Sameh Sabet

Produced by: Sharq.Org
Part of the Curated Collection: Multi-ethnic and -religious cooperation,
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Interview Location: Egypt
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"We are diverse people in a single nation, sharing common ground, and all of us are in need of security and peace."

Sameh Sabet is the director of the Qalb Masr Foundation for Education and Development. Here, he talks about a collaborative project on peaceful coexistence that was carried out in Upper Egypt:

We were a modest undertaking in the beginning, and then we became an organization working on coexistence and acceptance of the other. The initiative aims to create a new generation capable of accepting the other and embracing them as part of the community. It also seeks to promote the idea of peaceful coexistence among people of different religions, and to support the ideas of pluralism and diversity and cultural activities within the community, especially in Upper Egypt, where there is a shortage of cultural activity. We hope this might help uncover the behaviors that hinder a child’s self-discovery, and we also work to help children discover themselves.

On the impact of cooperating with people of diverse backgrounds in the implementation of the project:

For both myself and the institution, diversity and inclusion of the other within the community are important values. I hope that the other accepts me the way I accept him, and basically, we are both standing side by side within the community. When we thought about including training sessions or workshops as part of the initiative or for the foundation, we thought about the issue of diversity: in color, religion, and gender. The idea of pluralism is fundamental to the Foundation and one of its pillars. Especially the idea of religious diversity. This was the entire idea behind the initiative in the first place. It’s the core of our work, and we want to communicate that we are diverse people in a single nation, sharing common ground, and all of us are in need of security and peace.

On how the Foundation recruited participants of diverse backgrounds:

When we began choosing our participants for the project, we had an electronic form on different sites where we introduced the initiative and the idea behind the project. We said we wanted people who were facilitators of children’s activities, and who were aware of the ideas of coexistence and acceptance of the other. We asked their ages but there was no place on the form to mention religion, whether a person was Muslim or Christian. These were the basics, but what was most important to me was that no matter the person’s religious affiliation, it had to be moderate. But then afterward in the workshop there was the idea of acceptance of the other. We told the people here, there is no such thing as a Muslim of Christian, here there are only Egyptians.

As to how this collaborative project impacted the way he thinks:

My mind was literally changed while working on this initiative. I will never deal with anyone in terms of religion, color, or gender. This is a fundamental principle.

As to the Foundation itself:

The idea of religious coexistence between people of multiple faiths is the cornerstone on which we build all our activities. This is what we’re always trying to do. In the organization, we’re trying to create systems, principles, and strategies on which to build the idea of religious coexistence. Currently we’re trying to establish a nursery for children where we will accept everyone, no matter their religious background. At the end of the initiative we hope to tour different villages and organize different activities there especially to promote the idea of religious coexistence.