Iman Al Ghafari: Starting from the individual in Syria

CDLS Impact Stories

29/04/2019
Iman Al Ghafari

Iman Al Ghafari’s career has long been centred around building peace in Syria. She has been involved with Initiatives of Change for a number of years, leading Creators of Peace Circles in her native Syria and in Lebanon with the support of IofC Canada and IofC Lebanon. She lives in Damascus, where she works as a teacher.

Iman had thought long and hard about how IofC’s Creators of Peace programme could affect Syria. 2018 was the first time that she had been involved in the Caux Dialogue on Land and Security (CDLS). Its emphasis on the connection between peace and land restoration gave Iman new ideas.

Listening to the speakers at CDLS, she was reminded of a question that has often bothered her: ‘Why does God allow wars and natural disasters to happen?’ The answer she came to was: in order for us to search for a solution. In Iman’s view, it is through searching for solutions that we grow, learn and realize God’s great creation.

She left the Caux Dialogue filled with enthusiasm and hope, and was able to share this with the women in Syria who attended her Peace Circles. These provide a forum for women to sit together, putting their political differences aside. Participants meet as human beings and learners who want to make a difference to their own and others’ lives. They try to have fun too! At the end of each programme, Iman hosts potluck dinners with music. She says: ‘Spending time together in quiet reflection is essential. We go deep into ourselves and pour out our emotions, freely and honestly. That really makes a big difference.’

Another result of CDLS was a youth group that Iman established with some young Syrians she met at Caux. Iman believes that if young people feel secure and hopeful they can learn how to apply their education in right ways, and to be peacebuilders rather than war provokers. The group meets every month, and has grown from seven members to fourteen. At each meeting, those who were at Caux practise quiet reflection together, and all bring and exchange their education experience.

Hope is fundamental to Iman’s work. She believes that in precarious geopolitical situations hope and security can lead to passion, the will to learn and creativity.

‘It is so hard to see your country suffering,’ says Iman. ‘It breaks my heart. But it is a blessing and honour that God has given me this chance of building peace. We have two choices: either we raise hatred and anger and excite people to go to war, or we build peace. I thank God every day that I can be used to heal people, to help people to find a safe zone where they can love each other and rebuild their lives. If we start from the person and help them build themselves, we will build Syria. That is my hope.’

 

ILLP aims to deepen understanding of links between land degradation and human security and to build the trust needed for effective collaboration on the ground and in ‘land-peace partnerships’. As a programme of Initiatives of Change International, it inspires, equips and connects people to address world needs, starting with themselves.

Among other activities, each year ILLP organizes the Caux Dialogue on Land and Security in the Swiss village of Caux, in collaboration with Initiatives of Change Switzerland, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The CDLS is much more than an annual Dialogue. It is located at the centre of a growing network of practitioners working on every aspect of human security and ecosystem restoration. They support each other, inform each other, and collaborate with each other.

Featured Story
Off

related stories

Opening Ceremony 2018 audience

Building Trust in the Digital Age: Challenges and Opportunity

‘Trust needs to exist for society to function at all,’ said Christine Beerli, Council Member of Initiatives of Change Switzerland and panel moderator, as she kicked off the Caux Forum 2018. Emerging t...

Bo Sprotte Kafod

Saving a sacred grove

Bo Sprotte Kafod volunteered to help organize the Caux Dialogue on Land and Security (CDLS) in 2019, after meeting former CDLS participants at the UN climate change conference (UNFCCC COP24) in Katowi...

Oliver Gardiner

Filming regeneration

One-man film crew, Oliver Gardiner, travels to remote regions around the world to tell stories of how people have addressed complex issues through food, farming and land use....

Michael Akampa

Making investment work for the people

The Caux Dialogue on Land and Security (CDLS) in 2017 was a ‘turning point’ for sustainable investment professional, Micheál Akampa, who was invited to speak at its Invest in Peace conference. ‘I met ...

Nhat Vhuong

Plucking water from the air

Webmarketing consultant and social entrepreneur Nhat Vhuong is passionate about tackling water scarcity. A Vietnamese refugee, who grew up in Switzerland, he worked in Japan for eight years before ret...

CDLS 2019 Tom Duncan

Empowering communities to restore mangroves

Tom Duncan is passionate about problem solving and strategic systems thinking, primarily in regenerative economics, green finance and financial technology, as a means of restoring relationships betwee...

CDLS 2019 Chau Duncan

Bridging the financial divides

Chau Tang Duncan is applying over 20 years’ experience in banking, trade and commercial diplomacy to improving the financial access of disadvantaged communities. ...

Meghalaya CDLS 2019 Conrad Sangma

Meghalaya’s lighthouses of sustainable development

‘Our goal in Meghalaya is to build a low-carbon economy through complete involvement and ownership of communities,’ Conrad Sangma, the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, told the opening session of the Caux...

Aibanshngain Swer CDLS 2019

Protecting Meghalaya’s water sources

Some billion people rely on water sourced in the hills of Meghalaya, in North East India. One of those responsible for water conservation in the State, Aibanshngain Swer, took part in the Summer Acade...

Hartmut Behrend Mali

Combatting climate change in Mali

Taking part in the Caux Dialogue on Land and Security (CDLS) 2014 encouraged  German climatologist Hartmut Behrend to move out of the bubble of well-intentioned international activism to work on the g...

CDLS 2019 Alan Laubsch

Restoring nature’s superheroes

Alan Laubsch is passionate about restoring nature’s ‘climate superheros’ – the mangrove forests. He believes that democratizing natural capital investment is key to this. He has over 20 years’ experie...

CDLS 2019 panel Laubsch Duncan Brown

Investing in the future of life on Earth

‘What would it feel like to be the last White Rhino?’ Alan Laubsch, founder of EarthPulse, asked participants in the third day of the Caux Dialogue for Land and Security 2019 (CDLS). ‘Your family has ...

YAP 2019 congratulations

Fresh air for Young Ambassadors

This year’s Young Ambassadors Programme (YAP) brought 39 young people from across Europe to Caux for four intensive days of training in how to work for change in their communities. They then took part...

Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish Dialogue 2019

It takes more courage to love than to hate

The Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish Dialogue 2019 took place during the Tools for Changemakers conference, bringing together people of Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish backgrounds to explore sensitive issues th...

Caux Palace

Going down the mountain

When people say that Caux is a life-changing experience, it is not just a cliché. For some, this is their first time out of their countries. For many, it is an opportunity to work with their traumas a...