Contributed by Anum Malik
In a world where polarized views engulf so many hearts and the bad guys seem to get their way, what is the beacon of hope? As innocent people suffer all around the globe, you feel overwhelmed with a sense of frustrating and livid defeat.
You’re distraught and you wonder how these current ‘leaders’ can let the world burn like this. People are yelling at each other and so quick to blame. Hate propaganda is on the rise, fueling the anger of people around the earth. In such large-scale conflicts with roots so deep, you wonder how you, as one single individual, can fit anywhere in this warring world and bring some peace.
I’m going to tell you about how you can take out hate. How you can disarm evil, and overrun armies of intolerance. I’m going to tell you about the time we took out hate, disarmed evil, and brought about world peace…and how you can too.
Engaging in combat against hate is arguably one of the toughest battles of mankind. It’s about changing people’s hearts. Don’t underestimate the role of the masses, the role of everyday leaders, the role of yourself. Your army is the power of your voice, armed with your experience. You must take out hate with peace.
Thanks to AIESEC, tens of thousands of people had a life changing experience in a new land and then came home and without realizing, became an honest spokesperson for that foreign land to their own people.
An AIESEC exchange transforms you into not just an ambassador, but also a strategic asset. An asset equipped with knowledge and a voice. Using your experience, you attack with empathy, love, and ideas. That’s how you disarm evil. You lead the mission to cure hate with tolerance. That’s a leader.
I always struggled to understand what exactly was going on in the Middle East. It was a mystical land of rich history, but all I read and all I saw was fighting, conflict and violence. Last year in the summer of 2013, while interning in Egypt, I found myself caught right in the midst of the turmoil. However, rather than confirming any of the stereotypes aforementioned, something quite extraordinary happened to me.
The AIESECers in Egypt were dedicated to not just protecting me, but showing me another aspect of the situation. The Egyptians I encountered were eager to demonstrate that they did not represent the stories that were portrayed around the world about the violent nature of the Egyptian people. They longed for me to understand that they were civilians, not supporting any violence or destruction that came out of the political uprisings. They just wanted peace. I, along with many other interns, took a risk by going to Egypt so we could interact with the people for ourselves. We dared to allow our minds to be free from what we thought we knew.
Egyptian AIESECers and interns. Photo taken at Mokattam, a mountain overlooking the city of Cairo.
But why stop there?
We all eventually left Egypt, but our role in this battle wasn’t over. The Egyptians provided me with an unparalleled and eye opening experience during a challenging time in their country, and it was my duty to report what I saw. Interns of all different countries who found themselves in this unexpected situation in Cairo returned home and word spread like fire about what we had seen. I reached out to all the media outlets I could, trying to find anyone who would listen. My own university heard my call and invited me to speak at a panel. I was a storyteller, using my words to combat notions about the Egyptian people on every occasion I could. It wasn’t about if I supported or didn’t support the counterrevolution. I wasn’t a spokesperson for the political wing of Egypt. I was the spokesperson for the average peaceful Egyptian and their culture. That’s who I supported.
However, as an AIESECer, it was not sufficient to just speak for Egypt in America. It was my responsibility to show the Middle East that I was an American, and that I too didn’t fit their stereotype.
I went back to the Middle East and joined AIESEC Jordan. AIESEC constantly reminded me that I was a leader, and made me realize that I was fully capable to take on a project of my own. I partnered with a Syrian organization in Jordan and together, weaving in both values in from the east and west, we synergized and created a program for refugee children.
As AIESECers, we were left speechless abroad, and then we became storytellers. We were basking in the comfort of our own lands, and then we became global citizens. We were left thinking we had no way to affect the world’s state of despair, and then we became everyday leaders.
So, how did I bring about world peace? Well, it was one of the best moments of my life, and it occurred in the subtlest of ways. It was a sugar cube I received at an AIESEC conference a few months after I returned from Egypt. It was a small note, but the words were so powerful, proving to me that what I was doing, what we all were doing, was working. I was just a girl telling a story. But next thing I knew, I had taken out hate and brought around world peace.
The sugar cube reads: “Anum, you gave me hope for the future of Arab-American Relations. Never stop telling your stories.”
You have the power to take out hate. If each of us adds up our little attempts towards peace such as this, together we might just attain world peace. Go out, explore and allow your way of thinking to be challenged. It’s time to take a risk, sweetheart.
How will you make a difference by starting with listening?
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“This story was written in contribution to the AIESEC Everyday Leader Series, that showcases stories of everyday leaders who are changing the world. Share your story with the world.