About the Peacebuilder Award
The CRCC Peacebuilder Award was established in 2014 to honor individuals and organizations that stand as paragons of peacebuilding, who work to end conflict and to build bridges between peoples.
2017: George J. Mitchell & Patricia Hume
CRCC Welcomed George J. Mitchell
Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict
PEACE THROUGH PERSEVERANCE
4th Annual Gala and Peacebuilder Award Ceremony, Monday, May 1, 2017
The CRCC at Drew University was privileged to honor former Senator George Mitchell with the CRCC Peacebuilder award. A respected member of the Senate and successful peace negotiator, George Mitchell was inspiring and insightful.
George Mitchell served as US Special Envoy for Middle East Peace from January 2009 to May 2011. Prior to that, he had a distinguished career in public service, serving as a Senator for 15 years, enjoying bipartisan respect during his tenure. It has been said “there is not a man, woman or child in the Capitol who does not trust George Mitchell.” For six consecutive years he was voted “the most respected member” of the Senate by a bipartisan group of senior congressional aides.
While in the Senate, Senator Mitchell served on the Finance, Veterans Affairs, and Environment and Public Works Committees. He led the successful 1990 reauthorization of the Clean Air Act, including new controls on acid rain toxins. He was the author of the first national oil spill prevention and cleanup law. Senator Mitchell led the Senate to passage of the nation’s first child care bill and was principal author of the low-income housing tax credit program. He was instrumental in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation extending civil rights protections to the disabled. Senator Mitchell’s efforts led to the passage of a higher education bill that expanded opportunities for millions of Americans. He was a leader in opening markets to trade and led the Senate to ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement and creation of the World Trade Organization.
In 1995, he served as a Special Advisor to President William J. Clinton on Ireland, and from 1996 to 2000 he served as the Independent Chairman of the Northern Ireland Peace Talks. Under his leadership, the Good Friday Agreement, an historic accord ending decades of conflict, was agreed to by the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom and the political parties of Northern Ireland. For his service in Northern Ireland Senator Mitchell received numerous awards and honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor given by the US government; the Philadelphia Liberty Medal; the Truman Institute Peace Prize; and the United Nations (UNESCO) Peace Prize.
In 2000 and 2001, at the request of President Clinton, Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and Chairman Yasser Arafat, Senator Mitchell served as Chairman of an International Fact-Finding Committee on violence in the Middle East. The Committee’s recommendation, widely known as The Mitchell Report, was endorsed by the Bush Administration, the European Union and by many other governments.
In 2006 and 2007 he led the investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. He also served as Chairman of the Special Commission Investigating Allegations of Impropriety in the Bidding Process for the Olympic Games and was the Independent Overseer of the American Red Cross Liberty Fund, which provided relief for September 11 attack victims and their families.
Senator Mitchell served as Chairman of the global board of the law firm DLA Piper and is now Chairman Emeritus; Chairman of the board of directors of The Walt Disney Company; a member of the board of the Boston Red Sox; and a director of several companies, including Federal Express, Xerox, Staples, Unilever and Starwood Hotels and Resorts. He also served for ten years as the Chancellor of Queen’s University of Northern Ireland; as President of the Economic Club of Washington; and as Chairman of the International Crisis Group.
Sen. Mitchell is the author of five books. The most recent, a memoir entitled The Negotiator: Reflections on an American Life, was published in May 2015. With his colleague, Sen. Bill Cohen of Maine, he wrote Men of Zeal, describing the Iran-Contra investigation. In 1990, Sen. Mitchell wrote, World on Fire, describing the threat of the greenhouse effect and recommending steps to curb it. His next book, published in 1997, was Not For America Alone: The Triumph of Democracy and The Fall of Communism. In 1999, Sen. Mitchell wrote Making Peace, an account of his experience in Northern Ireland.
MITCHELL ADDRESSES DREW STUDENTS
Before receiving the CRCC Peacebuilder Award, former Senator George Mitchell met with Drew University students. Mitchell discussed historic and current world events and offering guidance to those pursuing careers in international relations.
