issues in the Basque region of Spain is in the advanced planning stages.

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