Janessa Gans Wilder the founder and CEO of the Euphrates Institute , an organization that builds peace
and understanding about critical Middle East issues. She founded Euphrates after five years at the US government focused on the Middle East, including serving 21 months in Iraq from 2003 to 2005 . Janessa is a frequent speaker in interfaith ,community , government , international , and educational settings . She has written dozens of articles and been interviewed by major news outlets including CBS , CNN , Los Angles Times , Christian Science Monitor , Democracy Now , and many more . She has a Master’s degree in International Policy Studies from Stanford university and a bachelor’s in International Relations from Principia College.
Q: Could you tell us about the story of Euphrates?
A: The Euphrates river in Iraq is so beautiful, this peaceful, flowing, fresh blue water flowing in the midst of a dry and dusty desert. It was a powerful symbol to me in the midst of the Iraq war—of the hope that flows even amidst despair, of the power of peace even amidst war.
Q: What are the objectives of Euphrates?
A: We hope to create global change—towards greater peace and productivity, by connecting and empowering grassroots changemakers around the world.
Q: What are the guiding principles of Euphrates?
A: 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.
Q: What is your organization Philosophy?
A: As the Euphrates river brings life-giving waters to the Middle Eastern desert, and tranquility and beauty to war zones, we envision a world of people motivated by peace rather than conflict, terrorism, and fear.
Q: What about fundamentalist Islam?
A: 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.
Q: What about Israel and Palestine?
A: 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.”
Q:‘Jerusalem is for all , because is sacred for all’’ you r statement about the Holly city is it a call for peace among the religions ?
A: Yes, most definitely! The Golden Rule is expressed in every religion and can serve as a basis for “turning the ‘Other’ into a brother. It is human nature to connect and love others.
Q: Aren’t these government issues?
A: 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!
Q: Euphrates leads trips to the Middle East. tell the readers about the past and upcoming trips and the objectives of those trips ?
A: Our trips are like getting an advanced degree in global perspectives. We go right to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to hear from all sides and explore the underlying reasons why people can’t get along, and then we meet the peacebuilders who have found a way to overcome all those divides and see each other as One. It’s pretty amazing .
Q: Turning the ‘ Other into a brother what this concept means to you ?
A: …To me, it means seeing that we are all inter-connected and interdependent in this world, and so in reality, we don’t have any ‘Others”, we are all just brothers.
Q: How you look to the future of your organization which has huge goals with limited resources ? How your organization makes change in this complicated world ?
A: …That's a great question. We’re beginning a nine-month period of discussing what a more feasible financial model is for us and how we can truly have the impact we envision. We want to play a bigger game! My vision is a grassroots United Nations—a community of millions of peacebuilders around the world who feel supported in their work and are learning together and inspiring each other to be changemakers.
Q- When Euphrates going to organize trip to Sudan ?
A- I’m looking forward to traveling more when my children are a bit bigger. I’d love to come to Sudan!
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