George Mitchell served as US Special Envoy for Middle East Peace from January 2009 to May 2011. Prior to that, he had a distinguished career in public service, serving as a Senator for 15 years, enjoying bipartisan respect during his tenure. It has been said “there is not a man, woman or child in the Capitol who does not trust George Mitchell.” For six consecutive years, he was voted “the most respected member” of the Senate by a bipartisan group of senior congressional aides.
2016: Shafik Gabr & Dr. Shirley Sugerman
Celebrating Interfaith and Intercultural Peacebuilding
Madison, NJ – Believers in peace and interfaith dialogue from Morris County to Cairo gathered at the Park Avenue Club in Florham Park, NJ on May 24, 2016 for Drew University Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict’s Third Annual Gala. Drew CRCC is proud to have honored two remarkable individuals with the CRCC Peacebuilder Award: businessman and philanthropist Shafik Gabr and Drew Trustee Emerita and founder of the Sugerman interfaith Forum, Shirley Sugerman. Mr Gabr’s award was presented by the honorable Howard Berman, former US Congressman, who chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman Berman spoke about Gabr’s long-term commitment to inter-cultural dialogue and understanding between peoples of the world. Mr. Garbr, upon accepting the award, spoke passionately about building bridges between peoples of United States and Egypt, especially through the East-West: Art of Dialogue fellowship that he founded.
Dr. Sugerman’s award was presented by her rabbi and long-time friend, Rabbi Matthew Gewirtz of Temple Bnai Jeshrun Short Hills, New Jersey. Rabbi Gewirtz offered a moving tribute to Shirley and all that she does for the community. Dr. Sugerman, who was joined at the podium by her husband, Dr Morton Rosenberg, spoke with great pride about the deep connection between Drew University, the Sugarman Interfaith Forum, and the CRCC.
Drew University President Dr. MaryAnn Baenninger told the audience, “Drew University isn’t simply a place for scholars; it’s a place where we nurture and develop the next generation of peacebuilders – tomorrow’s Shirley Sugermans and Shafik Gabrs.” The audience then screened a brand new video featuring students deeply involved with interfaith engagement at Drew University through their work with the Center.
All in all, it was night to remember. The Gala brought together people of many faiths, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds, all of whom left feeling inspired, and hopeful, by the message of peace.
Shafik Gabr | East-West: The Art of Dialogue
Dr. Shirley Sugerman G’70 | Founder, The Shirley Sugerman Interfaith Forum
M SHAFIK GABR
Successful businessman and philanthropist Shafik Gabr is the epitome of cultural diversity. Born in 1952, to a mixed family, his mother was a Copt and his father a Muslim diplomat, an occupation which meant the Gabr family travelled a great deal. So it’s perhaps not surprising that from a young age Shafik Gabr developed a curiosity and empathy for different cultures, now with homes in London, Prague, Washington and Cairo.
After acquiring degrees in business and economics from Cairo’s American University and the University of London, and a stint working for his father, Mr. Gabr began an unpaid job working for a subsidiary of ARTOC, one of Egypt’s biggest industrial conglomerates. Some years later he became the company’s chairman; a testament to his ambition and enterprise.
Inspired by the progressive painters of the 19th and 20th century, Mr Gabr began collecting Orientalist Art in 1993. His collection now comprises of some of the finest examples of the greatest masters of Orientalism, published copies of which can be found in Mr. Gabr’s book – Master of Orientalist Art: The Shafik Gabr Collection.
Noting that these painters or, as Mr. Gabr calls them, “early globalists” had “opened routes to knowledge and understanding between East and West by immersing themselves in the Middle Eastern culture they painted”, Mr. Gabr sought to continue their legacy. A dreamer with drive, Mr. Gabr took a proactive step to develop cultural dialogue and understanding by launching the East-West: Art of Dialogue initiative in 2012. This dynamic program encourages young leaders to develop cultural understanding and education by funding their participation in exchange programs between the Middle East, Europe and the United States. Drew University and the CRCC are honored to be part of this program and regularly welcome Gabr Fellows on the Drew Campus.
