While an endless and complicated conflict tears through the Middle East, I have watched as a Palestinian and Israeli shared common ground over a glass of wine at the hostel bar. This is the magic of travelling--it has served as an amazing tool for me to help breakdown cultural barriers and to get the core of what unites us. There have been several other times from my personal travelers when I have witnessed these beautiful cultural collisions: breaking bread with a Christian and a Muslim and sharing a dorm room in a hostel with an Italian, a Russian, a Colombian, and a Korean were both experiences that highlighted the common humanity in us all.
On September 21, the United Nations will celebrate its 33rd Annual International Peace Day. The theme this year is the "Right of Peoples to Peace", with the focus of continuing to advocate that peace is vital for the full enjoyment of all human rights. With this year's rise of clashes in the Middle East and other areas of the world, International Peace Day is more important than ever. It is paramount to recognize that we as human beings are more similar then we are different. Religion, culture, and ethnic background do mold as individuals, but these factors have been unfortunately used to create huge divides between people.
Starting last year, Hostelling International USA, better known as HI USA, has taken an initiative to help promote the International Peace Day through their hostels in the United States. They are calling this initiative "Sleep For Peace," which will be celebrated by all travelers from over 100 countries that stay in the many hostels scattered throughout the US. Many different events and activities will be held at hostels from Boston to San Francisco and San Diego to Washington DC, helping to enable this much-needed dialogue among kindred spirits and diverse backgrounds. A hostel is a very unique place that helps to facilitate these types of encounters.
The global brand of Hostelling International (HI) has also taken notice and will adopt Sleep For Peace in many of their hostels scattered across the globe. The Sleep For Peace Movement has expanded to some HI hostels in 28 countries, including Costa Rica, Spain, Peru, and Argentina. Each country, city, and hostel will hold events and activities themed by the hostel and region.
It is the hopes of Hostel International that Sleep for Peace participants will create personal connections to help foster new perspectives on global issues and world cultures. Hostelling International has been recognized by UNESCO as a peace-building organization; creating such a global movement is very dear to the core of Hostelling International.
As an avid traveler, it would be astounding to see more of the hostel community follow Hostel International's lead and participate in the Sleep For Peace Movement.