“There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.” Mahatma Gandhi
This time last week, a very unique group sat down together: the youngest members of the Moroccan, Egyptian, and Tunisian parliaments and leading activists from Israel and Jordan. The group assembled in Berlin, Germany for the third annual convening of Forward Global Women, which brings together women peace-builders from the Middle East, North Africa, and the United States.
This year, the room was filled with energy and ‘firsts’: many participants are founders of human rights organizations, the first or youngest woman elected to their posts, and some have even rewritten their countries’ constitutions.
Working in Berlin, a city all too familiar with the danger of prejudice and hate, each woman shared the status of peace and women’s rights in their country. They discussed strategies for increasing women’s leadership roles and action for peace. They explored possibilities for cross-country collaboration and intrastate opportunities for enhancing peace.
More than once, someone brought up the exhaustion they felt at home. The sheer scale of violence, the continued denial of women’s rights, and the fatigue of hope weighed heavy in the room. They have been at this game for a long time and the end goal still seems far.
Yet each time someone spoke of their tiredness or hinted at their collapse of hope, another would chime in with encouragement. One woman who works with Syrian refugees in Jordan shared her personal journey from anger to happiness through a conscious effort to bring joy into her daily life. Another woman triumphantly told of how she became one of the ‘founding mothers,’ a drafter of the new constitution, which includes policies to support women’s involvement as leaders.
As the week came to close, one of the women reminded us of the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.”
I think it’s an important cue for all of us. Peace is not only the goal. It is the process. It is a long journey. Peace is a way of living we must each strive to embody. And just as these women reassured and supported one another, I encourage you to remember that not only are we working toward peace, we are creating it each and every day. Keep it not only as a prize to achieve, but also as a structure around which you build your work and live your daily life.