Mr. Gabr is also the Chairman of Egypt’s International Economic Forum and on the boards of Zurich Financial Services and MIT’s Centre for International Studies.
DR SHIRLEY SUGERMAN
A Manhattan native, Dr. Shirley Sugerman was already a mother of four and a sculptress, with a degree in economics from Barnard College and a career in business before coming to Drew University to complete her PhD in the early 1960s. It’s no exaggeration to say that she has been, together with her husband Dr. Morton Rosenberg, a deeply committed and valued member of the Drew community ever since.
A practicing psychoanalyst, an adjunct faculty member at Drew for many years, and a member of the University Board of Trustees since 1979, Dr. Sugerman is the author of Sin and Madness: Studies in Narcissism. She also served as the editor of Evolution of Consciousness: Studies in Polarity, which contains her engaging interview with Owen Barfield, the British philosopher, poet, and critic known as the “first and last Inkling.”
Beyond her many professional accomplishments, Dr. Sugerman was the driving force and principal benefactor behind the creation, in 1991, of the Shirley Sugerman Interfaith Forum. This program provides a much-needed venue for interdisciplinary exchanges between and among scholars, teachers, religious leaders, faculty, students, and members of the larger community interested in exploring issues of interfaith understanding, the diversity of religiously-based ethical perspectives and the political, social, and cultural conflicts caused by the clash of religious traditions. Through its annual lectures, colloquia, and other gatherings, the Sugerman Forum facilitates an ongoing, collaborative, and dynamic interfaith dialogue focused on both achieving a deeper understanding of religious differences and building bridges between and among various faith traditions.
This year the Shirley Sugerman Interfaith Forum marked its 25th anniversary – evidence that Dr. Sugerman’s pioneering vision of building the bridges that enable cross-cultural and interreligious understanding and collaboration continues to be relevant in today’s increasingly peripatetic and shrinking global village. (In fact, were it not for Dr. Sugerman’s leadership on this front, it is unlikely that there would even be a Center on Religion, Culture, & Conflict at Drew, given that the latter was very much built upon the solid foundation laid by the Sugerman Forum.)
With her undeniable energy and humanity, Dr. Sugerman is a widely esteemed and much cherished member of the Drew family, which remains inspired by her passion, her dedication, and her vision for a more peaceful and just world.
JAZZ AND MIDDLE EASTERN MELODIES BY DORIAN MORALES
Dorian Morales started taking piano lessons at age 7, and ever since, his life has been shaped by music. At an early age, composition became his passion. He won the televised event “The New Jersey Hispanic Youth Showcase” at NJPAC. Morales earned his degree in music at Hofstra University, where he began scoring music for documentaries, movies, radio and television. His clients include MTV, PBS, Z100 radio, Moviefone.com, chapter 4 Entertainment, NYU Film School and more. Morales won an Emmy for his work on the PBS documentary Su Salud Primero. Morales performs at wedding venues and nightclubs and plays regularly with his Latin jazz band. He also released a CD of cocktail music and is working on his next album of world music. Morales is a private piano instructor and also coaches students in GarageBand, Megamix software and Pro-Logic for more serious minded musicians.
LAUGH IN PEACE COMEDY TOUR, FEATURING RABBI BOB ALPER AND DINA HASHEM
Rabbi Bob Alper
The world’s only practicing clergyman doing stand-up comedy … intentionally—founded the Laugh in Peace Comedy Tour in 2002. Bob performs across North America—even at the Hollywood Improv—and in London. Heard regularly on SiriusXM Radio, he’s been seen on The Today Show, Good Morning America and Extra. Bob has performed with a number of Muslim comedians, including Azhar Usman and Mo Amer. The last time Laugh in Peace appeared at Drew University, a New York Times writer reported that the group “…had the audience convulsing.” The Detroit Free Press called their comedy concert “one of the most unusual and uplifting cross-cultural experiences you’ll have.”
