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Emmanuel Jal Accepts Calgary Peace Prize On Behalf Of All South Sudanese

Interview, and Transcript from March 2013 Events

by Matt Hanson

University of Calgary - Peace Prize Event Poster
University of Calgary - Peace Prize Event Poster
Deng Chol Duot, Director of South Sudan Arts
Deng Chol Duot, Director of South Sudan Arts
James Nguen Leads Cultural Show (Nuer Dance) Into Red & White Club
James Nguen Leads Cultural Show (Nuer Dance) Into Red & White Club
James Nguen (second from left) Stands With Traditional Nuer Dancers At Calgary Peace Prize Reception
James Nguen (second from left) Stands With Traditional Nuer Dancers At Calgary Peace Prize Reception
Emmanuel Jal Mingles With Crowd After Peace Prize Event
Emmanuel Jal Mingles With Crowd After Peace Prize Event


Interview with Emmanuel Jal

How do you bring your message of peace into your daily life?

I cook for myself; I only eat junk when I’m on the road. I make a health shake out of sorghum; one cup will give you all the nutrition you need. Corporations are not interested in peace. Music is my painkiller. 


What role does the South Sudanese diaspora have in rebuilding South Sudan?

The South Sudanese outside have tested what peace is, what justice is, and also they are very fortunate to be able to have the opportunities they have here. They can play a quite a role in making South Sudan move forward if they all come together, and unite themselves and influence the system, because a lot of people back home look up to them here. They are the ones who send money through Western Union to support their family with whatever they have. So they actually support their family members more than even the government does. In terms of them, if we could all organize ourselves, we could be able to put our country in a better direction. What I can say is if everybody from here, if you’re educated, if you have a degree in whatever form, don’t go home to look like you’re going to be employed by the government, you go there as an employer, go there and use the skills we have there and establish something, because the country is still new, whatever you touch will prosper because anybody has come to the concrete jungle, this is the real jungle, you’re back at home you know we can share bananas with monkeys that are growing in the wild, here there is bills. You just step out of your house, the amount of information that you get into your brain without even you knowing. If you go back home, you find that actually your brain is so creative and you can be able to do something.


How does your work contribute to forming positive intergenerational relationships?

When I come and do events, the younger people to older are here. The younger people are into the music. Older people listen to the politics. 


How do we move forward as victims and inheritors of a legacy of genocide?

We need to prevent genocide from happening. 


What are your thoughts on genocide prevention?

We need to create a movement. As soon as we turn a blind eye, it happens. 



Transcription Highlights from Calgary Peace Prize Event(s)

[Note: this transcript has been lightly edited for grammatical clarity in the written form, and with the exception of Emmanuel Jal and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi's speeches, which are transcribed in full, other statements are simply highlighted selections] 

[University Peace Prize Event – Student Reception]


Saima Jamal (Program Manager at the University of Calgary Consortium for Peace Studies)

Tonight’s really special. This is the first time we are ever hosting, not just a talk, but actually a concert as well. Emmanuel said, “Yes, I’m going to sing. I don’t want to disappoint the youth.”


George Melnyck (Director of the Consortium for Peace Studies at the University of Calgary)

About the Consortium [for Peace Studies]. Basically, we were founded in 2005 as a group effort by members of the community and professors at the university. We give the Calgary Peace Prize every year. It began 2006 with the Mayor of Hiroshima. It’s based on funding from the community. Up to now the university has not put any money into the Consortium.


Saima Jamal

Tonight is not just Emmanuel, there are other performers. These performers have been arranged by the Lost Boys and Girls of Calgary. The person who organized this, his name is James Nguen.

Now James, a lot of you guys would know, he is one of the lost boys of Sudan. He’s a bit of a celebrity here in Calgary, because there’s been a very award-winning documentary that was made by him. He is a graduate of UofC, he is the founder of Biluany Literacy and Water Project, co-founder of Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan Association of Calgary, and the subject of an award-winning documentary, The Long Journey Home of James Nguen.

James came to Canada as a refugee, on September 2001, fifteen years after he was forced to leave Sudan at the age of 7. His story provides a context for the refugee experiences and the impact of conflict on human population. From Sudan to Calgary he has endured and overcome incredible hardship that is a testament to the human spirit.


