Born in 1965 in Canada to an immigrant Lebanese family, I spent my early years between Canada and Lebanon while my family decided where it wanted to plant its roots. I was first educated in Lebanon and learned to speak Arabic, English and French but with the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, my family returned to Canada where I completed my formal studies with a Bachelor of Science degree and an MBA. The latter paved the way for a sales and marketing career in the booming software industry of the 1990s.
Talk of war and peace was the norm in our household and the Lebanese community of which were a fringe part. Armchair warriors gathered to discuss the latest happenings in the Middle East. No one ever advocated violence but there was great sympathy and support for the Palestinian cause. I grew up believing that armed struggle was a justifiable means of defeating tyranny and oppression, and was more interested in justice than in peace, believing that the only way to the latter was through the former.
My burgeoning spirituality made me question those beliefs. "What is peace? What is justice?" I pondered. I knew war wasn't the answer but peace seemed so nebulous. I wanted to dedicate more time to this, and my overall spiritual quest, but the demands of the competitive corporate world made that impossible. So in the fall of 2000, I abandoned my career and began in earnest my search for Self.
My wanderings led me to Egypt and the Mediterranean countries until I eventually found myself as a pilgrim walking along the medieval Camino de Santiago de Compos-tela (the Path of St. James) in northern Spain. The 800-kilometer walk revealed a deep longing for peace in my own soul, and a desire to serve the cause of peace in the Middle East. A chance meeting along the Camino planted the seed for walking from Rome to Jerusalem for peace; one month later, the 9/11 attacks in New York put it into action.
"Peace begins within," I proclaimed throughout my journey to Jerusalem. That belief would be tested over and again. I would come to understand that the only journey that can ever bring the lasting peace we desire is this deceivingly simple, yet elusively difficult, inner one. The peace we seek in the world cannot appear until its flame is first lit in our hearts. It is a divine force that whispers gently but insistently, coaxing us ever deeper into the dark recesses of our souls, shedding its healing light and liberating us from our fears. It is a wondrous journey of personal liberation that, for me, continues to this day.