Three AUB alumni, Mamoun Mahayni (BA ‘14),
Hayder Al-Shakeri (BA ‘13), and Sally Itani (BArch ‘18) were chosen to attend
the 8th United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Global Forum as members of the
youth cohort. The Forum brings together activists and diplomats from all over
the world to discuss strategies for promoting interethnic and religious
dialogue as a means of combating extremism; ultimately, serving as a networking
venue where young, ambitious activists can recruit state-support for
progressive causes in their home countries.
Mahayni, Al-Shakeri, and Itani, from Syria,
Iraq, and Lebanon respectively, each succeeded in an extremely competitive
application process to gain a spot at the Forum, held at the United Nations
Headquarters in New York this past November. Each brought to the conference his
or her own personal agenda for dialogue and development back home.
Mahayni, now a student at Case Western Reserve
Law School and intern at the Cleveland Clinic International Operations Internship Program, hopes to return to Syria to get
involved in the country’s post-war reconstruction, particularly as concerns the
flow of foreign goods and investment into and out of the country. “We have lots
of potential. A lot to offer the world,” Mahayni says.
Al-Shakeri, who has long experience as an
activist in Iraq, as a citizen journalist, and an officer at the United Nations
Mine Action Service, wants to buck the trend by being one of the few Iraqis to
return home after years spent studying abroad. “All Iraqis leave and don’t come
back. I want to counter that.” To combat extremism and promote dialogue,
Al-Shakeri is writing stories, talking to neighbors, hosting events, and
reaching out to the international community. “I’ve been experimenting with
several methods,” he says. “I want to change people’s views of Iraqis,
especially how Iraqis view other Iraqis.”
Itani, an architect by training, is thinking
about building design as a means to improve neighborhoods and promote social
cohesion. She worked as a project manager at Architects for Change and acted as
host during portions of the Forum.
For Itani, inspiration and relatability are
the big takeaways for the group. “It was very inspiring to see what people are
doing and just pushes you more. I thought, Oh I want to reach that level, have
that sort of impact. Everyone’s struggling in their own ways, but at end of day
we all relate.” Itani says. Al Shakeri and Mahayni agree.