I attended the Annual YMCA Peace Medal Breakfast this morning at the Hamilton Convention Centre. This is Peace Week (Nov 16-23). I arrived at the breakfast at the early hour of 7:30 am and joined Linda Waugh and a few others to represent The Ecumenical Social Justice Stations of the Cross Committee. The Committee was nominated for the Peace Medal in the adult group category. The big news for us was that the other nominated group “Live Different” http://livedifferent.com/ won the medal for our category. But the bigger news was keynote speaker Musician/Actor/Author/Advocate Emmanuel Jal.
Here was our introduction to Emmanuel: “In the war-torn region of Southern Sudan, Emmanuel Jal was born into the life a child soldier on an unknown date in the 1980s. Through unbelievable struggles, Emmanuel managed to survive and emerge as a recording artist, achieving worldwide acclaim for his unique style of hip hop with its message of peace and reconciliation born out of his personal experiences.”
He followed his talk by singing his latest single We Want Peace and then took questions and comments. I was struck by one person’s response and question especially. She said, “Emmanuel, you have humbled us today. You cannot be doing what you are doing without a vision. What is your vision?”
His response was to say that he seeks to be realistic. Foremost he wants to tell the world that peace is possible. It begins with the individual, and then expands to those around oneself, and then around the world. But telling is not enough. He talked about forgiveness. He told an African proverb. Hate is drinking poison yourself and expecting the other person to die. Everyone yearns for forgiveness, and to forgive. He learned to forgive those who tormented him and killed many of his family members. It took awhile. When he forgave them, they could no longer live inside him and make him bitter.
Most the attendees were high school students. It was a great lesson to hear.