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I am passionate about:
Ever since I joined the Peace Corps as a volunteer in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco in 1993, I have been tremendously passionate about and dedicated to the field of international development.
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I hold a PhD in sociology from the University of New Mexico, where I also taught.
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In 2000, I co-founded the High Atlas Foundation and served as president of the Board of Directors until 2011, and currently lead its operations. I was a faculty member at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Al Akhawayn University (2009-10). In 2003, I was a research fellow at the American Institute of Maghrib Studies; earlier an Associate Peace Corps Director (1998-99), managing the agriculture and environment sector. I write on the subject of promoting human development in the Middle East and North Africa.
I am grateful for your comment. You highlight a key dimension of the initiative in that the interfaith action centers around agriculture with farming families who experience the most poverty in Morocco and around the world. Advancing diversity and solidarity through Muslim-Jewish collaboration to assist the very difficult but essential agricultural transition in Morocco to help end rural poverty, makes vital interfaith action for people's prosperity. Considering all the lands in Morocco that they can grant for community fruit tree nurseries, inter-religious partnership can play as great a role as the government in this regard. Moroccan society created the context for this kind of enormous opportunity. Now it is about achieving its potential, with the people who most need it, and as an viable example for beyond.
This is a great question and I think points to some lessons we can draw from the Moroccan experience that may be applicable elsewhere. Morocco created by its laws and Constitution a context where Jewish, Muslim, and Christian people can collaborate and partner for human development projects. Creating a national context for these kinds of initiatives foster an enabling environment; we could never achieve this project unless the laws and culture allow it, and thankfully they do. Another key part is the fact that Morocco also has embodied in laws, policies and national charters the approach of people's participation in the design and implementation of projects intended to benefit them. This is important because it encourages interfaith projects to help respond directly to the needs expressed by the local community beneficiaries Doing so generates trust and goodwill when the beneficiaries are integral to the development process, which the intercultural parties can share in. Additionally, even when there is a positive policy environment for inter-religious initiatives, they still require third-party facilitation of dialogue in order for the groups to come together, work through their ideas and differences, and create a shared action plan. The High Atlas Foundation provides this third party role, and I would suggest more civil groups should perform this function as well. Interfaith projects in Morocco are still relatively rare because the parties do not come together otherwise, usually unless there is an outside entity providing the channel and opportunity for discussion. My last point is this: Morocco's success as an example of a Muslim nation that is part of the MENA region that promotes inter-religious partnership is vitally important for itself and the world. There are not a plethora of countries in the MENA where these kinds of projects are taking place, and so we should seize these special opportunities when they are presented.