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UNITED NATIONS ADDRESS BY JPB: UN Security Council hears from alum Oren Gian

Demonstrating JPB’s impact-in-action, alumnus Oren Gian was one of two civilians invited to speak at a February 2021, United Nations Security Council Middle East session.

The Honorable Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative for the Secretary General began the meeting by drawing attention to current challenges affecting the ongoing peace initiatives, as well as the significant hardships facing the region due to COVID-19. Specifically, the Norwegian diplomat focused on the massive economic fallout the virus is leaving in its wake, which particularly affects the Palestinian economy. It will likely take years to undo its contraction.

Wennesland also alluded to challenges resulting from the election cycle that both Palestinians and Israelis are undergoing. He expressed optimism, however, that over 400,000 Palestinians were newly registered to vote in the upcoming elections. This is a demonstrable boon for the democratic process.

Identifying himself as Jewish, Israeli, and Iranian, Oren Gian followed Wennesland and discussed his experience with JPB's Interfaith Citizens Institute in Texas that he attended in 2019. He drew from his own family history as well as his personal experiences. He shared how his grandfather, under a sentence of death, fled Iran in the early 1980s with the help of a longtime Muslim friend. His grandfather taught Oren that friendship is not based on religion or ethnicity, but on trust which must be earned. Furthermore, friendship can be shared with anybody.

Oren recounted to the counsel members how his JPB experience immersed him in an intensive, intimate environment of interaction for two weeks with Muslim participants, some of whom had been next door neighbors. Despite this proximity, Oren realized that they lived in different towns attended different schools and had wholly different stories from his own. Nevertheless, everyone on ‘the other side’ was just as human as he. What was needed was structured opportunities to meet with one another and tools to facilitate listening and respectful dialogue. JPB provided that opportunity and those tools.

JPB also nurtured the desire and ability to learn how to exchange ideas and listen to those with whom he might never agree, at least politically. Regarding his experience with JPB and his fellow participants, Oren said, “Although we disagree on most things, we stay in contact and enrich each other with our knowledge and different perspectives.”

Oren’s message was a message of hope that underlined our shared humanity. JPB is extremely proud of our alumnus, Oren Gian. To hear Oren’s speech at the UN, click here.


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