James Nguen

My name is James Nguen. We are actually performing a cultural show to welcome Emmanuel Jal. This is on a community basis. We would like to appreciate Emmanuel Jal for what he is doing, for us to show that happiness and appreciation, we just want to give him a real cultural show, so that he knows what he is doing around the world for our people, that our people are there.


CULTURAL SHOW - Traditional Nuer Dance


Saima Jamal

Next, we have another lost boy here for you, this is Paul Gaulak. Paul is the General Secretary of the South Sudanese Community Association.


Paul Gaulak

Emmanuel Jal is a great brother. He’s a great friend. We started out several years ago. I came to know him in the 90s, that’s how we came to know each other when he was already rescued and he was in Nairobi. Emmanuel Jal like many lost boys who are here today, has gone through a lot. I was in a separate location and he was in a different location at the time of our ordeals.

Emmanuel Jal went through all of the suffering that you can imagine. All that you’ve been reading about from the internet, from the TV, and everywhere, Emmanuel Jal has gone through that. I am so glad that he is able to sing, he is able to put that into his music, he is able to sing. He is able to tell us. He has traveled to many places.

He is a great contributor of peace today, because the world has actually known about South Sudan, the suffering of South Sudanese people, through his music, through his talks, at the UN, in Geneva, Live Aid performances, Nelson Mandela birthday celebrations, all those places. Emmanuel has gone through all of that. I am honored to be with him tonight.


Emmanuel Jal

Thank you. Thank you for those who have been here tonight. I enjoyed our traditional dance. It’s good that I didn’t forget how it used to be done. Okay first, I don’t even know how to beginning. Two events to support my work. I find the peace award to be something really encouraging. Today I’m supposed to give a talk.

A lot of you now are wondering why I’m saying “We want peace.” Basically now somebody in Syria, or somebody in Palestine, or in Southern Kordafan now or Nuba Mountain would understand what I’m talking about. So, I’m supposed to share my experience with you.

I was born in the most difficult time, my country was at war in the 80s. And mostly I just travel to share my experiences for social-emotional learning, to get people to empathize or to put a spotlight in a dark place, because I believe when you put a spotlight on a dark place, the evil will perform less.

The situation in Sudan before it splitted into two, the politics there is very dynamic, complex, yet at the same time it’s very simple. The Southern Sudanese, they wanted to protect their culture. They wanted to have freedom to speak. They wanted to have the right like any other person that was there. So, the system, which was there, was promoting a specific ethnic group with a specific faith. And so, in short, what was happening, what actually brought more conflicts, the situation we have seen that took 2.5 million people.

The way the system is organized, so the first class citizen at that time was the Muslim Arab, and the second class would be there wife, third class would be African who has accepted the faith, fourth class would be there wife. And the fifth class would be a Christian or a non-believer, then sixth class would be there wife. So there’s a system even the women themselves don’t even have their right.

And so, the way it was complex would be, even in the police station, or the institutions that had be set up. So for example, if somebody offended me while I’m working with the police, they would be reported. So you find that whichever people are in those institutions, or whenever you go to a court, the other person would be given the right, not to you. The tension that rose during that time was what led to the war.

More conflicts came. So, in the 1980s, the first time I experienced war, I thought the world was ending, because I never heard a loud sound like that, bombs blowing, ground shaking, people running in different directions. And later on, the war reached the core of my family. So I came to realize all my aunties died, including my mom. I used to think probably that they’ve all been killed.

Later on, I came to find out how some people died, so I used to hear different stories, that there was a different bomb that was dropping, that people got sick, and even the cows were all dying, so even the wells were being poisoned. So, our village was raided a couple of times.

So, at the age of seven, my father said I’m going to go to school in Ethiopia with hundreds of kids, so we had to travel to Ethiopia. The journey wasn’t an easy one, a lot of kids died on the way, some died of starvation, some were eaten by wild animals, some were stolen by families that had lost their children during the war, and arriving in Ethiopia was a city of kids, it’s like so many young children.

Imagine six, seven years old burying their own dead. So, when somebody died we had to make our own prayers and bury them. So when somebody died of starvation alongside the river. When somebody died of disease we go and bury them in the forest.

I just want to put a spoken word, as I show you a picture of me. Can you see this picture? That’s me when I was nine I think. So somebody, found this thing, there was a documentary shot, so if you have a chance look, there is a documentary outside, there’s footage of me even as a kid, so people were in the library in London, they said they saw a kid talking, he said his name is Jal, he looked like you, so I was calling, I said, “That’s me, that’s me”. So that’s how I managed to get those pictures.

