Coming together

May 4, 2020 | Featured, United States

For #GivingTuesdayNow, May 5, we are helping to lift up stories where people have come together during times of threat and loss. The task of bringing people together across divides, to create stronger communities, is a matter of survival during this pandemic—just as it is during times of violent conflict.

We would love to hear about what you and others are doing, wherever you live, to expand everyone’s circles of care and support—and to work toward healing the divides that are making the impacts of COVID-19 so unequal.

We’d love to hear from you! You can share your own thoughts, stories, or pictures through the comment field at right (or on mobile, down below).

We respect that many of you are already committing your resources to urgent pandemic-related needs, or may be facing hardship yourselves. If you are able, we hope you will also support our peacebuilding work:

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Here is one insight from our own peacebuilding networks that we’d like to share:

A pre-quarantine photo of Bosnian youth leading a workshop.

Youth Action for Solidarity in Bosnia and Herzegovina

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Karuna Center collaborates with four Bosnian organizations—Center for Peacebuilding (CIM), PRONI Center for Youth DevelopmentYouth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR), and Mali Koraci (Small Steps)—to enact Project STaR: Social Transformation and Reconciliation. However, schools and public places have been shut down since mid-March to contain the pandemic.

Our project—which works across generations to build peace leadership, and across ethnicities to heal divides—has continued online through workshops, classes, and discussions. Some youth and young adult peacebuilders are also focused on continuing to monitor and counteract hate speech. Others are working against scapegoating by creating videos and memes that promote inclusion.

During quarantine, youth participants in Project STaR have been collaborating virtually to produce media. This 6-minute video reminds us of our common humanity—and the need to think critically about stories and media content that could drive us apart:

Some Bosnian youth and young adults are also applying their leadership skills in their work as volunteers.

One youth leader, Hamdija, said during a zoom call: “When the COVID-19 virus came to Bosnia and Herzegovina, I, as an activist, felt the need to make myself available and to assist the Red Cross volunteers in any way possible. I felt a moral responsibility to get involved and contribute so that everyone who was isolated and left alone in these difficult days would receive help.” 

Through the guidance that Hamdija and many other Bosnian youth and young adults received, they are better able to put their volunteerism to action to benefit all Bosnians, regardless of ethnicity or religion. Hamdija said that his work with Center for Peacebuilding—one of our partners in Project STaR—prepared him for his current role leading a team of volunteers during the pandemic.

The spread of COVID-19 is a frightening time in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and some communities, including migrants and displaced people, are more vulnerable to attack and are suffering the impacts more. But at the same time, people are coming together to protect and care for each other, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or nationality. This kind of solidarity lifts us during a time when divisions could easily be exacerbated, and we look forward to the day when we can build on it in person through our upcoming training-of-trainers for STaR youth.

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  1. Creative Connections has launched a call for students to participate in a timely worldwide art project from their homes.

    We find ourselves at home, away from our daily routines, missing school and more importantly, away from friends, classmates, relatives, and members of our communities. For youth, while unsettling, it is a time that provides an opportunity to strengthen relations, rediscovering or creating new traditions with siblings and parents while staying positive, healthy and strong.

    We’ve invited young artists from around the world to capture the challenges they are going through and how they are feeling.

    The art we’ve received so far has been inspirational, insightful and expressive.

    One student said in her description, “Art is a window for me in locked world. I can go everywhere I want in my paintings. You may go everywhere or do what you want in your paintings. Open the windows…”

    While this time is especially challenging for young people, we hope that this project will provide an outlet to express their resiliency, creativity, and joys as they share their concerns and hopes together with their global peers.

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