Today, polls show that over 80% of the people in many Muslim majority countries dislike the United States. Over 50% of the people in the United States believe that Islam is a violent religion. But the vast majorities of the people who hold these opinions do not know each other, have never met, and have no factual knowledge of each other. This lack of education and interaction, fueled by media distortion, has elevated mistrust and misunderstanding into a crisis situation.
We cannot merely stand by and watch this issue continue to fester. Our future desperately depends on dialogue and cooperation between cultures. We must take action. For the last three years, a small group of us from around the world have focused all of our personal and professional resources, financial and otherwise, on a project we feel more passionately about than any of the dozens of humanitarian efforts we have spearheaded in the last 40 years. It's called One World 2011, a landmark event fostering respect, understanding, and dialogue between people, mainly youth, from both the Muslim World and the United States. It will take place in Seattle, Washington this summer and will rotate from the west to a city in the Muslim world every other year, moving forward.
One World 2011 will bring hundreds of young people from the Muslim world together with youth from the west. It will consist of youth leadership and sports programs, conflict resolution, community service, arts and cultural exchanges and recreational activities. It will be televised around the world and be prominent on social networking.
Youth from Morocco, Egypt, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Turkey, Indonesia, India, Azerbaijan, Russia, Pakistan, Iraq. Lebanon, the United States, Canada and other countries will be participating.
In 1990, I partnered with Ted Turner and the government of the USSR, to organize the Goodwill Games, the largest sports, arts, and cultural exchange in the history of the U.S. and USSR. The event brought thousands of Soviet citizens from behind the Iron Curtain to the U.S. The results of the summer long event were amazing. After 40 years of hatred, mistrust and misunderstanding, the Cold War began to melt, as the "enemy" came together, got to live with each other, understand each other, and crush stereotypes that had been promulgated for decades by the two governments. Today, 20 years later, the facts about the success of the people-to-people relationships developed because of the Goodwill Games are indisputable.
Of the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, approximately 65% of the population is under 30. Over 50 percent of the population of the Arab world is under the age of 15 and more than 100 million young Arabs live in poverty. The unemployment rates are devastating. Many youth live with no hope for the future. Unless something is done to solve this problem soon, the outcome is predictable and catastrophic.
I have met hundreds of youth from throughout the Muslim world. Many of them are being targeted by terrorists to join their ranks. The terrorists, in many cases, lie, and claim they are supported by Islam, thus purposely promoting the terrible misconception that many uninformed westerners have come to believe.
Islam is not a violent religion. Muslims are peaceful people. As in every society, as we have recently witnessed in the United States, one individual can bring on a tsunami of horror.
The answer to solving the problem lies with the youth. The only way the problem will be solved is by young people getting to know each other. We must bring hundreds, then hundreds of thousands, then millions of young people together. It can be done.
Please join the growing list of individuals and organizations supporting One World 2011. We need your help. Join the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the NBA, the Islamic Society of North America, the Parliament of Russia, the government of Qatar, national and international youth football (soccer) leagues, Junior Achievement in the Middle East, the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Morocco, One Nation and dozens of others from throughout the world in this mission. Please check out our website at www.oneworld2011.org, find us on Facebook and follow us on twitter at twitter.com/OneWorld2011 to be find out more about becoming a part of this groundbreaking movement.
Follow Bob Walsh on Twitter: www.twitter.com/OneWorld2011