Laureus celebrates the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace

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April 6, 2017

Today, Laureus Sport for Good is honoured to celebrate with the world the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.

Due to its vast reach, unparalleled popularity and foundation of positive values, sport is ideally positioned to contribute towards the United Nations’ objectives for development and peace. To raise awareness of this potential, 6 April was declared as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP) by the UN General Assembly. The adoption of this Day signifies the increasing recognition by the United Nations of the positive influence that sport can have on the advancement of human rights, and social and economic development.

Laureus is pursuing a vision of “using the power of sport to end violence, discrimination and disadvantage.  Proving that sport can change the world”. We supports more than 100 sports-based community programmes in around 40 countries to combat social challenges facing children and young people, such as violence and crime, discrimination, lack of education, unemployment and preventable diseases. Laureus is a global leader in research and knowledge-sharing in relation to operating sport for development programmes.

Israeli Heni Bizawi, 25, is a project leader from PeacePlayers International – Middle East, one of many Laureus-supported projects. Sport has changed her life and the community around her. This is her story.

The friendships I have through PeacePlayers are so deep and so strong. I’ve had very political conversations with my Palestinian friends; the hardest topics ever, things that no one can talk about, we talk about it and we deal with it as friends. When you are good enough friends with someone you can talk about the difficult things. If you’re not talking at all, you just continue to hate each other.

I was about 15 years old when I first joined PeacePlayers. I started off helping to coach a team in Jaffa and I was invited to be part of the Leadership Development Program in Jerusalem, where I met Palestinians on the team. I had a really good time playing with them. I never, never had any interaction with Palestinians before, especially in Jerusalem – I had been to Jerusalem twice in my life before that. But with PeacePlayers it was just basketball, joking, high fives. I kept going to Jerusalem and I started to think, “wow, I’m meeting Palestinians and everything is fine!”

My family had very strong opinions about the conflict. My older brothers were both soldiers in the Army, and I remember during a lot of Shabbat dinners we used to argue about PeacePlayers. They would tell me, “You know nothing about this, be quiet, come talk to me after the Army and see if you still think like that.” When I got to the age to go to the Army, I took a break from PeacePlayers. I was in the Army for three years, where I was the commander of basic training and commander in the corps.

After the Army, I went back to work at PeacePlayers. This is when I started to see the conflict differently. That was the biggest change for me; it made me understand personally how important PeacePlayers is. The moments where you see the kids playing together, it’s very natural because they’re kids and they’re not thinking about the conflict – that’s what gives me the motivation to continue and to really believe in what we are doing.

I am still close with the Palestinian friends that I met when I first joined PeacePlayers. A few of them in particular, we eventually all became coaches and then staff members, so we spent a lot of time together and started talking more about the conflict. We definitely have a lot of different opinions. We’ve grown up in different places with different ways of thinking, but now we know how to put ourselves in each other’s shoes. It’s very emotional, it’s very hard. It’s a long, long process, and I think one of the big differences between PeacePlayers and other organizations is the time, that it’s long-term – this is what makes it strong.

Now my family, seeing me continue for so long in PeacePlayers and really believe in it, they are also changing. My one older brother who is very right-wing, he told me, “I think what you are doing is important and one day maybe this is the way that something will change.” He even agreed for his son to come to PeacePlayers activities. For my family to show understanding towards the other side, it’s a huge change.