At first, one would think Iraqi and US teens would have little in common since their life experiences are so different. However during GYV’s Peace-building Program, there has been incredible connection, integration, and appreciation between the youth from the U.S. and from Iraq. Friendships have become so strong and people have bonded over open discussions of cultural differences.
A moment that brought us all together came from a speech GYV founder, J.E. Rash, gave the first day the youth arrived. He pointed out that there are certain universal human values that transcend cultures and continents. The young people from both countries added compassion, honesty, integrity, respect, courage, family, community, strength, open-mindedness, humility, and the ability to listen to a list of universal values. Recognizing that we all aspire to and agree upon the same ideals created a foundation for open communication and respect that was perfect for living in cabins together, participating in our peace-building workshops, and engaging in all of the other fun activities around the Global Youth Village.
One 16-year-old Iraqi participant described her experience at GYV this way:
The Americans were so nice. I learned a lot of stuff here – to be responsible for myself, to care for myself and my friends in hard times, and it was a great experience for me to meet the Americans and talk with them. My thought about Americans changed when I came here and met them. The way I talked to them, we talked about a lot of stuff we have in common, and the workshops were great and fun. Yesterday we were all dancing.
Despite diverse cultural practices, variations in religion, and differences between our governments, recognizing the universal human values we all share transcends these separations and provides hope for a peaceful world community.