I Am Your Protector is a community of people who speak out and stand up for one another other across dimensions of religion, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. Through our work, we transcend perceived lines of division between different communities and endeavor to change the way people view the “other”. We share knowledge, stories, and tools that inspire people to become each other’s protectors.
Whether through stories circulating in the media or rhetoric dominating the political sphere, we are currently overexposed to narratives that inspire fragmentation, polarization, fear, and hatred towards certain groups and communities. At the same time, we are underexposed to positive and uplifting messages that encourage unity and fellowship. Despite there being countless people who stand up for one another, their stories rarely reach us and fail to get the attention they deserve. This imbalance of information alters and shapes the manner in which we treat and engage with people who are ‘different’ from us.
Hatred towards a certain group becomes legitimized and accepted when the latter is depicted as an overall threat to others’ safety and wellbeing. I Am Your Protector exposes stories indicating that no group or community constitutes a monolithic entity, as even during times of conflict and war people have shown great bravery and risked their own lives to aid those on the ‘other side’.
Witnessing acts of aggression and oppression- from bullying to genocide- we are faced with the choice of turning a blind eye and remaining silent or speaking up and taking action. I Am Your Protector is apolitical and areligious. We expose stories of individuals, regardless of their group affiliation, who stand up for one another. We take no political stance as we cover stories of heroism and compassion in conflict zones around the world. Rather, we share stories that are rarely or never exposed, in order to counter the perception that these kinds of stories aren’t possible or don’t exist.
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Exhibition engagement and conversations featuring Protectors, youth share about different communities standing up for each other.
The Refugee festival in New York featured a collection of Refugee Protectors. Displaced Kitchen highlighted Chefugees (refugee chefs) who shared their most nostalgic dishes along with the stories of their journey to safety.
Shared Studio invites us to have conversations face to face with people in an other part of the world as if we were in the same room.
I Am Your Protector has the pleasure to partner with Shared Studio and having conversations wile sharing a meal together from New York with Kabul and Heart in Afghanistan. It felt like meeting with new friends at coffeeshop, sharing about our personal lives, our views on the world and laughing together.
Photo credit: Yadin Goldman and Shared Studio
The London Mayor’s office hosted and featured I Am Your Protector at the City Hall. The collection of Protectors from London were exhibited in conjunction with National Hate Crime Awareness Week and open to the public for 3 weeks in October.
I Am Your Protector honored and highlighted Protectors from London with an award ceremony and reception to celebrate them, who inspire us and who reflect the best of the spirit of this unique, diverse and open city, committed to the idea of people standing up for each other, of being each other’s Protectors.
Photo credit: Eva Scherly
NYU, Design for America and I Am Your Protector partnered on a Human Centered Design Thinking Bootcamp to melt hate in innovative ways. The bootcamp was filled with intense learning, sparkling creativity and laughter. It was led by Anne-Laure Fayard, Professor of Technology Management and Innovation at NYU, is also the faculty advisor for the NYU studio of Design for America who aims to tackle social issues through human-centered design. Before teaching in New York, she was a faculty member at INSEAD, in Singapore and in Fontainebleau. She has also been visiting scholar with the Center of Sociology of Innovation at Ecole des Mines in Paris and with Design London and the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group at Imperial College in London.
The I Am Your Protector TV and Radio show aired over 20 episodes in the Balkans, featuring Protectors, members of various religious and ethnic communities, sociologists, historians to highlight testimonies and stories of Protectors reminding us how we can change the course of history when we rise as each other’s Protectors. Today we can melt hate and rise as each other’s protectors.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate, former Secretary-General of the United Nations
Head of the ethics sector at the European Commission
Director-General of the United Nations Headquarters, Geneva
Executive Director of the USC Spielberg Shoah Foundation
Senior adviser to king Mohammed VI of Morocco
President & CEO at Search for Common Ground
Mayor of New York City
Mayor of London
I Am Your Protector’s Advisory Board
André Azoulay He has been King Hassan II and is now King Mohammed VI’s Special Advisor. He also chairs the Committee of Wise Men for the Alliance of Civilizations at the United Nations, is Deputy Chairman of the Foundation of the three cultures and three religions, administrator of the Mediterranean Forum as well as Goodwill Ambassador of Monaco and the President of the Anna Lindh Foundation.
