A local peace advocate suggested compassionate listening as a step toward peace in the Middle East in a presentation Tuesday night.
John Kefalas spoke to citizens about his recent experiences in the Middle East. Kefalas, along with six other men and women spent time in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as members of a Compassionate Listening Delegation.
Approximately 50 students and community members turned out to view slides and listen to Kefalas speak on the art of compassionate listening.
“The idea is to meet with people on all sides of the conflict so as to better understand the conflict,” said Kefalas. “It was an enlightening experience.”
The Compassionate Listening Delegation is a project of U.S. based non-profit organization Mid-East Citizen Diplomacy. This is the 17th such citizen delegation to be held since 1990.
The organization advocates solutions through listening to one another as human beings and somehow moving past heated political rhetoric.
“I came tonight to make the whole situation seem more real,” said Jenna Meling, 24, a Fort Collins resident. “I never really understood what was going on. I don’t think we can fully grasp the reality of the situation because we are protected from it as Americans.”
Several of those present did have definite opinions on the subject. The room was partially divided – on one side the people who support the Israelis, and on the other, the Palestinians.
After the presentation, Kefalas opened the floor to questions, and encouraged participants to practice compassionate listening with one another.
The audience watched while Kefalas displayed slide after slide of the devastation in the Middle East. He showed photos of streets that had been destroyed by heavy artillery and buildings that had been leveled by suicide bombings.
As well as this somber imagery, Kefalas included several pictures of young soldiers and families he had spoken with. There were several shots of smiling children clambering for a chance to have their photo taken.
Kefalas said, “We need to come up with a solution for the children’s sake, because in the end, that’s why you do things.”