The Middle East—it dominates the headlines as a place of terrorism, conflict, and fear, is the source of much of the world’s energy, and the birthplace of three major religions. It is a region Americans cannot afford to ignore, and which directly impacts our national interests.
And yet, the average American knows little about the region and even less about the solutions, visionaries, and hope for peace that already exist. We believe if more Americans did see this side of the story, they would be less paralyzed by fear and despair, and become actively engaged global citizens who would be supporting and enabling those promoting peace and progress in the region.
The Euphrates Institute brings a unique and much-needed voice of hope to the table on the Middle East, and we are ready to greatly expand our efforts and reach in response to critical world events and public opinion and interest. We realize that the problems in the Middle East and their negative impact on the world need to be countered–and countered now.
We envision a world with less terrorism, conflict, and fear.
Our mission is to Inform, Inspire, Transform. We foster hope for pressing Middle East challenges by informing people about the issues, inspiring them with examples of solutions to the region’s challenges, and transforming them into engaged global citizens.
We are inspired by the Middle East as a cradle of civilization and the place where the global issues of security, energy, and religion and their impact are most concentrated.
We strive to practice the Golden Rule, locally and globally.
We believe the world is interconnected and interdependent.
We believe there is a solution to every global challenge.
We seek to humanize the Other.
We get beyond headlines of despair and highlight the good.
We agree with Albert Einstein’s sentiment that problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created them.
Improving relations between the Middle East and West is critical in this age, not only because the region is a source of terrorism, but also due to the region’s abundant energy resources and is the birthplace of the world’s monotheistic faiths.
We believe the key to improving relations between regions is the same way to improve relations between individuals–listening, understanding each other, and finding common ground.
Studies indicate that while both Americans and Muslims have negative images of the other, they understand little about each other. In a recent poll, thirty-three percent of Americans say that there is nothing they admire about Muslim societies, and twenty-five percent say that they do not know enough to have an opinion.
“If we are to have partners for peace, then we must first be partners in sympathetic recognition that all mankind possesses in common like aspirations and hungers, like ideals and appetites, like purposes and frailties, a like demand for economic advancement. The divisions between us are artificial and transient. Our common humanity is God-made and enduring.” – President Dwight D. Eisenhower
- Polls indicate that citizens in the Middle East do not dislike our values, but our actions and policies in the region.
- Majorities also believe America supports authoritarian governments in the region and disrespects Islam.
- More than our basic humanity, polls indicate there are many common values that we share, such as respect for democracy and distrust of religious fanaticism
What about fundamentalist Islam?
A third of Americans believe mainstream Islam encourages violence against non-Muslims, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted in March, 2006. If so, then one would expect the more religious Muslim societies to support terrorist actions in greater numbers. Yet, recent Gallup polling data disputes this, revealing that Muslims who sympathize with terrorist acts are a relatively small minority; moreover, the aspect about the Muslim world that Muslims themselves say they admire least is “narrow-minded, violent extremism.”
“Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians. The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbor. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity.The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbor is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity.”
– Open letter from Muslim Scholars. See A Common Word.
What about Israel and Palestine?
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems hopeless, especially with the persistent dead-end negotiations, and ongoing tit for tat violence. Putting all of our hopes in a high-level peace process from politicians, who themselves are beholden to a wide range of constituents, is not a recipe for success. The Economist describes a major problem of the Israeli political system, “Parties that are brought in to make up the coalition numbers wield disproportionate clout, so extremists set the agenda,” while Palestinian Fatah also has to contend with extremist Hamas.
Looking instead at efforts at the grassroots level offers some hope. The renowned Israeli author Amos Oz wrote in his book How to Cure a Fanatic, that for the first time in 100 years, he believes the Israeli and Palestinian people are ahead of their leaders. Rabbi Michael Lerner, founder of Tikkun magazine , wrote in Healing Israel/Palestine, “It is my firm belief that lasting peace and reconciliation are not only possible but likely to be achieved in the next twenty years, and possibly sooner. The hunger for a world of caring and kindness is a more powerful force than the desire to hold onto anger and nurse old pains.”
Aren’t these government issues?
Long-term peace and security are built on mutual understanding and appreciation and do not arrive at the snap of politicians’ fingers. They come one step at a time, one individual at a time. In many circumstances, politicians have agreed to settlements, but they have fallen through because they did not have the full backing of the people. Likewise, look at the broad-based environmental awareness there is today. For decades, politicians on Capitol Hill attended hearings about the threats of global warming, but did not act. It took the increasing awareness, concerns, and willingness to take action on the part of the masses that inspired changes in our policies and governmental behaviors.
Imagine the difference even one person can make on his own. Part of our goal at Euphrates is to promote peace, one individual at a time!
Retired Army colonel and Colin Powell’s former chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson noted that the entire national-security bureaucracy is outdated, is incapable of dealing with new wars, and requires massive overhaul. But today’s threats won’t wait for that to happen. We need each individual to do his/her part now.
Benjamin Barber, author of Jihad vs. McWorld agrees. He describes the necessity for both an efficacious military front as well as a widespread “second front” of citizens to eliminate terrorism and assuage fear:
“Eliminating terrorists will depend on professional military, intelligence, and diplomatic resources whose deployment will leave the greater number of citizens in America and throughout the world sitting on the sidelines, anxious spectators to a battle in which they cannot participate, a battle in which the nausea that accompanies fear will dull the appetite for revenge. The second front, however, engages every citizen with a stake in democracy and social justice, both within nation-states and in the relations between them. It transforms anxious and passive spectators into resolute and engaged participants—the perfect antidote to fear.”
This is about citizen diplomacy, but also about citizen awareness and activism. Take Harold from Montana, for example, who summed it up best in an email to us:
“Maybe the efforts of one person can make a difference. If so, then I would like to do my part as an American to promote an intelligent, informed, and humane foreign policy throughout the world, but especially with our so-called “enemies.” That may include learning Arabic. Winter nights are long in Montana, I have sworn off television, so in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “I will study and get ready and someday my chance will come.”
Like Harold, we get that this is not just about governments, policies, and politicians. The only way for both regions to improve their relationship is for citizens to get in the game. At Euphrates, we focus on the human dimension of the issues and work to promote communication and positive interactions between individuals from the two regions.