Muddassar Ahmed is founding Managing Partner at Unitas Communications Ltd, a strategic communications consultancy, where he’s lead on projects for the United Nations, US State Department, the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) amongst many others. He also founding President of the Concordia Forum, an annual retreat for Western Muslim leaders. In addition, he’s President of the John Adams Society, the UK’s official US State Dept. IVLP Association. He’s a Director of the European Network of (US State Dept) American Alumni, HRH Prince’s Youth Business International & Faith’s Forum for London. He also recently completed a term as an Independent Advisor to the UK Government on combatting anti-Muslim hatred. He has been listed for 3 years in a row as amongst the 500 most influential Muslims globally.
Shamil Idriss President and CEO of Search for Common Ground, the world’s largest dedicated peacebuilding organization. He has led Search’s efforts to end violent conflict in more than 35 countries globally, including some of the most devastating conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa. Shamil was appointed in 2005 by United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Kofi Annan as Deputy Director of the UN Alliance of Civilizations.
Stephen Smith Executive Director of the USC Spielberg Shoah Foundation, holds the UNESCO Chair on Genocide Education, Professor of Religion at the University of Southern California. He is the founder of the United Kingdom Holocaust Centre in Nottinghamshire, England and cofounded the Aegis Trust for the prevention of crimes against humanity and genocide.
Leena Nasser is the Executive Director of The Chopra Institute. She has a graduate degree in Mind Brain and Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She specializes in the intersection of neuroscience, cognitive psychology and education. She explores the question of how experiential storytelling, told orally, or spatially impacts the mind-brain connection, identity and behavior.
Jim Dratwa has held several positions of great responsibility in that regard at the European Commission and now heads the ethics sector in BEPA (the Bureau of European Policy Advisers to the President of the European Commission), Dratwa is also the Secretary-General of the EC International Dialogue on Bioethics.
Cynthia Guyer is the Executive Director of Global Dignity an international organization building a movement of dignity-centered leaders who are working towards a world where compassion, understanding and love triumph over intolerance. She began her career working in the American South on civil rights and the renewal of poor, rural communities at Highlander Center, one of the most important gathering places during the Civil Rights Movement for leaders, young activists and artists. She later joined Highlander’s Board, with the honor of serving with both Rosa Parks and Septima Clark, who started the legendary Freedom Schools throughout the South. Cynthia was the founding executive director of the Portland Schools Foundation, which played a leadership role in supporting school leaders, teachers and their communities as they turned around the City’s high-poverty, low-performing schools into high-achieving, dynamic learning communities. Cynthia has served as Board Chair and a Board Member of a number of foundations supporting economic and social justice in the United States.She was the Director of External Affairs for the Rubin Museum of Art.
Sarah Malachowski is a strategy lead at frog design with a focus on the nexus of organizational design, innovation, and impact. In her 10 years of experience, she has worked with clients at the leadership level at IBM, the Emerson Institute, American Express, AARP, and the Robert F. Kennedy Foundation on large-scale corporate transformation and societal movement strategy.
Prior to this position, she spent her career pursuing different forms of impact—from gender-based violence programs in conflict zones in Colombia with Mercy Corps, to impact investing in Pakistan with Acumen, and venture capital in Zimbabwe with Columbia Business School. Sarah holds a Masters Degree from the School of International Public Affairs at Columbia University and a BA in International Affairs at the University of Southern California.
On a personal note, Sarah’s grandparents were married in Karachi, Pakistan and later raised her mother in New Delhi, India. They later marched in Selma for Civil Rights and registered voters across the South. She has followed in her family’s footsteps, seeking to design change for those who need it most.
Tamar Miller former Director of Leadership Development and Executive Director of the Institute for Social and Economic Policy in the Middle East at Harvard’s Kennedy School. She is an organizing strategist for social benefit programs, foundations, institutions of higher learning, and religious organizations. She was on the founding board of the Alliance for Middle East Peace and is currently advisor to the Albert E. Marks Charitable Trust.