She is a stand-up comedian based in New York City and New Jersey. She first tried stand-up by auditioning for the 2010 New Jersey Comedy Festival at Rutgers University. After winning 1st place, she continued to pursue comedy and has since been performing regularly at clubs including New York Comedy Club, Caroline’s, Comic Strip Live, Broadway Comedy Club, and The Stress Factory. Dina’s style involves a subdued delivery with dark observations about her life and cultural upbringing.
2015: Maggie Doyne & Arava Institute for Environmental Studies
Following the success of our Inaugural Gala on March 31, 2014, the CRCC presented its 2nd Annual Gala in Mendham, New Jersey, on May 11, 2015 at the home of Dr. Sol and Mrs. Meri Barer.
Gala Chair and Keynote Speaker
Director, Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness of the State of New Jersey
World Music Ensemble
Combining instrumentation and influences from the Middle East, India and more
Honoring 2015 Peacebuilder Awardees
Mendham native, Founder and CEO of BlinkNow Foundation
For her community-building work in post-conflict Nepal, through education, healthcare, empowerment and sustainability
The BlinkNow Foundation’s mission is to provide an education and loving, caring homes for orphaned, impoverished and at-risk children as well as community outreach to reduce poverty, empower women, improve health and encourage sustainability and social justice. Doyne’s BlinkNow Foundation has touched the hearts of many, including celebrated author Elizabeth Gilbert, who very recently lent her celebrity to the cause.
View “CNN Hero Maggie Doyne: 43 kids and counting.”
The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies
For advancing peace by preparing young leaders to transcend political boundaries and cooperatively solve environmental challenges in the Middle East
Professors Chris Taylor and Jonathan Golden with Drew students at the Arava Institute
The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies offers academic programs that bring students together using environmental study as a shared goal. At the Arava Institute students learn the essential skills required for becoming future environmental leaders and peacebuilders.
Director Chris Rodriguez leads New Jersey’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. He was appointed by Governor Chris Christie on July 26, 2014, and serves in the Governor’s Cabinet. Prior to his appointment, Director Rodriguez served for more than a decade in the U.S. intelligence community, where he held a variety of analytic and management positions. In these roles, Director Rodriguez monitored terrorist groups in the Middle East and South Asia, closely collaborating with partners at the federal, state and local levels to identify and counter persistent threats to the United States and its allies. In 2011–12, he served as a policy adviser on Governor Christie’s staff. Director Rodriguez has been recognized with several awards from the Director of National Intelligence for his leadership and professional achievements, both in the United States and abroad. He served in Iraq in 2006–07 and has traveled to over two dozen countries.Born and raised in Morris County, Director Rodriguez holds a bachelor’s degree from Williams College and a master’s degree and PhD from the University of Notre Dame.
2014: Don Mullan & I. Leo Motiuk
Drew CRCC Honors Global Peacebuilders
With religious and culturally-based violence increasing in frequency and intensity each year, it is difficult to imagine building lasting peace in the world. But according to former New Jersey Governor, 9/11 Commissioner and Drew’s 10th president, The Honorable Thomas H. Kean, it is possible through education and reconciliation.
Serving as the keynote speaker for the Inaugural Gala for Drew’s Center on Religion, Culture & Conflict (CRCC) on Monday, March 31, Kean spoke to more than 100 guests about how peace is possible. “There are more hostpots of violence in this world today than I remember in this lifetime. But education leads to truth-seeking. Truth-seeking leads to reconciliation,” Kean said.With religious and culturally-based violence increasing in frequency and intensity each year, it is difficult to imagine building lasting peace in the world. But according to former New Jersey Governor, 9/11 Commissioner and Drew’s 10th president, The Honorable Thomas H. Kean, it is possible through education and reconciliation.
