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Listening to the unheard voices

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Bringing to the fore the experiences of the unheard is vital if we are to give the political negotiations meaning and impetus.

After years of unnerving inertia, the pursuit of peace in the Middle East is finally back on the agenda. However steadfast the status quo may seem and however intransigent seem the opinions of key players involved, that peace in the Middle East is once again seen as an achievable and indeed essential goal for international stability, can only be a positive step.

However, we must recognise that we speak of achieving peace in the 21st century. This may seem obvious but given the importance of the deep and embedded history that casts its long shadow over the region, recognising the here and now is not always easy.

Of course the narratives that have emerged since the important events of 1967, of 1948 and of all the hundreds of years preceding them, are vital for understanding the current situation. But we are trying to achieve peace in a new millennium, in a region whose context has changed drastically in the past ten years alone. And given the future impact of population growth and climate change we must build a solid and lasting peace that can adapt to the changes to come.

If we are to achieve peaceful coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis then all perspectives must be acknowledged and considered. Frankly in the United States this is far from the case; labels are assigned all too readily to the detriment of any constructive dialogue.

My fellow Elders and I will visit the Middle East to hear from ordinary people affected by the ongoing conflict. How are their lives affected? What do they understand the conflict to be about? What would peace mean to them?

Bringing to the fore the experiences of the unheard is vital if we are to give the political negotiations meaning and impetus. We must show that at the end of the day, peace will never be achieved if the experience of millions of who suffer the consequences of conflict everyday is denied by ignoring their pain in the political picture.

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