“There are victims at both ends of the gun.”
You could hear a pin drop as a group of approximately forty-five Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans listened to Azim Khamisa describe his epiphany and subsequent journey to forgiveness after his son, Tariq, was murdered by Tony Hicks.
Tony’s childhood was filled with parental neglect and drug addiction. One night, with a loaded shotgun and alcohol in his system, Tony, at age 14, killed Tariq and was initiated into a gang.
Azim described the debilitating grief he felt after losing his beloved son to a senseless act of violence. He also described the profound epiphany his emotional pain led him to–Tony and Tariq were both victims. This realization, combined with his Sufi Muslim faith, led him to visit Tony in prison.
“Forgiveness is something you give yourself,” said Azim, “There is no quality of life in being a victim.” Many members of the audience, having grown up with the harsh reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, were all too familiar with the pain of violence and the feeling of being wronged by another’s actions.
Azim became a father figure and advocate for Tony. In November of this year, Tony will appear before the parole board and Azim will be there supporting his release. Tony is currently 12 credits away from a degree in child psychology, and when he is released from prison he will work for Azim’s foundation dedicated to educating at-risk youth.
After Azim Khamisa’s presentation, participants eagerly approached him to continue hearing his story, ask questions, and hear is thoughts on various issues and topics.
Dana, a Palestinian participant, shared how beneficial it was to hear Azim’s story. She said, “There is nothing harder than losing a son. He shows that there is always a possibility of peace. Even if you had a hard dialogue or you are hopeless or disappointed, you can always do something.”
And this sentiment was also shared by an Israeli participant named Noga. She said, “Azim’s story has definitely impacted our dialogue sessions. All sides need to learn from what he said.”
Louisa Miller is eighteen years old and recently graduated from the Waldorf School of San Diego. Louisa began her involvement with Hands of Peace in the summer program as a participant in 2016 and then as an XL in 2017. Being a part of Hands of Peace was an incredibly profound and transformative experience for Louisa. She will be spending the next year training with the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in the northern region of Israel. The founder of this company was a Holocaust survivor whose mission was to promote peace and understanding through dance. Louisa’s dream is to continue to grow as a dancer and strive to integrate her two passions of dance and peacemaking.