I want to do a spoken word, to give you a summary of my journey. This spoken word is one of the spoken word that gives me strength. So it comes out of a friend of mine called Lual, we ran out of food, and we were starving, so I was almost tempted to eat me friend, so when I think about this situation, whatever problem I am facing, I always get energized. It’s called, “Forced To Sin”. I’ll be doing three things, I’ll talk about my happy memories, then my difficult journey, then third part will be things I’ve been doing.

My dreams are like torment

My every moment

Voices in my brain, of friends that was slain.

Friends like Lual who died by my side, of starvation. 

In the burning jungle, and the desert plain.

Next was I, but Jesus heard my cry.

As I was tempted to eat the rotten flesh of my comrade, he gave me comfort.

We used to raid villages, stealing chickens, goats and sheeps, anything we could eat.

I knew it was rude, but we needed food.

And therefore I was forced to sin, forced to sin to make a living, forced to sin to make a living.

Sometimes you gotta lose to win.

Never give up. Never give in.

Left home at the age of seven.

One year later, live with an AK-47 by my side.

Slept with one eye open wide.

Run, duck, play dead and hide.

I’ve seen my people die like flies.

But I’ve never seen a dead enemy, at least one that I’ve killed.

But still as I wonder, I won’t go under.

Guns barking like lightning and thunder.

As a child so young and tender,

Words I can’t forget I still remember.

I saw sergeant command raising his hand, no retreat, no surrender.

I carry the banner of the trauma.

War child, child without a mama, still fighting in the saga.

Yet as I wage this new war I’m not alone in this drama.

No sit or stop, as I reach for the top
I’m fully dedicated like a patriotic cop.

I’m on a fight, day and night.

Sometime I do wrong in order to make things right.

It’s like I’m living a dream.

First time I’m feeling like a human being.

The children of Darfur.
Nuba Mountain, Blue Nile, it’s you that I’m fighting for.

Left home. Don’t even know the day I’ll ever return.

My country is war-torn.

Music I used to hear was bombs and fire of guns.

So many people die that I don’t even cry no more.

Ask God question, what am I here for.

And why are my people poor.

And why, why when the rest of the children were learning how to read and write, I was learning how to fight.
I ate snails, vultures, rabbits, snakes, and anything that had life.

I was ready to eat.

I know it’s a shame.

But who is to be blamed?

That’s my story, blessed.

Thank you. I just want to take you back to life in the village. So, we used to be a town called, “Bentero” so my uncle convinced us to go to the village, and so I was really excited, all kinds of animals. You know kids love animals, you tell a kid about hippo, or a lion, they wouldn’t get scared, they think they just want to hang out with lions, and ostriches. So, I wanted to live in the villages.

We left the town, and arriving in the village, we had clothes on, so we had to start walking naked like all the kids. The kids who are already in the village are already hardcore, when it’s sunny, the sun is really hot on the ground, so when you’re walking barefoot, your foot is burned. For me I used to just jump, the other kids would laugh at me because they were used to it, also walking on the thorny ground, or grassy, trying to take care of the cows. It took me a while for my feet to get used to get the used to the ground. We had cows, goats, sheeps, we even had chicken.

I became friends to two little sheeps, one of them became my best friend, and we used to play a head-on game. Head-on game is when two heads go like (motions with two fists clashing). My sister used to say, No it’s gonna crack your head. The little sheep loved it. I didn’t care what my sister was saying. That part of my memory was good.

I want to ask you a question, Have you ever laughed in your life so hard that your kidneys feel pain? I hear in Canada some people pee. If you pee I will laugh with happiness. I had that experience once that I was laughing, I was being asked what is it, I can’t explain. There’s an animal called “Jer” [Marsh Mongoose in English], guys from my village might know, that animal is the size of a big cat. I don’t know about Canadian chickens, if you go to Africa, all our chickens are very adventurous. They like investigating. When I’m around here I don’t even know how these chickens are, you just get chicken at McDonald’s you don’t know how that chicken tastes. Our chickens, they are funny. One of our chickens was just poking around. This chicken, the animal the size of a big cat, just want to warn you, this animal has a big, big asshole, really big. So there was flies around it, and you know chicken, he decided to find out what’s inside the hole. So all of a sudden he put the head inside. The animal woke up with the chicken head in. All I can see is the animal running with the chicken in its ass, you could see just the wing. Maybe, you can see the picture. For me, I was just laughing my head off. My sister could see only the animal with the chicken inside its ass, but she didn’t know what happened. I was just laughing, soon, when I became normal, I explained how the animal is with the big round thing. They told me it’s called Jer, it traps things with the ass. So, that was the biggest laughter I ever had. I’m always trying to see how can I laugh that hard.

