By: Zoey Serebriany, Bressi Ranch, CA – July 25, 2019
Empathy grew as the San Diego Hands of Peace community listened to author and speaker Azim Khamisa share his inspiring story and message of forgiveness, compassion, and empowerment.
Zoey Serebriany, a Hands of Peace alumna, began by introducing Azim and shared her experience hearing him speak in 2015 and then interning for two years with his organization, the Tariq Khamisa Foundation. A two-minute clip about his story was shown and then Azim shared the compelling story of his journey towards forgiveness and restorative justice.
The Tariq Khamisa Foundation was founded in 1995 when Tariq Khamisa, a 20-year-old college student, was shot and killed by a 14-year-old gang member, Tony Hicks. Tony then became the first youth under the age of 16 to be tried as an adult in California and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. When Azim Khamisa, Tariq’s father, realized that there were “victims at both ends of the gun,” he reached out to Tony’s grandfather, Ples Felix, with the intention of healing and forgiveness. Together, they established the Tariq Khamisa Foundation to teach forgiveness and restorative principles in an effort to stop youth violence.
During his presentation, Azim shared six principles that he lives by and believes are essential for cultivating peace and harmony within oneself and in the world:
- Violence is real and hurts everyone.
- Your actions have consequences.
- We can all make good and nonviolent choices.
- You can work towards forgiveness as opposed to seeking revenge.
- Everyone, including you, deserves to be loved, treated well, and respected.
- From conflict, love and unity are possible.
Azim then led everyone in an empathy exercise called “Just Like Me” highlighting that empathy is vital for cultivating forgiveness. After the exercise, participants had an opportunity to ask questions and speak to him individually. Each year, the Hands of Peace community has been fortunate to hear Azim’s critical message of compassion and forgiveness and be encouraged to cultivate peace in the world from the inside out.
“I never thought about the concept of forgiveness regarding the conflict, until I experienced Azim Khamisa.” – Lour, Palestinian Citizen of Israel
“Seeing Azim speak was a transformative experience for me, as I’m sure it has been for so many others. Both the story he tells and the way he communicates are extremely powerful. The message he left with me is one of forgiveness and the feeling of hope in all of humanity that will stay with me for some time to come. I wouldn’t feel right without now doing something to help further his work.” – Chloe, American
Zoey Serebriany is an American Aluma and was a Hand in 2015 and an XL in 2016. She went on the first American Alumni dual narrative trip to Palestine/Israel in March of 2017. She is currently studying Psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz and will be a junior in the fall. Zoey is dedicated to peace making, conflict resolution, and social justice and is actively involved in her community.