“The CRCC is dedicated to doing that by combining scholarly understanding with real-world solutions. If people have a true understanding of history and work toward reconciliation, we can make this a world where violence happens less frequently,” Kean said.
CRCC supporters Dr. Sol and Mrs. Meri Barer hosted the gala at their home in Mendham. Drew’s current president, Dr. Vivian Bull, and Drew’s president elect, Dr. MaryAnn Baenninger, also attended along with university trustees, members of the CRCC board, and other special guests.
The interfaith artwork of George Lewis was available for purchase. Lewis has held exhibitions worldwide and has a growing collector base in the Americas, Europe and the Middle East, including former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.
To honor the importance of education in the peacebuilding process, CRCC presented the Empowerment Through Education Award to I. Leo Motiuk, an attorney who practices environmental law and is the founder of the Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Fund. Shamila Kohestani, ’12, who attended Drew as a result of Leo’s partnership, presented the award.
“Growing up in Afghanistan, I didn’t realize how important education was until it was taken away from me. Without education, a society is incomplete,” Kohestani said. “Leo started with me: one girl and one college. Now there are 30 girls getting an education.”
Since beginning AGFAF in 2008, Motiuk has held retreats at Drew, and is collaborating with the CRCC on a new initiative to connect Drew students with students in Afghanistan for long-distance, cross-cultural learning. “Drew opened the door to Shamila and she walked through and she shined. I like to say: AGFAF, Shamila and Drew… perfect together.”
Also critical to the mission of peace is reconciliation. The CRCC presented the Peace Through Truth and Reconciliation Award to Don Mullan, an Irish humanitarian, film producer and best-selling author of Eyewitness Bloody Sunday: The Truth. Mullan was a teenager attending his first protest in Derry when he witnessed the tragic shooting of civilians by British soldiers in 1972, leading to what is commonly known as Bloody Sunday.
Mullan is widely regarded as the man who got the British government to re-examine the events of that day, which ultimately led to the British government apologizing for the massacre. He is also credited with helping to advance the Irish peace process.
Irish historian and professor Dr. Christine Kinealy presented the award to Mullan. When Ireland was erupting in violence, Don made a different choice, she said. “He was fighting with debate, persuasion and dialogue. Don’s activism goes beyond this one event, and beyond Ireland’s borders.”
Mullan emphasized that his truth-seeking was about creating something positive and lasting. “It was not about hatred. It was never about being anti-British. It was always about the truth. There are always wonderful people on both sides. When the moment for peace comes, they will be the bridges for it.”
Today, Mullan is involved with three new projects: the Frederick Douglass/Daniel O’Connell Memorial Project, which aims to create closer ties between the great Diasporas of Africa and Ireland in America for the betterment of humanity; the Christmas Truce Project-The Flanders Peace Field, inspired by the 1914 Christmas Truce of World War I; and the Pelé Legacy Project-Goals for Life in Brazil.
A thread of his work, Mullan says is finding “common humanity.” He made reference to his good friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu , who has spoken of Mullan’s work in the Irish peace process as a “gift to world peace.”
IRISH HISTORIAN CHRISTINE KINEALY ON DON MULLAN AND THE IRISH PEACE PROCESS
Don Mullan was 15-years-old when he witnessed the British Army fire upon a group of peaceful protesters in Northern Ireland in 1972. Years later, he turned his experience into a book, Eyewitness Bloody Sunday: The Truth, which ultimately opened a new inquiry into the massacre and led to a formal apology from the British government.
Following the event, the Widgery Tribunal cleared the British government of wrong-doing, stating the soldiers fired in self-defense. 13 marchers were killed on the spot and one died later; six of the protesters were 17-years-old and most were shot in the back or the head. A later inquiry proved that Mullan and the other Civil Rights protesters were unarmed.