After that, the war festered. There was no more smiling and laughing like the way it is. During that time, my father took me to Ethiopia, and life in Ethiopia is difficult. After a while, we are not able to take care of ourselves, that’s when was trained. That’s when I was trained as a child soldier.

The bigger boys were actually taken to the battlefields, and the small ones stay in the camps. I’m going to go into the next part that I’m going to talk about which is the part I was talking about in the spoken word. So we’re like 400 young people, mixed with animals, and we’re planning an escape. We’re told it’s gonna take one month to take the general route to arrive where we’re going. By the end of the journey only sixteen people survived.

So the first one month we start the basic soldier skills. Any leaves we find, and vegetation we could get that we think is edible, we eat, but after a while it became more intensive. So what happened is we arrive in a swampy area, where we collect snails and roast them, some of the adults would laugh at you, later some of them joined. The big people died with their pride because according to our culture you can not eat snails, you can not eat vultures, so they just want to eat the right food, but for me I just ate what I could find. So what happened when somebody dies the vultures try and eat the dead body, we shoot the vultures and we eat the vultures. The situation became more tougher.

So, when somebody died, you put bombs around them, so that when the hyena come, the hyena will explode and then you eat the hyena, but the hyena come at a speed I don’t understand, the bomb explode, the hyena’s safe and the body is taken away. I don’t know how they managed to do that, and so here is my senses change as a human being, and I see my fellow human being, they smell like food to eat, you know for days we haven’t eaten anything, we haven’t been showering, the smell, in the head, I think I was turning into like an animal, because the people you look at them and they no longer smell like normal human beings.

So my friend was dying, I look at him and I told him, “I’m going to eat you tomorrow.” And so, I did not know, he only looked at me, he didn’t say anything, but I don’t know if he understood what I was saying. What I did was I went through that night, so I didn’t do anything, so what the place that we had the dead body, that we were trying to trap the hyena, I would sneak over there to see if there were any pieces that I could eat, when nobody’s able to see me, I wanted to sneak in and do it secretly, but I couldn’t find it, so I came under the tree, burying the sleep, because I knew when you try to sleep, once you sleep that is it.

When you’re starving, your stomach feels pain maybe the first day, when the evening come maybe there’s a little bit of acid burning, after a while, when the stomach knows nothing is coming and your body begins to eat itself, so if you’re really big, if starvation happened now, the person with the bigger body would probably survive the most, depending on how their body eat fast you know, if you have a big appetite, probably your belly will eat you quickly, so I don’t know we just have to find science. The bigger people that we had took a longer time to lose weight, and so by that time when your body is feeling pain, the sleep becomes sweet so now your stomach is not feeling pain but you know, you are conscious that you need something to eat, but at that time you are wrestling, battling sleep, and so I what I did was I no longer sleep.

And so on the night, I was waiting to eat my friend, there was no hope, no nothing else. What I remembered praying to my mother’s god, and I say, “God if you’re there, give me something to eat, and if I survive, this part of my story, I will always give the prayer to you.” And so the whole night I waited, nothing. I say, “He doesn’t exist, so I’ll eat the person and I’ll still talk. So I’ll say, I called him and he didn’t come.” And so that’s the things that was going in my head, and so I said, only wait, so I waited until 11 when my friend died.

So, a crow came on top of the tree, a black crow, and a friend of mine shot that crow. The sad thing is, I happened to be the only person that ate that crow, and he died, later on, and so sometimes the crow is seen as bad luck, but that’s the crow that saved me that time. So I ate everything, from the claws, to the feathers to the intestine, to the eyes to the head, I didn’t throw anything out. Then after a while, more miracles happened, so what happed was more vultures started coming, more snails, they were hiding in the water, it became like a miracle.

And so people heard about us, the few people who left, so we got rescued. This is where I end up in a place called Waat, I met a British aid worker called Emma McCune. And then Emma McCune smuggled me to Kenya. She risked her life during that time, later I came to learn about what she did, she rescued about 150 child soldiers from different areas of South Sudan and managed to find ways for them to go to school.

