What does the sport of Ultimate Frisbee have to do with Middle East peace?
At a special event on April 23, UMass Boston, students, faculty and staff discovered the connection.
The multicultural, multilingual group, Ultimate Peace, engages Middle Eastern youth in the unique, self-governed sport of Ultimate Frisbee. But it is more than a mere sports team. It builds bridges of friendship, trust, and understanding among Palestinians and Arabs and Jews from Israel livings in the West Bank. The program started in 2009 and supports youth to apply valuable gains off the field.
Although the damp, rainy weather prevented their demonstration of the sport on the Campus Center circle lawn, it did not dampen their spirits. The event was moved indoors to the lobby where Eben Weitzman, director of the sponsoring Graduate Programs in Conflict Resolution, and Ira A. Jackson, dean of the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, joined in the fun.
One Ultimate Peace group member even taught Jackson how to properly throw the Frisbee. It was more than symbolic; he told him to position his fingers to form a peace sign.
Vice Chancellor Charlie Titus attended the event. He noted, “You can see that there is a lot of energy and enthusiasm here. Sports have been used for a long time to bring people together.”
Titus acknowledged the tremendous opportunity for the UMass Boston community to engage with these courageous youth. “Given the conflict in the Middle East, this is a great example of how they are putting aside their differences. This is a terrific thing for us to have them here.”
Following the demonstration, faculty and students moved upstairs to a reception and panel discussion. The16 young leaders and their coach shared their experiences of living in a divided region, coping with prejudice and fear, and finding new insights, friends, and hope through the Ultimate Peace program. In all their responses, it was evident they developed and shared love, confidence, trust, patience, and understanding gained through their involvement in the training camps.
In response to the question, “Is peace possible?”, one team player commented, “You cannot satisfy all the people, but we already feel peace.”
According to Corey Brewer, a graduate student in conflict resolution, “It’s great to see alternative methods at work—especially those aimed as youth. We hear a lot about the conflict in the Middle East, but today we have seen alternative conflict resolution methods in action.”