SPEAKER PROFILES

H.E Dr Meir Shlomo 

H.E. Dr Meir Shlomo knows intimately the contrasting ramifications of war and peace. Born and raised in Tel Aviv, Israel, he is currently the Ambassador of Israel to the Kingdom of Thailand and the non-resident Ambassador of Israel to the Kingdom of Cambodia. 

H.E. Dr Meir’s heritage gives him first-hand knowledge of the negative aftermath of war while his work as a diplomat allows him to see the positive impact of peace-building. Most importantly, he is a passionate advocate for peace and collaboration amongst nations. 

As ambassador of Israel, H.E. Dr Meir’s responsibility encompasses social, cultural, political, economic, media engagements. To successfully maintain bilateral trade, exchange of technology and investments between countries, he often has to respond to challenges and attend to difficulties diplomatically.

As a matter of fact, after completing his compulsory three-year military service, he had backpacked through many countries in Asia. He has seen for himself the changes within Thailand and Cambodia over the years. From his rich experience, H. E. Dr Meir will share at the Peace Summit of Emerging Leaders, the importance of eliminating and fighting discrimination of all kinds and why it is everybody’s responsibility to do that.

Ayik Chut Deng 

Ayik Chut was a child soldier in South Sudan, who fought in Ethiopia and Sudan. After some years as a child soldier in South Sudan, Ayik Chut ended up as a refugee in Australia.

As a boy living in the Dinka tribe in what is now South Sudan, the youngest country in the world, Ayik Chut Deng was a member of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army. During his time as a child soldier, he witnessed unspeakable violence and was regularly tortured by the older boys. 

At age nineteen, he and his family escaped the conflict in Sudan and resettled in Toowoomba, Australia. However, adjusting to his new life in Queensland was more difficult than he anticipated. He was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder that was misdiagnosed as schizophrenia, leading to years of erratic behaviour having been given the wrong medication. He struggled with drugs and alcohol, fought with his family and found himself in trouble with the law before coming to the painful realisation that his behaviour was putting his life, as well as the lives of his loved ones, at risk.

As an adult now living in Brisbane, Ayik is a father, working as an actor and volunteering at his local youth centre. Overcoming his childhood of violence, torture and indescribable horror became a lifelong process of learning, making right choices and taking on challenges that included a remarkable chance encounter with a figure from his past, and an appearance on national television.

Ayik Chut Deng will share with us his painful childhood and the lessons learnt at the Peace Summit of Emerging Leaders.

Derek Schwartz

Derek still remembers the first time he took a life. It happened in Fallujah, Iraq, during his first deployment there as a United States Marine. Despite the blood, sweat, and tears that he experienced as a solider, he continued proudly serving his country in Haiti and Afghanistan. 

After returning from these horrific and violent years abroad, Derek was haunted by the brutal scenes he’d witnessed and the lives that were taken by him and others. This led to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting in alcoholism. Fortunately, he met a medical practitioner that encouraged him to seek professional treatment for his PTSD and for his traumatic brain injury – that person is now his wife, Linsey, who continues to inspire him towards healing. 

In order for the world to stop and to avoid future battles, Derek believes that the current and the next generation of world leaders need to be instructed on the importance of Peace Building. It is also critical for Emerging Humanitarian Affairs Peace Ambassadors to grasp fully the effects of war, not only on the individual but also on nations, in order to fully comprehend the importance of peace among nations. To Derek, peace is an inner journey towards acceptance of the self and using this inner understanding to become a Peace Builder.

Derek will share his experience in the war zones at the Peace Summit of Emerging Leaders.

Imrana Alhaji Buba experienced first-hand the horrifying acts of terrorism at a very young age. He is from Potiskum, a town in North-east Nigeria until the terrorist group Boko Haram surfaced. His family was directly affected by the bombings carried out during an attack by the terrorist group and his father murdered in cold blood.

Far from becoming intimidated by the violence, Imrana founded the Youth Coalition Against Terrorism, a volunteer-based youth-led organization working to unite youth against violent extremism in north-eastern Nigeria. He was then only 17 years old.

He started with nothing. He had zero budget. But he was passionate and wanted to do something to stop the acts of terror. His passion and determination drove him to do many things and ultimately, to succeed in doing what he had set out to do.

Imrana’s organization has 46 chapters throughout North-eastern Nigeria. Noticing that most people who join extremist groups are vulnerable and suffering, for example, from unemployment, Imran thought that the best way to combat extremism was through skill acquisition training for the unemployed. The organization also offers psycho-social support for victims of Boko Haram through activities like sports and theatre, to engage the young people.

Imrana has a message for young leaders considering to become agents of change: “Start now. You don’t need to wait. Peace is a language we all speak.”

Rahila Haidary

Rahila knows the importance of peace better than most people her age. Growing up in the Uruzgan province of Afghanistan, which was then under Taliban rule, Rahila and her family survived the Hazara Genocide, wars and conflicts in Afghanistan. She was denied the basic right to go to school; boys, not girls, are only allowed to receive an education in her province. 

At the age of six, not willing to be denied her education, Rahila tried to find a way to go to school, just like the boys in her town. Bravely, she dressed up like a boy in an attempt to go unnoticed. Her life was threatened by the Taliban rulers and she had to escape her country.

Rahila, currently 23, migrated to Australia in 2011. She is a strong advocate for equality and social justice and sees inclusion and equality as the ultimate ways to achieve a peaceful society.

Zak Ebrahim

Zak was only seven years old when, on November 5, 1990, his father, El-Sayyid Nosair, shot and killed the leader of the Jewish Defence League. While in prison, Nosair helped plan the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. In one of his infamous video messages, Osama bin Laden urged the world to “Remember El-Sayyid Nosair.”

For Zak, a childhood of terrorism was all he knew. After his father’s incarceration, his family moved more than twenty times, hunted and persecuted for the crimes of his father. Though his radicalized father and uncles modelled fanatical beliefs, the hateful ideas never resonated with the shy, awkward boy. The older he grew, the more fully Ebrahim grasped the horrific depths of his father’s acts. The more he understood, the more he resolved to dedicate his life to promoting peace.

In the book, “The Terrorist’s Son”, Ebrahim traced his remarkable journey to escape his father’s terrible legacy. Crisscrossing the eastern United States, from Pittsburgh to Memphis, from a mosque in Jersey City to the Busch Gardens theme park in Tampa, The Terrorist’s Son is the story of a boy inculcated in dogma and hate – a boy presumed to follow in his father’s footsteps, and the man who chose to walk a different path.

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