In our mind what she saw was when she looked at our complex situation, and she was really upset how aid was like a form of business at that time, because you’re just giving people food, they ran out of their homes, not showing them a way so that they can plant food in the refugee camps, you’re just giving them one meal a day, no schools, so kids are born there, growing in the refugee camps, it was a form of a way of crippling people.

So if you are in a refugee camp it’s like you are in a big prison. You can not move to go away, and life is difficult. The most honest refugees in the refugee camp really find it difficult to survive. Maybe I just can leak you information in case in the future you be a refugee. So this is what we used to do, in the refugee camp, what I used to do was, because in the end it’s one meal a day, so food is gonna run out. So I’ll register myself to three or four women as their child. So, which women? Then I get a group of friends of mine, so we become children, lucky that they didn’t take fingerprints, they would take photos, but you know kids look the same, so that family would have a lot of food, so that’s why they are able to have two meals, the ones that are so honest, that just want to eat their one meal a day at that time, really suffered, so that’s how I survived.

So Emma, what she saw is education, educating the women and giving the children opportunities was the way to save the country, and so she helped so many women, and she helped establish schools under the trees, where kids are trained under the trees, in different places.

So Emma died later, so life became difficult for me, and then I became an accidental hip-hop artist. I use music as a painkiller. My fate was what gives me hope to see tomorrow. So one of the things that I did was I started a charity called Gua Africa which worked with families and individuals to help them overcome the effect of war and poverty.

James Nguen worked with Gua, so now they are going to build a well hole in one of their hometown, which is really exciting because there’s no clean water, and because of the oil, anything could happen, the pollution could take over. So if anyone has helped him build that well hole, thank you.

So Gua Africa worked with families and individuals to help them overcome the effect of war and poverty, so the first thing we used to do is find sponsors, to come and put people in schools. How it started was in Nairobi what I did was, with a group of young people we used to go to peoples’ houses and knock at their doors and ask if we could clean their house or their toilet, their fence. They’d ask, What are you doing this for? And we’d say, Give us something, any donation, we want to put somebody in school. And sometimes we were lucky, we’d clean somebody’s house who owned a school or a college, and so we’d give them a scholarship, later on it became Gua. Gua after my big song called Gua, so we called it Gua Africa.

And so now I’ve been planning to build a school in honor of Emma McCune. I thought I was that famous that I would raise the money in one month, but I was humbled through Facebook and Twitter, but luckily we managed to raise funds. When we went to build schools, the village asked us, Why do you want to build a new school? Can you refurbish two existing schools? And later come and chase your dream. So we refurbish existing schools, which are now putting like around 2,000 kids in school.

And so I’m still on the way now, I’m building an academy. We Want Peace, I just want to ask you guys what is peace? What do you understand by peace? “Co-existence” Awesome, off the hook. “Love your neighbors” that is super peace. “No fighting” off the hook. “Justice” that’s big, peace, justice, that’s super big. “Food” yes, without food there’s no peace. “Equality” yes, that’s big, without equality there is conflict. “Respect” a man likes respect even in the jungle, all the animals, even the birds want respect. “Ability to resolve conflict without hurting anybody” it also means everybody’s gonna be happy, it also goes down to food, say we go hunting together, and I just decide to give you the tail, what are you going to do? First of all you think it’s a joke, if I really go on, you say, How far you go with this joke. Next time you won’t want to hunt with me.

This is the way I put it, Peace is Justice, Equality and Freedom for all. Peace is when my belly’s full. Peace is when conflict is managed in a mature manner that the violence can be prevented. So if you look at the West now, the people in the United States, Europe, Canada, they have tough times at one point, but because of education, they are able to come up with a formula of how they can be able to manage the conflicts.

How do you manage the conflicts? It’s being able to provide resources, being able to give people freedom to speak, being able to give them opportunities to establish institutions that can protect everybody. And so when those institutions are not there, for example, if Canadians never had free health service, and then the roads are not properly, and then maybe the tax are so high, the police are so corrupt. What do you think would happen?

It would take just a while, then an uprising would come, and a politician an opportunity to side with the public and manipulate the system, and it could end up into a war if it is not punished. So, I see peace as possible because conflicts that are managed, if it become a chronic disease it will lead to war.

Peace can be managed, so that’s why you need justice and equality and freedom, so at least you calm the situation down. Then after that you need to establish institutions and you need to provide resources, because as the population increases, the resources decrease, and demand is high and there will be more conflict.

