XOXO: Love and Forgiveness Exhibit at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. Larry Rippel

Drama between roommates, violence in Afghanistan, the Jordan Miles case.

Three conflicts, one room.

These and many other conflicts were discussed at an event Friday evening at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh when the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh led a conversation on ‘Geopolitics of Emotion: Peace and Reconciliation; Love and Forgiveness.’

Founder and National Director of the Constant and Never Ending Improvement Program, Azim Khamisa, was one of seven international board members who took part in the conversation.

He knows these conversations too well. His only son was a victim of gang violence, senselessly murdered in 1995 while he was delivering pizzas as a college student in La Jolla, California.

His son, Tariq, was lured to a bogus address.

“As he was about to leave, he was accosted by four youth gang members,” says Khamisa. “Three of them were 14, the leader of the gang was 18 years old. It was a gang initiation–wrong place, wrong time.”

After time, Khamisa forgave his son’s murderer and connected with the 14-year-old’s grandfather to tell their story through Khamisa’s organization, the Tariq Khamisa Foundation.

Almost 20 years later, the duo is still working together to spread the message of stopping youth violence.

The warning message greeting the viewer before the exhibit–“You are about to enter an exhibit about feelings. This will be fun and sometimes, scary”—in some sense reflected the conversations among the nearly 50 attendees of Friday evening’s event.

First, people paired up to talk about a certain conflict, then each table reflected on the conflict by asking questions such as: What is the conflict and Who is being harmed? Each table presented points about their discussion, which ranged from local to global issues.

“This is a new thing for us in order to address the big issues of life,” says the Museum’s Executive Director Jane Werner. “Is there anything bigger than love and forgiveness?”

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi discusses Afghanistan conflict at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh/Photo by Amanda King
Dr. Sakena Yacoobi discusses Afghanistan conflict at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh/Photo by Amanda King

Also present at the discussion was Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, a 2014 Nobel Peace prize nominee who teaches love and forgiveness every day in Afghanistan as the founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning, a NGO helping address the problem of inadequate access to education and health services for Afghans—especially women and children.

Yacoobi and the rest of the rest of the board members were invited to spend the afternoon at the museum to take in the exhibit.

“When I came here to Pittsburgh to see how it (the exhibit) has impacted the children, it made me feel so happy that I came,” says Yacoobi. “I saw how amazing these children are being challenged by their parents and by the person who was facilitating the activity. They really felt the personal touch of love and being loved.”

Yacoobi says that as an educationalist, she believes early childhood education is the most important part of a child’s life.

“Our children are the future of the country,” says Yacoobi. “Especially for me–a person living in a conflict zone trying to educate the youth, I can see the impact of education (in this exhibit). I am going to carry every bit of this in Afghanistan.” 

‘XOXO: An Exhibit about Love and Forgiveness’ runs through August 14 at the Children’s Museum.

Amanda King

Amanda King is a freelance multimedia journalist whose work can be seen on MSNBC.COM and a number of local publications, from the Post-Gazette to the Beaver County Times. A former journalist for the Bucks...