For Immediate Release
Entourage of War Refugees Travel Country With Two U.S. Veterans
Curran & Bishop
If there is ever an unlikely group of fellow travelers, the participants in The People’s Journey is it. The group is comprised of people who under different circumstances may have been firing guns at each other, but instead are preaching peace: two Iraq War veterans, an Iraqi refugee, and youth from the Gaza Strip and Afghanistan.
Their cross-country journey, dubbed, “The People’s Journey,” evolved from two other odyssies: a trek Iraq War vet Josh Stieber completed last year called “The Contagious Love Experiment,” and the “Our Journey To Smile” – an effort by Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers (AYPV) to connect with other peace seekers around the world.
A soldier turned conscientious objector, Stieber, 22, believes war creates more problems than it solves. Thus, he embarked on a journey to learn about, promote and invest his military pay in peaceful alternatives. His trip began in Washington D.C. in May of 2009. For 3,000 miles, Stieber biked and walked cross country to San Francisco.
While Stieber was passing through Ohio, he met Conor Curran, 26, a former Marine and fellow Iraq War veteran. The two completed the remainder of the trip together. It wasn’t until their last stop in San Francisco that the veterans met Salam Hassan, an Iraqi refugee who hosted the men in his home for several days.
“At Salam’s house we were sitting together in a circle smoking tobacco hookah (a custom in Iraq), and we just started laughing,” recalls Curran. “We became such good friends right off the bat that it was silly to think at one point we had been out to kill each other.”
Stieber, Curran and Hassan joined with AYPV to campaign for peace and a new endeavor was born: The People’s Journey. Two later additions to this international collaboration are two girls from Palestine – another region very much impacted by American foreign policy and military “aid”: Salma Shawa, 13, and Laila Samahadana, 12. They are accompanied by their American chaperone, Pam Bailey of Peace Action, who has spent the last five months living and working in the Gaza Strip, where she met the girls.
The Peoples Journey brings together a contemporary group of first-hand witnesses of war to travel across the U.S., speaking about their experiences and encouraging a spirit of compassion towards the “other.” Each member of the offers important perspectives regarding the state of our world today.
Stieber deployed in the Army unit that made international headlines in the Wikileaks video, “Collateral Murder,” and has been actively speaking on the need to turn away from war. Curran talks about his diagnosis with PTSD after his stint in Iraq and his path to healing. Hassan shares the perspective of an Iraqi who lived under both Saddam’s regime as well as the U.S. occupation. Salma Shawa and Laila Samahadana will talk about the struggles of life growing up in the Gaza Strip – a region under a military occupation supported by the United States. Along the way, the group will be joined via Skype by Our Journey to Smile in Afghanistan, as they continue to work on getting their American visas.
The eclectic group will begin their journey in San Francisco at the start of June, circling the country and speaking in major cities thru the month of July. A detailed itinerary can be found at: http://www.thepeoplesjourney.org and on Stieber’s blog at: http://contagiousloveexperiment.wordpress.com/the-peoples-journey/
Salaam eleh koom
The People’s Journey is a collaborative project among many peace groups together and is sponsored through the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR-USA). Donations dedicated for the tour can be made to FOR by mail, or online.
FOR MORE INFORMATION & TO PROVIDE SUPPORT:
conceptual team: Hakim in Afghanistan
tour leader: Josh Stieber
speakers: all above, Salma Shawa and Laila Samahadana,