I just want to ask, what question only to students. If you had this question before, don’t put your hand up because you’ll be cheating. This question is, whoever win I’ll give you a free CD, and plus I’m going to sign it, you can store it, and when I become really big one day…What’s the biggest battle you have to fight in order to make the world better? “You need to manage the peace within you.” you’re about to start a religion, you’re deep, but that’s not what I’m looking for. “Laugh and living without your past” Jesus, it’s what he came to tell us, but it’s not really exactly. I like what you’re saying but I think I need to explain it much better. Okay, you guys are students, you’re students, what is the biggest battle you have to fight, when you enter a class, if you are a girl, the next girl sitting there has stolen your boyfriend, or somebody say your mouth stink, that’s not the biggest battle you have to fight. I’m just giving you another hint, your sandwich box is ready, your juice, and you are kicked out of the house, and you say, No I want to sleep, your mommy wakes you up, No you have to go. What’s the biggest battle that you have to fight in Calgary, in this University, that will equip you so once you go out you’re gonna be a superhero. “Forgiveness” “Perseverance” those are the ingredients that we need for us to actually do this. “Education” Simply, it’s education! You are here. Your main number one priority is to get that degree. Don’t be distracted, that’s the biggest battle you have to fight here, probably took a loan from the bank, and somebody else wanted this like you, you may end up with debt without even getting your degree. Once you have your degree that’s your biggest backup, you can pursue whatever you have and you’ll be in a better position. You know how to compete and find the opportunity to help you.

Why education, for me I think education is going to help our world better. Through education we are able to manage the conflict we have, we are able to have geniuses to come up with many ways in which we can predict the things in the future and manage them. I just want to take you back to a small journey, the thing that helped me heal and be able to forgive. When I was trained as a kid, I hated Muslims. I wanted to kill as many Muslims and Arabs as possible, because I thought that’s what was killing us. Because of education, I was able to read and write. I was able to find out, then, I was able to forgive.

So I just want to go to a small argument to conclude the point. I come from the tribe called Nuer, and when I was growing up as a kid, kids from 5, 6, 7, going to 12 years old, you’re trained how to fight, so there’s a different way, the little kids will train with mud. Once you graduate from mud you use cow dung, dried cow dung, so you know the cow dung thrown at you, it really hurts. So little boys from this village will go and fight little boys from the other village and they hurt each, but they’re not going to explain, Oh, we got beat. That’s their training. By the time you reach 7, 8, maybe 10, 11.

Now you put a stick on it, so you find a boy with like five sticks, and you often throw at each other. If you find a place where people are super missing, they miss, you throw. Then, when you become professional, you can actually be throwing something. So where I come from people were really expert in going even to war barehanded, because when the spear is thrown to them they miss it and grab it. The heroes we have, that’s how they used to fight, by missing a spear and catching it, and putting it in his hand and hitting somebody over there.

So, what were they training for? Our elders built ideologies. As a kid I grew up knowing Dinka people eat people to their animals. And so, they would go and take Dinka cows, so we were excited to go and raid their cows. But as a kid you are afraid to. They eat people. But now we justify why we should have their cows, because they are animals.

So, even I had a friend of mine who was a Dinka guy. I used to sleep with him on the same mat. Sometimes I used to worry, and sleep with one eye open, thinking this guy, probably a tail is gonna pop out of his ass, he’s gonna bite me. So I never even trusted me friend, because I knew the thing in my head, They eat people.

So, the Dinka people had their own ideologies, so they say they are landlord, they own the land and they are children of God. So they plan their own battles, and they come and raid our cows. So I look at it like to compare this when Arabs came to Sudan, and to say the land was given to them by Allah, that they came from the mouth of God, and so they are special.

So whoever accepts Islam at that time was given better favors and was treated better than anybody who hasn’t accepted it. And so, what they do, is those who have accepted that faith will go and raid those people who haven’t accepted the faith and enslave, and take their things, so they do the killing. So we have people who have been trained in their thinking. That’s why you can see someone flying into a village with a horse and screaming, Allahu Akbar and smashing the head of the baby. To them, that kid is not of their faith, it’s God’s will that they do that.

