There are lives. Then there are extraordinary lives.
A Dream for Peace (Dr. Ghoulem Berrah Foundation) is the personal memoir of Dr. Ghoulem Berrah, tracking his incredible journey as a freedom fighter for the independence of his homeland Algeria, a man of science, and international diplomat who dedicated his entire life to working for peace.
It was a life that “transcended the typical norm for high achievers, gone further than most humans in professional achievements and spiritual adeptness, yet those characteristics did not define his humble nature,” says editor Nana Yalley.
In his lifetime, Dr. Berrah sat “in the upper echelons of power…with diverse and cultured political leaders.” His story, says Yalley, “is intricately woven in a delicately balanced oratorical sampling of episodes that chronicle a life’s journey, seemingly hapless at times, yet with successful outcomes that serve as proof that his mission here on earth was ordained by a higher power.”
Although Dr. Berrah died in 2011, the French edition of his story was published last year, and it is launching in the U.S. later this year, being published by Dr. Ghoulem Berrah Foundation.
So where to begin describing this magnificent life?
Young Ghoulem Berrah became a freedom fighter for the independence of Algeria. While an activist medical student in Bordeaux, France, he was pursued by the police and fled the country. The book details his escape, crawling on his hands and knees for hours, only to be arrested upon arriving in Pamplona, Spain.
In his early twenties, he represented the Algerian Liberation Front in China, and met Chairman Mao Zedong. And in just another few months, he landed in New York as he traveled to Indiana University as a Fulbright Scholar. His research spearheaded innovations that impacted the world of biological sciences, and he was named an American Man of Science and made a permanent member of the New York Academy of Science, as well as becoming a lecturer at the Yale School of Medicine.
A chance New York encounter in 1962 with President John F. Kennedy’s diplomatic guest Felix Houphouët-Boigny, president of Côte d’Ivoire, began Dr. Berrah’s life as a diplomat. Concerned by the lack of worldwide peace, he accepted an offer to serve in Africa as a Special Advisor, Emissary, and Ambassador at Large. Here he faced the turmoil of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict head on, challenged the status quo and embraced both dialogue and peace. In 1976, he initiated the first secret meeting between the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestine Peace and the PLO of Chairman Arafat.
His decision to “answer the call of Africa” was a defining moment. “My most esteemed wish,” he writes, “was to support Africa’s development and create conditions to allow every newly independent country to excel among the concert of nations.”
“Reaching that milestone,” he continues, “would not only enhance relations among all nations, but more importantly, it would motivate the youth of the world to interact in harmony.”
As a diplomat, Dr. Berrah says, “I risked my life in the pursuit of peace, working with organizations like the ICIPP and the PLO. I sat in think tanks with the likes of General Peled and Dr. Isam Sartawi and searched for ways to bring Israeli and Palestinian representatives to the table.”
“Though the road to peace has been painfully littered with dangerous outcomes, achieving the ultimate goal in the very near future would go a long way to honor heroic efforts of those who have been martyred.”
A devout Muslim, Dr. Berrah tried to instill a spirit of cooperation and respect among people of different faiths.
“The world as we have come to know it has become a place that yearns for a true understanding of the faiths,” he said. “Why should mankind continue to be preoccupied by religious differences rather than finding the common ground where we can all relate?”
Naturally, there was the personal, human side to Dr. Berrah. Yalley describes what he called a “repetitive narrative” that always occurred when he and Dr. Berrah were together, providing a glowing tribute to his personality. “Each time we were together, he would interrupt our conversation as soon as his wife left his side, just to say how much he adored her….He would go on and on until she returned, and then he would immediately switch back to the conversation.”
Dr. Berrah was a force on the world stage, but was humble as well.
Adds Yalley, “Never have I known an individual with so much compassion for his fellow brethren, always chasing a selfless drive to do what was best to achieve peace.”
This is a fascinating memoir written by a fascinating man. If you enjoy character studies of the highest order, don’t miss this marvelous autobiography.
A Dream for Peace is now available for purchase.
About Dr. Ghoulem Berrah
His Excellency Dr. Ghoulem Berrah was a recognized scientist in 1963, an Ambassador and Special Assistant to President Felix Houphouët-Boigny of the Ivory Coast from 1965 to 1993. His memoir, A Dream for Peace, chronicles his incredible life and his quest for world peace. His enduring work continues in the Dr. Ghoulem Berrah Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to developing the Dr. Ghoulem Berrah Interfaith Center, which ensures that his dream of establishing concord and fraternal harmony among people of all faiths will become a reality. He died in 2011. This memoir was compiled by editor Nana Yalley.