What does it take to live in peace, together?

What does it take to live in peace, together?
What does it take to live in peace, together?

Together, we have more than 40 years of promoting justice and working for peace — and nothing could fully prepare us for today. Our world today experiences levels of oppression and injustice, fueling a climate of hatred and division, that seemed unimaginable to us yesterday.

Over the past ten years, societies have tended to divide and polarize. Within our global village, the tone can be set by a critical mass of divisive politics where attacks, vitriol, dogmatism and detachment are normalized and imitated. Yet we know, in our heads and in our hearts, that living in justice and peace is essential to leading lives, in which our families and communities flourish and we realize our full potential.

In this context, we consider May 16, International Day of Living Together in Peace, as the ideal time to reflect on the question: what does it take to live in peace? We both believe that peace begins with recognition and equality, which are the foundations of healthy relationships — those based on respect, trust, appreciation of diversity and a spirit of inclusion and belonging.

As a Jewish man and a Palestinian Muslim woman, despite our differences in gender, religion, origin, education and privilege, our friendship has grown through our shared values, our mutual interests, happiness we have in meeting others and their culture as well as the personal development and support we get from it. For example, after the horrors of both the attack on October 7 and ’s bombing of , we immediately turned to each other for comfort, to be able to talk and express our pain.

We gave each other the compassion and listening we needed, without defensiveness or judgment. As advocates for justice and peace, we navigate the nuanced complexities of reality that exist beyond the oversimplified dichotomy of “all black and all white.” This space between extremes transcends the narrow narratives that make headlines, often obscuring deeper truths and showing limited notions of justice and empathy, and who deserves them.

We all saw how the war destabilized , a usually peaceful city. When we noticed the acts of violence, the rise in tensions and the emergence of a general feeling of fear, we even wrote and published a “message of solidarity from civil society”. This message was intended to provide a positive, constructive, unifying and hopeful voice during a difficult time.

It expressed an absolute rejection of violence and hatred and a unified support for respect, social harmony and non-violent self-affirmation, all in the spirit of Montreal as a city of peace, as This is reflected in the large native peace tree — the white pine — which is at the center of its flag.

As with any other social issue, whether it’s climate change, homelessness or bullying, the first step is to raise awareness and get people to think differently, which was the case with this message from solidarity. But to live in peace, we must move from reflection to construction. We consider peaceful protests and other forms of civic engagement to be essential tools for active citizenship and for holding our leaders to account, a fundamental part of democracy.

Manifestations are the healthy expression of emotion and intellect. The main challenge is to ensure that opinions are communicated effectively, non-violently and respectfully, with appropriate acknowledgment and active listening. It is essential that these exchanges integrate the nuanced complexities of the gray areas of our society.

Right now, we need safe, caring spaces that facilitate courageous conversations that can improve mutual understanding, spark empathy, and foster social harmony. This is why, after our message of solidarity, we are setting up these days the “solidarity dialogues” project. It is positive, solution-focused activism that aims to leverage the personal journey and creativity that resides in the gray areas. These are vast, and you need to be able to navigate the nuances, which can be unsettling. But when we choose them, we think outside the box and find solutions.

Indeed, gray has its own color: neither black nor white, it has a whole palette of shades. For many of us who have spent years promoting justice and building peace, the polarized world around us makes it easy to lose hope, doubt, and second-guess ourselves. But if we want to live in equality and peace, we will all need to exist in this space between the extremes, exploring the gray areas and listening to each other in a spirit of respect and empathy.

The most effective tool to achieve this is dialogue, and the end result will be mutual understanding and solidarity between our many communities as well as an even greater dedication and commitment on the part of Montrealers to live together in peace .

To watch on video

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