Muna Al Sheikh (Palestine/Jordan/USA): peacebuilder and leader of interfaith dialogue

“Diversity is a rainbow of cultures, beliefs, attitudes, races and values that constitutes humanity in its wholeness. Understanding our differences and respecting our stories while validating others leads to nourishment of minds and hearts. When we are heard and validated, it opens valleys of effective discussions and heals deep emotional wounds, this introduces a new cognitive and spiritual way of learning and adaptation, it also challenges us to see what lies beyond our mental and emotional comfort zone, where all growth resides.

Every radical change, breakthrough or breakdown, and existential pain helped me to become who I am today. My Middle Eastern background, with all the political and social charge that entails, heightens my passion for diversity and social inclusiveness. I know in the depth of my heart that I am meant to spread compassion, unity and understanding of diversity as well as to help seed peace inward and outward.”

I am Muna- a Middle Eastern woman, born in the United Arab Emirates and raised in Jordan to Palestinian parents in the Arabic Islamic culture. After considerable soul-heart searching, I embarked on a life-transforming journey in 2008; coming to America to seek higher education in mental health counseling, while exploring the different cultures, communities and religions of this country.

I was raised a Sunni Muslim in Jordan. It has a very rich tradition and sophisticated culture, of which I was very proud yet conflicted. The role of politics enmeshed with cultural oppression in the Arab world caused me agony, and the role the Western countries played politically in that area caused me pain, anger, and the urge to seek knowledge in understanding the world and humanity better.

In 2005, I moved from Jordan to Dubai, and had another opportunity to step outside the cultural and social norms of my upbringing. In 2008, I moved to the U.S. to pursue a Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling. After the completion of the Masters program, I moved to California to join a Ph.D. program in Transpersonal Psychology. This program deepened my knowledge emotionally, spiritually and academically.

Before coming to the States, I accumulated most of my professional experience in executive office management and customer service over the course of eight years in Dubai, Jordan and Qatar. During my Masters internship in the US, I counseled children in after school programs and worked with clients of substance abuse. After graduation, I worked with kids and adults in the foster care system. I had clients from multiple ethnic backgrounds, and counseled women with various life difficulties as a coach during my PhD program in Palo Alto, California.

In 2013, I co-led two workshops; one on embracing diversity, and one was a visioning retreat for women. In 2016, I began facilitating workshops on building inner and outer peace, I am expanding these workshops this year and partnering with other healers in the field. In my workshops, I use storytelling, music, dance, meditation, and a variety of communication exercises to help participants cultivate compassion and understanding of people’s differences. Currently, in addition to workshops on peace building, I help men in the prison system to be more aware of their choices and create better lives for themselves behind bars and for their families outside the prison.