Jordanian prince uses sport as a way of promoting peace

A number of solutions to the problems in the Middle East and other divided areas of the world have been suggested but trying to spread peace through sport is a new concept. The man behind this new approach is Prince Feisal Al Hussein of Jordan and yesterday he concluded a visit to Athens where he announced that he is going international with his «Generations for Peace» campaign. What started as a pilot scheme in Jordan in October 2007, where hundreds of athletic trainers from the troubled areas of the world came to be taught how to use peace to heal divisions, is now set to go global. «It’s a legacy of my father [King Hussein] to make the world a better place, not just for our generation but for generations to come,» he told Kathimerini English Edition. «That’s why the name Generations for Peace came out quite naturally. What he had always believed in was that we build peace not for ourselves but for our children’s children’s children.» More than 1,100 trainers from Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Lebanon, Palestine and Sri Lanka have been through the scheme. They have, in turn, taught more than 8,200 children in their home countries. «We bring youth leaders in and train them in ways to use sports to unite children and how to go back and teach other like-minded individuals how to use sports to teach other kids,» says Prince Feisal. «So, it’s working both with kids directly and like a ‘train the trainer’ program so that they can cascade these programs when they go back to areas of conflict.» The scheme already has an international flavor, the Jordanian prince says. «It was always the intention to make it a global initiative. At the first pilot camp, we had six other countries, two continents and four religions, men and women alike, from ages of 18 to 60. So, it encompasses the large diversity of the people that we have in the world. «Hopefully, this October we will be launching another two camps but they are not designed exclusively to stay in Jordan. The idea is that we will work with any global partner interested in hosting one. «We are making this a multilingual program so that it can be taken to other parts of the world. We think it’s a global issue. The problems are not unique to our area.» After announcing the next step in the initiative in Greece, the prince did not rule out the possibility of a training camp being set up here at some point. «I could see it happening anywhere in the world. I think it would be great because of the Olympic values that you have here and we actually presented last year at Olympia what we were planning to do. So, I think if Greece wanted to host it, it would be great because it embodies Olympic values.» At a time when an end to conflict in the Middle East and other regions seems far off, the possibility of sport having a positive impact could be seriously questioned. So, what would Prince Feisal’s reaction be to critics of his program? «I would say that they don’t understand the universal appeal of sports. I think wherever you go in the world and you see kids, if you throw a football in front of them, what are they going to do? They are going to start kicking it around and having fun. «I think if we get the kids early enough, they can learn to see each other as individuals, as human beings and learn how to communicate, understand each other’s differences and to work together as a team. If you can instill those, actually Olympic, values within the kids, then I think we will make the world a better place «There’s too much trouble, too much hatred, too much conflict in this world not to try, all of us, to work in whatever way we can to make a difference.» At a time when sport has become synonymous with big money contracts and spoiled athletes, the Generations for Peace scheme appears a return to the Olympic ideals. Prince Feisal will be hoping that his idea will also spread as far and wide.