So, I compare that ideology to when European came as they brought Christianity we begin to pray, close our eyes, the land was stolen, people were sold as slaves, countries were colonized, and they build on ideologies that black people are still developing. They are not human beings, they are still apes, they are still behind. And so, when you look at it, I realize human beings are the same all over. They are the same, depending on where that person is, whoever come with their idea, they will try to indoctrinate a few people and mobilize themselves for their own interest, and they go out and rob you.

But now because we have education and institutions have been established, people are asking questions. And that’s why the civil rights movement was able to be a success, because there were institutions established, and people were educated, people were beginning to question those institutions, and say no, why? This person is normal. This person is the same as me.

I see education as a way to help bring us humanity together, and we can be able to educate one another and learn to share this wonderful home we call planet Earth, so that’s why I use my story for social-emotional learning. And I believe in the technical aspect of education. That allows us to train our mind to do things technically, and combining this, you know a long time ago people used to share stories, that’s how we educate ourselves.

So, this argument is what made me understand about hating yourselves, our Arabs, because I could see myself in them too. So information can help you to forgive and move on. I’m just gonna do now a song or two, and then I’m gonna do questions. The song I’ll do is called, Emma, dedicated to Emma, as I told you about Emma McCune.

If you learned anything tonight or tomorrow, talk about it. Somebody just told me now that the UN people down in Sudan are saying there’s a possibility that in South Kordofan that the genocide there could be worse than in Darfur. So everybody’s going blind, and now people are getting slain there. And so there’s a way we could all play a part by putting a spotlight in Sudan, talking about it, even tweeting about it. And then somebody will find online doing research this organization that I’m trying to put together and support me. If you look at it as ethnic cleansing, now the people getting killed are not Christians, they are Muslims, so now the real picture is shown.

They’re trying to kill them to chase them out of their land, so they are moving in and want to use their land to bring the people, the ethnic group that the government is supporting, and feel should have this opportunity. So I think that’s not the right thing, so we can play a part in putting a spotlight on this.     


Saima Jamal

This is kind of a fundraiser for us tonight. 50% of whatever we raise, we are giving it to Emmanuel and his charity. 50% the Consortium is taking it for our programs to bring events like this again to you.


Mayor Naheed Nenshi [At the Red &White Club Event – Prize Ceremony]

Thank you very much Bill [Reverend Bill Phipps], thank you for being here tonight for volunteering for being Master of Ceremonies today, but more important for all that you have done and continue to do to further the cause of peace in this city and around the world. It’s a real pleasure for me to be here tonight to be here with my colleague Alderman Brian Pincott, as we all know, who is a tireless advocate in the community for social and environmental justice, and indeed for peace, so thank you for all you do Brian.

Now I have to tell you I feel a bit awkward, and the reason I feel a bit awkward is because I looked at the agenda, just before I came up, and I realize they’ve given me ten minutes to speak. Now those of you that know me well know that is an awkward time, because I can do 30 seconds sometimes, and I can do 35 minutes. You’ll be happy to know that I’m not going to take my full ten minutes tonight, because who wants the salad when the main course is yet to come.

Let me say just a couple things, let me say first of all congratulations to George Melnyck, congratulations to Saima Jamal, and to everyone involved in the Consortium for continuing to put on this wonderful event every year, in its seventh year now, and making us all, for a moment, think about our world and fostering peace in our community and everywhere else around the world. A special thank you.

I want to thank every one of you for being here today. I want to thank you for dedicating a portion of your lives and a portion of your careers to bringing people together, to sharing understanding, to sharing faith, to sharing culture, to helping create this wonderful environment we have here, where understanding and peace are, I’m proud to say, natural states of being. And to me that’s really something that perhaps we take for granted, something that perhaps that we don’t celebrate enough, which is precisely the community we built here.

People often ask me, Why is Canada successful? Why is Alberta successful? Why is Calgary successful? We figured something out here that for some reason, even though it sound so basic, and common sense, so many people around the world have not figured it out, that is: we’re all in it together. 

We all share this little piece of land, and the success of any one of us, is the success of all of us. We somehow figured out that in sharing opportunity with everyone, we are all enriched. But you know something, it’s not enough for us to be self-satisfied, and say, Yes we figured it out. Yes there’s some issues, and yes there’s some problems, but together we worked through them. I think it’s important for us to take the next step, to understand that living peace in our own hearts and our own lives can lead to helping others put peace in our own community and indeed around the world.

If we get it right, and I think we got it right here, then I think it’s our responsibility to hope in light and understanding throughout the entire world. Let me give you a couple little examples, just to make ourselves feel good about where we are, and think about how we can use some of those skills to move forward.

