If life is a stage, what’s your role?

If life is a stage, what’s your role?

If life is a stage, what’s your role? 1930 1285 Rawan Khalfallah

As human beings we are labeled by a social identity given to us by the community. Since birth our family, our original home towns, our religion, our cultures, our surroundings… color up the picture of the person you are and the person you should be, which allows us to trap ourselves and others in a rigid box, restricting our personal behaviors to “what’s expected from us” and judging the rest by the presumptuous stereotypical ideas we obtain.

Since ancient times individuals have been striving to reform their identity based on their own personal views and perception alongside the rest of the elements- “what they want and can be”, not what the society assign them to, because what’s left of you as a being if you’re stripped down from your own identity? And what can distinguish you from another if everyone is under the same roof? We often judge people based on what we hear from media, or from other people based on their individual observations. Reading that one book or watching that TV show about a certain country or a religion doesn’t provide you with full inclusive information, limiting our very own and others’ narratives.

That is why “Shaping the narrative” was picked as the title of the young peace builders’ forum 2018 organized by the UNOY, taking a place in The Hague – Netherlands, the forum brought together over 40 young peace builders from all around the globe, and I was privileged enough to represent Libya and Together We Build It org, as the only young activist from north Africa. Days before the forum I was at the Hague attending an analysis workshop with the UNOY regarding a research that I within TWBI was conducting on ground, the research focused on the important role young Libyans are playing in the peace building process, connecting the dots between youth led civic engagement and its positive impact on ground despite the on going challenges. It’s a fact that the findings of the research sent me off to the forum with absolute delight and pride that I come from the background I came from, reshaping what people know about Libya by setting examples every now and then about the great things youth are doing.

Why is it relateable? Because the forum highlighted the importance of personal stories and the strength it can give once it’s released, how to not judge one another by the mainstream news we see here and there. It thought us how elaborative it can be to put yourself in another person’s shoes and see other perspectives for change. The forum participants were a unique collection of activists, with diverse specializations, and one of the objectives was to find a common ground we can work on amongst each other. It also concentrated on sharing knowledge and the allowing the participants themselves to be the leaders and facilitators to some of the sessions. Topics included socio-environmental crisis, entrepreneurship and its relation to peace building, forced migration and moral courage importance in reconciliation process in inter-cultural and inter-religious communities. I remember one of the sessions in particular was about social media hate speech, and when we walked into the room we found some of the hateful comments you usually find on face book groups, most of them were about migration and religion, provoking our inner emotions, having a discussion about them and then asking us if we can write back to them, what would we say? Do you think it would make a difference? If not, then what’s to be done?

Nevertheless, the forum also allowed us to sink into that deep place in ourselves, releasing and absorbing positive energy, constructing the idea that youth are capable to make a change, that if we’re given more chances, sustainable peace wouldn’t be far-fetched after-all. Networking and building bridges between the participants were things that came on naturally, despite the fact that everyone of us came from a different background, didn’t make it difficult for us to communicate and bond, from my point of view it was a living example on the breakage of the stereotypical believes, collecting intercultural diversity under the same roof in peace, this in my opinion sends a strong message that empowered youth are capable of being peace ambassadors. At the end each and every one of us has their roles pre-signed up to them indeed, but it’s in our hands to reshape our narratives.

Rawan Khalfallah

Member and Contributor

All stories by : Rawan Khalfallah