While working for humanitarian group Concern Universal, Mullan started his own investigation and in 1997 wrote his book– a powerful indictment of what happened that day. By 1998 Prime Minister Tony Blair promised to open in inquiry and in 2010 Prime Minister David Cameron issued a public apology.
Mullan’s fight for truth and reconciliation ultimately helped bring peace to Northern Ireland. “Don has been tireless in his efforts to uncover the truth about these distortions of history, and to much personal sacrifice,” said Christine Kinealy, renowned Irish historian, faculty member at Drew University, and the Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University. “He’s passionate about Ireland, but his work demonstrates a universal demand. He’d say we can’t just argue our cause, because our cause is social justice everywhere.”
Despite the violence he witnessed, Mullan decided to take the path of peace. “He understands the pain on both sides and knows that the root of violence perpetuates those divides. He has compassion and tenacity. Violence becomes tit for tat, so how do the break the cycle? Taking the path of peace can be seen as betraying your own people, but you do it for the greater good,” Kinealy says.
The Irish peace process can serve as an exemplar for other countries, Kinealy believes. And understanding the complexity of the problems is the first step. “The Troubles were not just between Catholics and Protestants, but also socio-political and economic issues that underpin the tension,” she said. “Peace must be built on several foundations, with an educational process that includes all views.”
Talks began secretly in 1994 and each step was a hard fought-out battle, Kinealy says. The process involved the British, Irish and American governments and, to a large extent, the American Diaspora. “The Diaspora communities kept people focused on the issue. If Americans want to be participants, they should make sure it’s in contributing to building a lasting peace.”
Kinealy moved to Belfast in 1988 and says that at the time the prospect of peace seemed very elusive. “It took goodwill and a lot of trust. And as someone who lived it, I believe there’s no glory in being blown up or shot. People shouldn’t will a war to go on.”
Exposing the truth and re-building trust are key elements to the peacebuilding process, Kinealy believes. And Mullan is integrally involved in that global endeavor. “Don finds the humanity in any situation. He really believes in the goodness of people. He proves that anyone can change the world.”
Kinealy presented the Peace through Truth and Reconciliation Award to Don Mullan at the Inaugural CRCC Gala on March 31.
Don Mullan Launched Peace Tour at Drew CRCC, 2014
In May 2014, Irish author and humanitarian Don Mullan accepted the Peace Through Truth & Reconciliation Award at CRCC’s Inaugural Gala and introduced his latest initiative: The Christmas Truce and Flanders Peace Field Project– being developed at Messines, Belgium’s smallest city. Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has described the project as “a gift of the Island of Ireland Peace Process to the European Project and World Peace.”
On Monday, September 22, 2014, Mullan returned to Drew and launched his official tour of The Christmas Truce and Flanders Peace Field Project at a CRCC-exclusive event in Crawford Hall, The Ehinger Center, on Drew University campus.
During World War I, on and around Christmas Day in 1914, fighting ceased on the Western Front and soldiers shared in holiday celebrations and gestures of good will. The truce was popularized by the French film, Joyeux Noël and this year marks the 100th anniversary.
“The world knows about The Christmas Truce but has nowhere to go,” Mullan reasoned. “I have a vision of re-branding the city of Messines – City of the Christmas Truce – a place of pilgrimage and peace building at a sacred location. A location where, 100 years ago, ordinary soldiers on both sides of the Western Front, rediscovered their common humanity during their spontaneous truce.”
While the truce was only temporary and had no real bearing on the progress of the war, the stories that have survived demonstrate that the men who took part were changed, and looked back on their encounters with great emotion. “Their stories, today,” says Mullan, “are a source of inspiration and hope that can be harnessed to inspire new generations of peacemakers. That is my hope, that is my dream.”
Mullan has forged impressive alliances in his efforts. Global soccer legend Pelé and Archbishop Desmond Tutu are patrons of the Christmas Truce and Flanders Peace Field Project. UNESCO’s Programme on Youth Engagement are partners, along with the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace. The Flanders Peace Field is due to be officially opened in September 2014 by the First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland, after which, the youth of Europe and the world will be invited to engage in peace building programmes based around the Peace Field and at the Messines Peace Village, a world class youth hostel that can accommodate over 130 youth.
