Alumni Update: Sarah Najem, Jordan

The delegates in the conference’s main hall. From left to right: Sarah, Lynn Malkawi, Osama Mubaidin, Raheil Barakat, and Mohammad Al-Othman.

Earlier this summer, I had the privilege to attend the International Conference on Cohesive Societies (ICCS) in Singapore as part of the delegation representing the Ministry of Youth of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It was a thrilling, enlightening, and a very rewarding experience where I got to gain a tremendous amount of knowledge on interfaith dialogue and social cohesion.

The ICCS is a platform to discuss social cohesion and interfaith harmony and it came in two parts: The Young Leaders’ Programme (YLP) and the Main Conference. YLP was very interesting and it kind of reminded me of the Global UGRAD End of Program Summit in DC in terms of its energy, bright atmosphere, and informality. There were no pre-determined topics, speeches, or keynotes. We had the freedom to generate topics and bring up issues related to the main theme of the conference, “interfaith cohesion,” discuss them within groups, and share the outcomes with everyone. The Programme ended with a fireside chat with her Excellency Madam Halimah Yacob, President of the Republic of Singapore, where she answered several questions on how to reach cohesion within a society.

Sarah (second from right) and her fellow delegates with the Ambassador of Jordan to Singapore

The main conference was a very big and prestigious event. The keynote speech was given by His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan at the beginning of the conference followed by plenary sessions that explored issues related to faith, identity, and cohesion. We had the chance to meet numerous ministers, businessmen and women, politicians, and youth activists who are working towards reaching peace in the world.

Some of the most important takeaways that I learned from the conference are that we are all different and THAT IS OK, we do not need to fight over our differences but to find common ground and things that bring us together instead. Moreover, there is no right or wrong in religion, and dialogue is a tool that connects us and builds bridges towards reaching mutual understanding. And of course, that we, humans, are together part of this world which is something bigger and better than the little bubbles that we surround ourselves with.

Sarah (pictured right) presenting at YLP

Written by Sarah Najem, 2018-19 Global UGRAD from Jordan at Illinois State University