Telos Group works to educate individuals on the deeply rooted issues plaguing our communities. Telos organizes immersive trips to areas experiencing conflict in order to train peacemakers who can repair relationships and strengthen communities. Telos is working to replace violence, division, and distrust with empathy; training their peacemakers to see others’ struggles as their own; and cultivating the skills that will spark action.
Greg Khalil, the Founder of Telos Group, delivered his Stand at Stand Together Foundation’s March Catalyst Summit, hosted at Mobile Loaves & Fishes’ Community First! Village in Austin, Texas.
The 14th century poet Hafez warned, “The small man builds cages for everyone.”
In 2004, Greg Khalil, a progressive, California-born and bred lawyer of Palestinian ancestry, would have built a cage for Todd Deatherage — if they had met in the United States. They come from very different cultural backgrounds and political ideologies, so Greg would never have seen Todd as someone he could never work with, much less like.
At the time, however, Greg was advising Palestinian leaders on peace negotiations with Israel while Todd, a white Evangelical Christian from Arkansas, was a political appointee in President George W. Bush’s State Department. If he went ahead and built that cage for Todd, Greg would have no chance of working with him to advance Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. He told Stand Together Foundation’s March 2022 Catalyst Summit, “I knew if I was serious about peace, Todd was exactly the person I needed to reach.”
To help Todd better understand the Palestinians’ perspectives, Greg invited Todd to spend a day engaging Palestinian stories and realities. Todd later told Greg the experience was life changing. It helped Todd empathize and began to help him see a larger set of stories and opportunities for peace.
At a coffee shop in the United States five years later, Greg proposed another radical idea to Todd: he wanted to start an organization that would take diverse groups of U.S. leaders and members of their communities to Israel and Palestine to hear from people on the ground, just like Todd had done. He wanted to create a community for peace.
The Telos Group was born. For Telos, the first step of forming a community of peacemakers is to immerse a cohort of people in a shared, transformative experience — the signature Telos trip.
After hundreds of leaders joined trips to Israel and Palestine to hear stories there, alumni of the program came to Greg and Todd with yet another idea: bring these events to the backyards of American families. These alumni wanted to help their fellow citizens come together across the most difficult issues our society faces such as immigration, racial justice, and poverty.
At the heart of The Telos Group’s peacemaking work is storytelling. Greg told the Stand Together Foundation Catalyst Summit that storytelling can be both cage and key. We tell stories about our enemies, and we blame them for all that is wrong in the world. But sharing stories across difference also has the potential to free people of their conscious and unconscious biases.
People cannot continue to blame the enemies they have put in cages and expect things to improve in the world, Greg told the Stand Together Foundation Catalyst Summit. They have to humbly learn and do the work of peacemaking.
“If you do this locally, you do this universally,” Greg concluded.