Mullan is also developing a major project around St. Nicholas Church, Messines, with the support of the Mayor and local parish, aimed at making Messines a place of pilgrimage for adults of all ages. In the crypt of St. Nicholas Church a young Adolf Hitler recovered from injuries sustained during fighting. “My vision,” says Mullan, “is to make Messines the antithesis of all that Hitler came to represent during the 20th Century. A place where people of goodwill are made welcome and where true dialogue and respect for all humanity can be nurtured.”
The Interfaith Art of George Lewis
I SHARED THE HOLY SPIRIT AND OTHER WORKS
Many individuals on the edges of modern society are often turned in caricatures in our minds, thereby being othered into something not quite human, or as deserving of empathy. This often is due to the perpetuation of stereotypes in images, such as the dispossessed woman in an abaya, or the Chassidic man as pious and devoid of sexuality. However, the reality of these people is that they share much of the same realities, emotions, and issues that we in the West share. One starts discovering these similarities once we start examining these individuals with their emotional counterparts and the spaces they inhabit.
View a virtual exhibition of works by George Lewis, including pieces created especially for the CRCC.
As an artist and believer in the power of empathy, I hope to convey certain ideals through my varied pieces of artwork. People are defined by their interconnectivity, or lack thereof. My art delves into and references the subliminal public-private spaces inhabited by individuals on the margins of societies and the dichotomies that they bring out. By photographing or painting individuals as they are, in their most intimate moments alone or with their counterparts; I aim to capture the truth about all men: that they are created equal.
Lewis displayed his artwork at the Inaugural CRCC Gala on March 31.
Shamila Kohestani Knows the Importance of Educating Afghanistan’s Women
Shamila Kohestani is a trailblazer. In 2006 she became captain of the first Women’s Afghan National Soccer Team. She enrolled at Drew University in 2008 as the first scholarship recipient of the Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Fund (AGFAF). Shamila studied political science and women’s studies and graduated from Drew in 2012. Today there are 25 other girls like Shamila studying in the U.S. through AGFAF.
“AGFAF understands the importance and value of education in building peace,” Kohestani said. “It is clear that the work of AGFAF is critical in Afghanistan, as it provides women with an opportunity to engage in and contribute to society.”
Growing up under Taliban rule, Shamila was beaten, deprived of any education, and confined to her home in Kabul. The path for her cleared after the Taliban was deposed. Shamila picked up soccer and received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2006 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles. While attending a Sports Leadership program in New Jersey on that same trip to the U.S., Shamila also caught the attention of a teacher at Blair Academy who convinced the school to provide her a one-year scholarship.
There, again, she impressed, this time catching the eye of Leo Motiuk, whose son attended Blair with Shamila. Motiuk did not have a hard time convincing Drew University to grant Shamila a scholarship, and thereby established AGFAF. At Drew, Shamila played soccer, made the Dean’s list and worked to give back to her home country.
“It was with the help of AGFAF that I received a scholarship from Drew University to pursue higher education, which I greatly appreciate. Without the help of AGFAF and Drew, I would not be where I’m today,” Kohestani said.
Shamila has served a volunteer counselor at leadership camps across the U.S. and speaks to children of all ages about her story about of empowerment through education and her commitment to improving the educational conditions for children in her native Afghanistan. Today, Shamila works at the International Republican Institute in Washington D.C., where she lives.
“AGFAF recognizes that education has the power to make not only Afghanistan, but the world a better place,” Kohestani said. “Investing in women’s education in Afghanistan will result in improving women’s lives, health, gender equality, and reducing poverty.” The efforts to build education in Afghanistan continue as CRCC and AGFAF team up to tutor students aspiring to study in the U.S.
AGFAF received the Empowerment through Education Award at the Inaugural CRCC Gala on March 31.