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Winter 2011 - 2012


As we approach our 30th anniversary, we wish you the happiest of holidays, along with our best wishes for the New Year.  While we see the world teetering from crisis to crisis, we are convinced that our work is making a profound difference.  Particularly at this time of the year, we feel truly blessed and privileged to be able do what we do.


Hiker Shane Bauer hugs his mother, as his fiancée, hiker Sarah Shourd, kisses him.

Iran Hikers

In the film Annie Hall, Woody Allen famously said, “80% of success is showing up.”  For 15 years, we have been showing up and searching for common ground between Iran and the United States.  In September, our persistence again paid off, and we played a key role in bringing home the American hikers who were imprisoned in Iran. 


Our Iran team is led by retired Ambassador Bill Miller, who maintains frequent, unofficial contact with top-level Iranians.Two years ago, after the hikers were arrested, their mothers asked Bill for help in getting them freed. He kept pushing, probing, and talking. Finally, he arranged for Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, and John Chane, the Episcopal Bishop, to travel to Iran. They were joined by two leaders of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). While the group was changing planes in Istanbul, President Obama called to wish them luck. In Iran, they met President Ahmadinejad who said, according to Bishop Chane, "It was because of our presence that they were able to move the process forward in releasing the hikers." (Funding for our US-Iran project comes from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Family & Associates, and the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs.)

Iran frees hikers after two years 
U.S. Hikers Arrive in Oman From Two Years in Iran 

Ambassador Bill Miller (center) greets Bishop Chane (left) and Cardinal McCarrick on their return from Iran After their release, the hikers visited SFCG to express their thanks. From left: SFCG President John Marks, and hikers Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer, and Josh Fattal

In 17 countries, we are producing local versions of The Team, a soccer-based, dramatic TV and radio series that promotes peacebuilding and tolerance.  In September, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) began airing the first 13 episodes of the Zimbabwean Team.  The series uses popular culture to show that people from different political and ethnic backgrounds can cooperate for the common good.  The action takes place in a run-down mining town where two young men share a dream of becoming soccer stars.  One is Pablo, a smooth-talking, handsome local hero.  The other is Beans, whose father wants him to give up soccer and to find work that would allow him to support his seven younger siblings.  Pablo schemes to put together a team, no matter what it takes, so he can get a shot at the big time, and he persuades Beans to join him.  Together, they convince a washed-up superstar with a dark secret to be their coach.  And in the end, they triumph.  To buy a half-hour episode, please email kzehr@sfcg.org.)  The Zimbabwe Team is funded by the US Department of State (DRL), the MacArthur Foundation, and the Skoll Foundation.


Our Jerusalem office is co-directed by two extraordinary women, Suheir Rasul and Sharon Rosen.  They are partners, friends, and mothers, whose paths would never have crossed, if it had not for been for their shared desire to make peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  Sharon is Israeli, having originally come from the UK; Suheir is Palestinian, born in the USA.  They both returned to what they consider to be their homeland, and they support completely the right of the other to be there.  Their relationship represents a model for what is possible between their two peoples.

SFCG Jerusalem Co-Directors Suheir Rasul and Sharon Rosen stand outside office

Reporting on the Other

Sharon and Suheir carry out numerous activities to support peacebuilding and peacemaking.  One of their projects, funded by USAID, is aimed at senior Israeli and Palestinian reporters and editors.  The idea is to encourage reporting that does not inflame conflict, reduces stereotyping, and humanizes the other side.  Participants collaborated in publishing A Guide for Professional Journalism in Conflict Zones (a copy of which can be downloaded here).  When outside evaluators examined the project, they found that 60% of the journalists showed a sharp change in their reporting.  Here is what two participants had to say:

"Before I entered into this project, I didn't realize that, as part of my responsibility as a journalist, I needed to report the narrative of the other. Now I do."

"I now know how deep and how truly rooted the feelings about this place really are for both sides."

Great Lakes of Africa: Trading for Peace

Small-scale traders regularly cross the borders between Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  While these traders are important to the regional economy, they are often in conflict with local governments, particularly customs officials.  For the last 18 months, with funding from USAID, we have been sponsoring a project to find win-win solutions to their conflicts in order to improve the free, legal flow of people and goods.  The project has made considerable progress.   So, in September, in order to celebrate and to stress the need for regional integration, we organized a two-day, Supporting Trading for Peace festival in Bujumbura.  The event was broadcast live on the radio and featured music, dancing, drumming, and theater.  Hundreds of small-scale traders attended, including many from Rwanda and the DRC who travelled six to 12 hours to be present.

Cross-border egg seller

Congressional Conversations on Race

In partnership with the Faith & Politics Institute and with funding from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, we are sponsoring a three-year project to assist Members of the US Congress to facilitate conversations that encourage racial healing and reconciliation.  The idea is to provide Members and staff with a constructive environment for building bridges.  Our role is to work collaboratively to identify participants, coordinate logistics, and provide experts trained in racial healing techniques.  In October, we held the first Congressional conversation in Oakland, California with the support of Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA).   

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (center) with Civil Rights Leader, C.T. Vivian (left) and Paul Cobb, publisher of the Oakland Post, at the first CCR.

2011 Common Ground Awards

The annual Common Ground Awards have been presented since 1998 to honor outstanding achievements in conflict resolution, community building, and peacemaking. Recipients have made significant contributions toward bridging divides, finding solutions to seemingly intractable problems, and providing hope where there seemed to be none. This year's recipients are:

Rais Bhuiyan
Post 9/11 hate crime victim who led the campaign to have his attacker’s death sentence commuted.  We honored Rais for his compassion and humanity

Bishop John Chane, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and Ambassador Bill Miller
We paid tribute to these three men for their extraordinary work in helping secure the release of the American hikers who were held prisoner in Iran (see above).

Freedom Riders
The first Freedom Ride was in May 1961, when a bus left Washington for the Deep South.  As a result of the Rides, the U.S. is a very different place than it was 50 years ago.  We honored the Freedom Riders for the determination, compassion, and sheer guts that it took to risk their lives to challenge segregation.  Rep. John Lewis and Diane Nash accepted the award from Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize winning author on the civil rights movement.

Mo Ibrahim Foundation
The Foundation, started by Sudanese cell phone magnate Mo Ibrahim, was honored for its vision of supporting good governance and responsible leadership in Africa.

Emmanuel Jal
John Prendergast presented the award to Emmanuel Jal in recognition of his transformation from child soldier to international pop star and tireless worker for peace.  Emmanuel had the audience on their feet and cheering to his performance of "We Want Peace."

Listen to Jal's interviews with "Voice of America English to Africa Radio Voice of America"  and PRI/BBC "The World.


Rais Bhuiyan and Vice President, Susan Collin Marks

Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey in the Rock leads the Freedom Riders (onstage) in "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round"

John Prendergast and Emmanuel Jal

Thank You

Support from people like you makes our work possible.  In these difficult times, we believe activities such as those described in this letter are needed more than ever. We ask that you contribute in a substantial way, either by mail or online.


John Marks


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