Chaza Abou Daher writes about the Art of Dialogue initiative


Mr Shafik Gabr in discussion with 2016 Fellows Chaza Abou Daher and Abby Wiedenhaefer.

7 October 2016

The East-West: Art of Dialogue initiative

A life-changing opportunity - this is the East-West: Art of Dialogue initiative in a nutshell.

Dedicating 10 days in Egypt and 8 days in the United States, the program built one-to-one connections between young leaders of the Middle East and the West to understand all aspects of their counterparts’ society - from religion to politics, to economics, to social, to education, to human rights' issues.

Three main features, very much inter-connected, characterize this program: streamlining connections, providing a sustained learning methodology and defying limitations.

First, we have been offered the opportunity to meet, talk and learn from an exceptional leader and inspirational man: Mr Shafik Gabr. We felt empowered and inspired by this charismatic achiever, determined to follow his steps. With the grace and hospitality of Mr Gabr, we were introduced to some of Egypt and United States more influential people in various fields and expertise.

Maybe closest to our hearts were the amazing fellows in this program, young, smart and full life; we laughed a lot, talked a lot, discussed countless issues from politics to music, corrected stereotypes and most importantly, vowed for long-life friendships; except that promises need to be kept, and we learned in this program to make effort to keep connections alive, to have a familiar face wherever life may take us.

Second, back-to-back lectures exposed us to a big load of information and insights into politics, art, finance, development and many others - in a very short period of time. More than merely adding to our knowledge repertoire, the program intends to teach us the logic of learning: get past our confirmation biases, get past our pre-set informational decoding mechanism, determined by our beliefs, culture and past experiences, and training our minds to learn how to learn, in a very systematic way.

All of the above leads to the final takeaway of this program: acknowledging our own limitations, our lack of knowledge in so many areas in life, and pushing back these limitations to grow bigger, know more, interact better and make an impact.

What I want to become after this fellowship? I want to become, equipped with all that I have learned, an agent of change