The thought to fuse together music and peace-making traces back some years ago in the year I turned 21. On a trip to Israel-Palestine in 2014, I was teaching English and music in an Arab-Druze village north of Israel when the 50-day summer war broke out. Through conversations with people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds on the ground, I began to ponder the complexities of conflict and peace, war and reconciliation.
Between 2015 to 2017, my love for music teaching and youth outreach took me to Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, India and the United Arab Emirates. In all these places, I learnt from the lives and stories of those I call ‘local heroes’ – ordinary men and women, both young and old, who were building peace in their communities. When I visited schools or youth groups, I saw the opportunity for music-making – especially songwriting – as a way to awaken young people to their God-given creative potential. What if every child learnt the power and gift of songwriting? I began to see it as a peacemaking tool and an instrument for healing.
In 2018, I moved to Kabul, Afghanistan to work as a music educator and piano teacher at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. It was here that I became truly convinced of the power of music to bridge differences between people, even in a place steeped in decades of war.
The catalyst for Music Makers for Peace coming to life in 2020 was a tragic event: an Afghan young woman was killed by a car bombing in Kabul. She was a friend to a dear friend of my mine who is a musician and one of the first female conductors of Afghanistan. When my friend told me about her horrific loss, she asked if I could help her write a song in memory of her friend. Separated by distance due to the coronavirus pandemic, we connected on video conferencing online to write this song. This unforgettable connection in a very difficult time reminded me once again of the opportunity that music creates for: nurturing self-expression, alleviating trauma and pain, creating a safe space for peaceful dialogue, cultivating a culture of peace, and even transforming conflict.
The heart of the mission in Music Makers for Peace is the people whose creative identities, purpose, and process carry powerful peacemaking messages and actions that send soundwaves of hope in their worlds.