The impact of the IPP experience is best related by those who have participated and then returned home to work for peace. Here is the story of one recent graduate:
As sectarian violence and the destructive influence of ISIS forces swirl around him, International Peacemaking Program graduate Haidar Reda Muhammad pushes forward with his work promoting interreligious understanding.
A native of Bagdhad and a Shi’a Muslim, Haidar came to Hartford Seminary in 2011 to participate in the International Peacemaking Program. After completing his year of study here, Haidar returned home and established a non-profit organization called Ur for Interfaith Dialogue and Peacemaking, the mission of which, he explains, “is to build respectful relationships among diverse individuals and communities and to forge common ground that promotes social justice, peace and freedom among the people.” Ur refers to the ancient city-state in Mesopotamia, now Iraq, the traditional birthplace of Abraham, which remains sacred to many religions, especially the Abrahamic faiths. As a symbol of common ground, Haidar aspires to create that same sense of sacred respect embodied in the city of Ur.
Through guided visits to religious communities, Haidar introduces young people to the variety of religious traditions active in Iraq, confident that awareness of such diversity is the foundation for respectful coexistence. His nonprofit recently organized a party for schoolchildren under the theme, “Our Children, Our Future.” Mostly refugees from Mosul and local orphans, the children played games, did art projects, and received school bags filled with essentials they so need. In addition, Haidar delivers presentations and lectures on non-violence, religious understanding, minorities’ rights, and his own experiences growing up and now working in the midst of violence and tension in Baghdad. His work on the religious diversity in Iraq drew the attention of the TEDxBaghdad team, who recognized the value of Haidar’s approach to raising interfaith awareness, and recently invited him to give TED talk in Baghdad on his efforts (video available at http://tedxbaghdad.com/)