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Search for Common Ground Celebrates Promoters of Peace

American songwriter Peter Yarrow singing in English and Afghan Humayun Khan, in Pashto, at the Search for Common Grounds peace awards ceremony.

For the past 13 years, the US organization Search for Common Ground has celebrated individuals and groups that work on conflict resolution. This year, Search for Common Ground recognized groups that use a variety of tools to inspire others to overcome division and heal wounds of the past.

American songwriter Peter Yarrow singing in English and Afghan Humayun Khan, in Pashto, set the tone at the awards ceremony.

John Marks, president of Search for Common Ground, said "We think the world should solve its problems peacefully in ways that enhance all the sides involved in conflict and these are people who have had really great successes."

For many years, Rugby in South Africa was considered a white man's game.

But four years after his release from prison, Nelson Mandela used South Africa's national team to unite the nation.

Joel Stransky scored the winning goal in the 1995 World Cup and, afterwards, used sports for finding common ground. "The biggest lesson for me is that sports is a wonderful conduit to uplifting, to help different societies in need, not only raising money but helping everyone reach a common goal," he said.

Nur al-Hussein, former Queen of Jordan, recognized the film producers of Just Vision.

They financed the documentary Budrus about Israelis and Palestinians who banded together to peacefully protest and prevent Israel's security barrier from dividing a Palestinian village.

"Thank you Just Vision for shining so courageously a light on the people and communities in our region who are committed to building a more just, compassionate and peaceful future together," said the former queen.

Ronit Avni, Just Vision's founder, said, "Over the years we have learned how important it is for ordinary people to participate in the process of conflict resolution."

Common Ground also recognized efforts to bridge the divide between descendents of Thomas Jefferson, the third American president.

He had children from his relationship with Sally Hemings, a black woman and one of his slaves. He also had children with his wife Martha, who was white.

Julia Jefferson, David Works and Shay Banks-Young are leading a dialogue about race in America because they share a common bloodline. "You can just set down and listen to the other person, talk, share what you feel, pass the ugliness so you can get to the grace of what we are," said Banks-Young.

An effort to build a new generation of leaders who foster cooperation among people of different faiths was also honored.

Eboo Patel founded the Interfaith Youth Corps and won the award. "We have to make sure that faith is a bridge of cooperation and not a barrier for division," he said.

These peacemakers used different tools to find common ground.

Singing for tolerance seemed to be a fitting way to promote the search for common ground.