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In The Footsteps Of MLK JR.
Civil Rights – Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Where there is an injustice somewhere, there is an injustice everywhere.” While Americans celebrate today in honor of a historic civil rights leader, there is a Palestinian man in the “little town of Bethlehem” who has dedicated his life to spreading the teachings of Dr. King from far beyond America’s boarders.
To his family, Sami Awad is a devoted husband, loving father, and a thoughtful and caring provider. But what his three young daughters may not be able to understand quite yet, is that their dad is a growing symbol of the modern-day Palestinian civil rights movement, and an inspiration to thousands of activists worldwide.
As founder of Holy Land Trust, an organization based in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Awad has devoted his life to educating both local and global communities on the fundamental values of non-violence. No easy task in one of the world’s most notoriously violent regions, Awad has long focused his teaching on the core principals and works of Dr. Martin Luther King.
“Nonviolence is more difficult to develop as a strategy than violence is, but once it is developed and practiced, it results, in my opinion, in greater success. The teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. demonstrate the need to develop creative ways of dealing with conflict, and they distinguish between humans and structures; while humans might support structures that promote violence, these structures can and should ultimately be broken,” Awad stated.
Referred to by many as the “Middle East’s Ghandi,” Awad’s students travel from far regions of the world to learn about and engage with him in non-violent action. The participants of his workshops and seminars are often as diverse as they are religiously and politically polarized.
Much to the dislike of many in both the hardline Palestinian and Israeli leadership, Awad’s gatherings are one of the few places in the region where members of all religions and ethnic backgrounds are greeted with open hearts and open minds. Awad himself is just as likely to be found leading a non-violent protest against the Israel separation barrier, as he is to be engaging with a group of Orthodox Jewish Rabbis, or praying along side Tibetan Monks.
“Nonviolence exposes the humanity in each individual. [...] Layers of mistrust, misperception, and fear have been laid over our shared humanity. As nonviolent activists, we have to dig into and expose those layers,” said Awad.
In 2011, Awad was presented as the focus of an award winning documentary “Little Town Of Bethlehem.” The film directs attention to the Palestinian non-violence movement and it’s parallels to the African American struggle for civil rights. This year, Awad launched construction of a Peace Research & Learning Center in Bethlehem.
Learn more at: Holy Land Trust