GEORGE MARRASH, JUNE 2022
A little over a month ago, I participated in a week-long retreat organised by Sharq.Org, a great non-profit organization.
The ten people who joined the retreat and engaged in the many discussions held during the week came from different countries and cultures, and speak different languages. They also shared a lot of commonalities, some simple, some more foundational, the most important of which is acceptance: acceptance of the human being, irrespective of their affiliations.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that I felt like I was living on another planet! It was a parallel world in which people do not make you feel sad for being different. Perhaps, the definition of heterogeneity is different here, where there is no difference regardless of your colour, shape, interests, and nature. The space was accessible to everyone and all those present were focused solely on creating a space for themselves and others, so that all could live in happiness.
We conducted discussions together beautifully around diverse, deep and dialectical topics. No one raised their their voices at anyone else throughout the week. I listened to great ideas, experiences that changed a lot of lives, and stories from places I have never visited. Perhaps if not for this retreat, with these people, I would have never heard these stories.
The idea that the world is different for each person returned to me. It is impossible to learn about the different experiences and challenging of others without first creating for them safe spaces that are free from assumptions and judgments, so that they may express their innermost thoughts.
I witnessed people able to love, laugh and dance freely and with passion; people letting go of their bodies to move freely as they wish without fear and without worrying about how others perceive them.
I heard hysterical laughter, the kind that comes from deep within the heart, honest laughter belted out by people free of fear. Those laughs were not obnoxious like the ones that pierce the freedom of others; they were boundless and from the heart.
I saw people comfortable with their bodies and who do not judge others by saying: ‘you are fat’ or ‘you are thin’. This is when I realised how obsessed I was with the perfect body image and how much I tortured myself to create for myself the perfect body without even knowing why. Perhaps I wanted to live comfortably and happily! But I saw people around me, there, who did not have those perfect bodies that are drawn in advertisements and soap operas, and yet they were able to be happy with themselves and with the people around them.
I met people who were brave enough to read poetry in Arabic in a cultural space full of people who did not understand Arabic. And yet, they stood with confidence without fear or hesitation, in front of an international audience that interacted and applauded enthusiastically, because they felt the performance even if it was in a language they don’t understand.
All that I witnessed during the retreat was a part of a world I dream we can live in one day!
There I met people who share my beliefs, who accept others as they are, and who leave others to live as they please.
It was a taste of a world that we all wish to live in, even if it is on a global level.
I hope that you will be able to create in your surroundings a world similar to that.
In short, I saw that world in which there is so much love!
George Marrash was among the socially aware and politically active people invited by Sharq.Org to a governance retreat in Cyprus in April 2022. The non-profit organisation had much to celebrate and much to prepare for. Through the kindness and generosity of George and other advisors, Sharq.Org is now stronger and more confident in its ability to impact positive change in the Arab region and beyond. We at Sharq.Org are immensely grateful to all our advisors and supporters.