CANDIDATE: Osama Wazan • Muslim, Male, United States
Member of United Religions of Charlotte CC
Nominated by United Religions of Charlotte CC
At ten and a half years old, the virus that had infected the Middle East in 1948–The Israelis forming a state and the birth of the Palestinian cause–mutated. Lebanon erupted and the civil war broke out in 1975. The schools shut down for two consecutive years.
For the following decade and a half my family lived in the combat zone in West Beirut. We look shelter in the stairwells and underground depots. By night, we listened to radio broadcasts of religious cleansing committed by both Christians and Muslims and often times only a half a mile away. By day and in churches and mosques congregations reverberated “Amen” after the prayers called for the annihilation of people of other faiths.
My first experience with the war was the loss of my best friend in fifth grade and spans encounters with mortar and car bombs, sniper fire, a kidnap attempt, living inside West Beirut during the Israeli siege for ninety days, and witnessing the outcome of looting and pillaging of Christian enclaves in Islamic territories and the massacres in the Palestinian camps. I was subjected to the wrath of the self nominated sharia enforcers and militiamen of different denominations and affiliations. Essentially, as a peacefully minded civilian during the war, I ranked at the bottom of the pecking order of survival.
In spite of the turmoil. I earned a Bachelor of Sciences from the Lebanese American University, where I excelled in basketball.
From 1985 through 1988.1 represented the Lebanese National Universities basketball team. We travelled to Japan, to compete in the International Universiade championships, and the Former Soviet Union twice. I joined ranks with Christian and Muslim players—of various denominations–to achieve one goal: winning. That required ridding ourselves from the prejudices and feuds inflicted on our mindsets and turning a new page on our terms. My passion for crossing the sectarian divide manifested itself when I returned to Lebanon. I leaped over the religious and geographical chasms and became the first Muslim player to sign-up with a Christian club in East Beirut–Christian territory. The Muslim community shunned me; however, my family supported me.
In 1989, I experienced shell shock symptoms—upon hearing explosions my calf muscles trembled. That became a tipping point and served as an awakening: It was hopeless to aspire for security and prosperity in a country ill-equipped to deal with religious, denominational, and ideological differences for the good of all. I resolved to emigrate to the USA.
In 1993 I married my wife, an American. After almost eighteen years in the corporate world including running a smaller software company and providing consulting services to The Wall Street Journal’s Office Media Network, I resigned. I aspired to attend to the passion of catalyzing peace by converting my war stories into lessons learned for a better world.
Today. I believe that I am a strong voice for moderate Muslims in Charlotte, NC. I chair the Food for Thought committee of Mecklenburg Ministries. I am a member of the programming committee of the Charlotte Cooperation Circle, member of the World Affairs Council in Charlotte, and the Chair of the Community Services committee at the Charlotte Rotary International Club in District 7680.
I had appeared on the Carolina Business Review TV show and twice on NPR’s Charlotte Talks in Charlotte, NC to help the community process the events on 9/11 and the Fort Hood shooting in by Nidal in 2009.
I regret that I am inexperienced with the workings of the Global Council. My interactions with URI are based on the Cooperation Circle in Charlotte, NC under the leadership and participation of humanitarian, philanthropic, and delightful members. It is worth noting, however, that I led a life of continuous adaptation and improvement to grow and prosper personally and professionally. This approach aligned my heart and mind and increased my awareness. In this sense, I believe I can bring the commitment and conviction to effectively contribute to the new challenges and issues facing URI and the world.
As for other relevant skills—catalyzing peace and building bridges across differences—I honed public speaking skills. The experiences of living in a region inflicted with wars thrust me into a unique perspective. I took that exposure public.
In the course of the last two years. I spoke at churches, rotary clubs, schools, mosques, social clubs, and various other venues. The feedback had been positive. For testimonials, please view the Guest Book entries at http://www.osamawazan.com/Guestbook.php.
Finally, I think that I represent both the necessity for and the implementation of URI’s vision.
Benefit to the Global Council
Below are sequential steps, I might take, to assimilate with and potentially benefit the Global Council:
Global Council’s Benefit to URI
I envision leveraging my expertise in serving URI for growth and sustainability as follows:
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