Last summer, I got a phone call from CNN, and I was told that CNN, Fareed Zakaria, who was just here in Calgary this week, was doing a special on immigration. He was really interested in immigration as an issue in the presidential election, and in his special he wanted to go to a place where immigration had failed, and he went to Japan. And he wanted to go to a place where no one knew if immigration was going to succeed or not, and he went to Western Europe. Then he wanted to show the world, he wanted to show America, and show the world, the place that he thought immigration had worked the best, the place where he thought a diverse and pluralistic society had worked best. So it was no surprise of course that he chose Canada, and that he chose Alberta, and that he chose Calgary. I am a hopeful and optimistic guy.

Last month I had the opportunity to be on the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and I found myself, as I said many times in my very strange life, sitting in a room in a private meeting with five to seven people with the prime minister of a major European country, and as the interview starts off we’re supposed to be talking about entrepreneurship and innovation. And when I introduced myself, it was kind of strange and I said something that I never, ever, ever say, that I didn’t know much about this prime minster’s country, except that they had had some troubles with diversity and integration in a multicultural country. So I said something I never say, I said you know, prime minister, I’m Naheed Nenshi, Mayor of Calgary, we are here to talk about entrepreneurship and innovation, but you know prime minister, I’m also the first Muslim mayor of any major city in North America, and if you want to talk about diversity and inclusion, and faith communities and different faith communities working together, I’m happy to have that conversation.

And he said, Ah, I’m glad you said that, because your name doesn’t sound like a very Canadian name. You’ll all be happy to know that I didn’t say anything. But at the end of our conversation, as his aid started rushing out of the room, he said, You know I would like to talk to the mayor for a moment because I would like to talk about diversity and inclusion and get some ideas about how we can do a better job and I said, You know prime minister, an hour ago you said that Naheed didn’t sound like a very Canadian name, and if I’m made prime minster that’s your problem, because you have to be able to create a community and an environment where any kid growing up in your city, in your country, can say, whether my name is Adib or Emmanuel or James or Ghoran, or anything that that kid can say this is a Dutch name, this is a German name, this is a British name, this is a Canadian name because I feel that I am Dutch, or German, or British or Canadian, that’s the kind of community we have to build.

And you know that led to probably one of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever had. This prime minister at that point said, you know, How do we do that, and laid bare his own thoughts, and fears, and dreams for his own country. And I think that’s an important thing that all of us need to be able to do. 

So, Emmanuel Jal, I first met Emmanuel almost a year ago, I’d like to share with you just a little image if I may, so Emmanuel and I are both young-old leaders at the World Economic Forum, I know what it means to be a young-old leader. So imagine a group of a bunch of leaders in the NGO sector from around the world, a bunch of business leaders, a pretty tightly wound crowd of super-achievers, listening to one another give these short presentations on interesting projects that they had going on, and then Emmanuel comes to the stage.

He can tell his story in a way that is much more interesting than I ever could, and he did that, he told a little bit about his story, and he reached out to every single one of us, and asked every single one of us to seek the peace within us and fight for the peace in our community and around the world. So imagine this group of people, incredibly tightly wound people, very late in the evening, all together chanting, We Want Peace, We Want Peace, and I hope that all of you will have the opportunity to experience that today.

Now Emmanuel’s story is terrifying, and one of the reasons that his story is terrifying is because when you hear it, it is easy to think of it as a story of despair, certainly a story of violence so horrific we Canadians in our warm beds think we never even have to think of it. Nobody should have to experience it, let alone a child. Story of incredible degradation, it’s a story that can make us feel horrible for what we do to other human beings.

But you know what, it’s also a story of redemption, it’s a story of hope, it’s a story of love, and it’s also going to be a story of peace. It’s a story that many in the room with us share. And it’s a story that should inspire all of us to rededicate ourselves to peace. So tonight, I will say to you that we are deeply blessed. We are deeply blessed in our everyday lives, we are deeply blessed in this great place.

Tonight we are even more blessed, blessed to have the opportunity to learn from this man, who has been on the front lines, blessed to have the opportunity to listen to this man has seen so much and learned so much more, and blessed to have the opportunity to understand better what we ourselves can do, what actions we can take to bring forth peace everywhere. I can not imagine a more distinguished or worthy recipient of the Calgary Peace Prize than Emmanuel Jal.  

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