Image 1 of 7: A ring of peace: Only a month after a bombing killed 23 Coptic Christians, Christians in Egypt's Tahrir Square joined hands to form a protective ring around fellow Muslim protestors allowing them to pray. If only more such rings could be formed in every neighborhood, every city and every country. Keep the faith!
Image 1 of 7: A most unlikely alliance: Darth Vader seemed more likely to join the Jedi Knights than Assad’s regime cooperating with the rebels. But the unthinkable happened. Rebels and government forces held fire to help 1,800 residents of Mouadamiya evacuate. Think you can’t work out your differences with your real life nemesis? Think again.
Image 1 of 7: Road rescue: When heavy rainfall caused flooding in the town of Saudi Arabia, eighteen people were trapped inside 6 cars. They seemed condemned to a watery fate when a 11 year-old boy asked his mother for keys to the bulldozer. He then got all of the trapped people to safety. Time to ease up on that horn and let a fellow driver (or child) pass?
Image 1 of 7: Have blood; will donate: When vandals burned Cairo's Arab Contractors Blood Bank to the ground, Egyptian superstar Tamer Hosny was the first to sign up to donate blood. He asked all of his fans to follow suit. Talk about the power of celebrity to drive something else than mere ticket sales.
Image 1 of 7: It's My Choice: Cleric Yousuf Badri told Egyptian TV host Riham Said to don a hijab. She told him she would wear a hijab to please God and not him. She then exposed the cleric who, in a not so holy manner, had demanded 1,000 pounds for the interview. Good on her! In 2014, can we stop being hypocrites? Can we let women make their own decisions?
Image 1 of 7: We are all Syrians: More than 2.5 million people have fled their homes in Syria. When Molly Rorick and Bo White got married, they didn’t ask for gifts. Instead they asked their wedding guests to make a donation towards relief efforts. We should all take a page from this couple. Let's do whatever we can to help our Syrian brothers and sisters.
Image 1 of 7: Humans first: There is a common humanity in people that compels us to reach out a helping hand, even when it is at odds with “patriotism.” Israeli organization Yesh Din fought a legal battle to help Palestinian farmers from the village of Burka win back their land that had been appropriated for a settlement. Perhaps peace is possible?
When it comes to newspapers nowadays, it seems that all of the ink on the printing press is devoted to printing negative headlines. Suicide bombings. Murders. Robberies. These negative announcements are especially pronounced when it comes to news from the Middle East. In most Western media outlets, the words “Middle East” and “terrorism” are never far away from each other.
But fact is more varied than these fictions. The truth is that many people in the Middle East live out their entire lives without ever witnessing a beheading, bombing or heightened conflict. Most of us live in communities sharing jokes, food and jood (jokes told over food). The Arabs are among the most hospitable people in the world, and even neighbors will go out of their way to help you as though they were not a next door resident, but rather, a family member.
In a region where religion is omnipresent, people make every effort to live by their Holy Book - be it the Quran (For true servants of the Gracious, are they who walk gently on the earth, and who whenever the jahilun address them, reply “Peace!”) or for that matter, the Holy Bible (Love thy neighbor like thyself).
Even in times of conflict, people will reach deep within their beings (where our goodness resides) and lend a helping hand, overcome adversity or display immense strength of character that can inspire others.
So in the midst of all the suffering of 2013 and at the start of a new year, here are seven heartfelt acts from the Middle East that will restore your faith for a peaceful and prosperous 2014.