“Our greatest challenge lies within our own minds and hearts.”
Mohammed Abu-Nimer is a professor in the International Peace and Conflict Resolution program at American University’s School of International Service. He is also the director of the Peacebuilding and Development Institute. An expert in peace, dialogue, and conflict resolution, Dr. Abu-Nimer has conducted research among Palestinians and Jews in Israel and other areas in conflict. His work has focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on the application of conflict resolution models in Muslim communities. Dr. Abu-Nimer has also conducted interreligious conflict resolution training and interfaith dialogue. In the last decade, Dr. Abu-Nimer has completed numerous evaluations and reports on peace building and development programs. As a scholar and practitioner, he has been intervening and conducting conflict resolution workshops in areas throughout the world, including Palestine, Israel, Bosnia, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Egypt, Northern Ireland, the Philippines (Mindanao), Sri Lanka, and the United States. He is the author of numerous books, including Unity in Diversity: Interfaith Dialogue in the Middle East, Interfaith Dialogue: A Guide For Muslims, Contemporary Islam: Dynamic, Not Static, A Shared Future: Local Capacities for Peace in Community Development, Muslim-Christian Conversations For Peace. He also has published articles in the Journal of Peace Research, the Journal of Peace and Changes, and the American Journal of Economics and Sociology. Dr. Abu-Nimer is the cofounder and coeditor of the Journal of Peacebuilding and Development. He has a PhD from George Mason University and an MA and BA from Hebrew University. He is fluent in Arabic, Hebrew, and English.
Q. What experiences put you on your spiritual path?
A. I am a Palestinian who grew up in Israel. As an ethnic and religious minority, I had to reach out to the majority to survive. So from an early age, I learned how to interact with people who were different from me. I was also politically active, working to promote equal rights for Palestinians. This activism involved preserving the cultural identities of both Muslims and Christians living in the Jewish state. In addition, my grandfather and father contributed to community mediation, sulha as it is called in Arabic. As a result, going into conflict resolution and peace building was a natural evolution for me. My commitment to this work grew during the ten years I lived in East Jerusalem, the part of Jerusalem that is referred to as occupied territories by the United Nations Security Council.
Q. How do you use these practices when you get out of balance?
I wish I could remain calm and centered throughout the day, but sometimes my frustration, helplessness, and hopelessness get to me. Perhaps I wouldn’t appreciate being peaceful if I didn’t have these moments. When I feel despair, I try to refocus my mind on the beauty and gifts that are all around me. My family, friends, and colleagues also remind me of these gifts and this really helps. These relationships, and the small successes we have built over the years, sustain me when I am in a war zone surrounded by hatred, exclusion, perpetrators, and victims. In addition, I do believe that within each person is a peaceful space for human connectedness, if we only learn how to unlock the doors of this inner space.
For the rest of the interview, please check out the book, Seek The Lover Within: Lessons from 50 Spiritual Leaders.