Hussein Rashid is the founder of islamicate, L3C, a consultancy focusing on religious literacy and cultural competency. Dr. Hussein holds a PhD in Near Eastern Cultures from Harvard University. He is a contingent faculty member and has taught at Hofstra University, Fordham University, Iona College, Virginia Theological Seminary, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, SUNY Old Westbury, and Columbia University
Mehnaz Afridi is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College.
Zara Mirza has over 18 years experience in global marketing, focused on building mission driven brands and using creativity to help change perception and behaviors.
Carol Tambor established the Carol Tambor Theatrical Foundation in 2004 to support international theatre artists seen at the annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe. She gives the Best of Edinburgh Award each August to at least one new work. Her Award is considered the highest recognition of dramatic success at the Festival.
I Am Your Protector’s Team
Co-Director, Dani Laurence Andrea Varadi born as a political refugee from Hungary in Switzerland, lived in the Middle East and in Paris, she is the founder and Co-Director of I Am Your Protector she has been involved in various initiatives, campaigns and projects building in the fields of conflict resolution, interfaith and identifying the root causes and mechanism of how hatred, discrimination, persecution and even extermination are built and how to prevent them. She has been presenting and advising to foundations, organizations, international conferences and universities.
Co-Director, Aziz Abu Sarah Former Executive Director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University (2009-2015), National Geographic Explorer and Cultural Educator, he produced the National Geographic series Conflict Zone. Aziz has received numerous awards, including the Goldberg Prize for Peace in the Middle East from the Institute of International Education, the Silver Rose Award from the European Parliament, the Eisenhower Medallion from People to People International, and the Eliav-Sartawi Award for Middle Eastern Journalism from Search for Common Ground.
Head of New York Chapter, Sara Camnasio is a science educator, and a UX designer in training. She is currently a Master’s student at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering, focusing on technology and media. She graduated cum laude from the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College with a degree in physics and a minor in dance. She was as an assistant researcher in the Astrophysics department at the American Museum of Natural History, TEDxCUNY speaker she promotes women’s participation in science. In 2015, she received an Avon-Tukman fellowship and a Mellon Foundation grant to direct, produce and curate a multi-disciplinary event around the topic of humans in space.
Head of Los Angeles Chapter, Mara Burger held a number of positions at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), including coordinator roles and designed and led leadership programs. She has since a decade been involved with cross-cultural and interfaith dialogue and is trained in dialogue facilitation. She is currently pursuing her MPA at the University of Southern California and earned her B.A. in psychology and legal studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Head of Pakistan Chapter, Rizwan is active in the field of interfaith harmony and intercultural dialogues in Pakistan, he has been selected to contribute to the National Human development Report by United Nations Development Program Pakistan where he raised the issues about marginalized communities of Pakistan and suggestions of solutions. He also works on strengthening marginalized communities through small and medium enterprises development with technical and financial support.
Head of United Kingdom chapter, Sara Conway is the Partnership Manager at Young Barnet Foundation, she joined the voluntary sector after a career in communications and the music sector. She has worked and volunteered for a range of charities and social enterprises in the children and youth sectors including: Bigga Fish; Spread a Smile; and One to One Children’s Fund. Sara is co-founder of Unity, an interfaith friendship and social action volunteering group in North London and the surrounding area, working with a range of local and international organizations.
Head of education, Kelly Alpert Vest, has been a pioneer in the field of cross-cultural and interfaith programming. Her award winning initiatives have changed the lives and attitudes of many, helping to foster sharing and understanding among some of the most conflicted communities in the world. She conceived and lead HAMSA (Heroes Are Made through Service and Action). Her Seeds of Change program, awarded honors by the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center. She is one of the creators of the No Place For Hate® campaign.
Director of Content Curation, Yair Oded, is a writer and editor with a background in humanitarian work, education, and performance art. He is the US editor at Screen Shot Magazine (London) and Fairplanet Magazine (Berlin), and former relief worker at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Head of IT, Rozi Rahmanan, founder and director of Eyes On the Net
Head of Design, Gulraiz Khan, Designer and Lecturer, Humanities & Social Sciences Habib University
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I Am Your Protector is a 501C3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization in the United-States