Nejoud Al-Yagout, founder of Co-Exist. — Photo by Abdulaziz Safar Ali

In January 2017, local writer and poet Nejoud Al-Yagout founded Co-Exist Kuwait. Coexistence is an idea which is mainstream among many of the world’s most developed nations. However, Yagout noticed a growing intolerance in the collective mindset that was quite pronounced locally; and voila - Co-Exist Kuwait was born.

Every month, Co-Exist Kuwait hosts various events that bring people together to inspire one another and spread the message of universality. Today, we celebrate the initiative’s first birthday by taking a closer look into Yagout’s as yet unimplemented vision for a nation that coexists in harmony despite differences.

Kuwait Times: How were you personally influenced to create Co-Exist Kuwait? What were your ideas and how did you think people would respond to it at the beginning?

Nejoud Al-Yagout: There was a part of me that was awakening, and it manifested itself on the principles of oneness. The idea was to invite myself and others in Kuwait to be a part of a community that reflects universality, particularly where belief systems and so-called minorities are concerned. I knew not everyone would come to the party, but the invitation was sent out to all who heard about it.

KT: Coexistence is a way of bringing people of different beliefs and cultures together. What kind of interaction do you have with the kindred spirits who believe in the initiative?

Yagout: One indelible highlight, in terms of interaction, was during the Concert of Coexistence in December. The crowd was brimming with people of various nationalities and faiths. We barely spoke. It was all about the music and the silent language of unity. Our local scene is tiny, and can border on exclusivity; so it was grand not knowing most of the people in the room. A testament to coexistence!

KT: Your newspaper articles receive a lot of attention. How do you react to all the responses and comments?

Yagout: Sometimes, readers elevate me to a spiritual status I do not deserve. My pen (or keyboard) is a flashlight in my own darkness, first and foremost, navigating me toward self-betterment. I am facing my own demons, which is why I tend to use the pronoun “we” and not “they” in the majority of my articles. It is a shocking lesson in humility to find that the negative entities out there are in me. And, I also revel in the knowledge, as it frees me from the shackles of denial. Nonetheless, when hearts are overjoyed by something I write, it makes my day, nay my week. And when minds are offended, I remind myself that the world is upside-down, and so am I.

KT: The gratitude by your supporters must surely motivate you to keep writing!

Yagout: The gratitude itself strengthens the ego - the false sense of self - which keeps me stuck during the ascension process. I have to be careful. But by eventually realigning myself, it may become easier to grasp the notion that I am - most likely - not the doer. Here lies the battle. Still, regardless, it motivates me for now. Yes.

KT: Do you think that we will all evolve toward coexistence, or do you think of it as a personal choice?

Yagout: We seem to be evolving into who we originally are - paradoxically. I don’t think it is a personal choice as much as it is about remembering our essence, but who knows?

KT: Last month, you were asked to be a speaker at the Annual Bangladeshi Reunion. Were you thrilled to be the only citizen of Kuwait at the event?

Yagout: Beyond thrilled! As long as we are coming together, the numbers don’t matter! Rachna - who is a host of the Kuwait-Bangla radio station at the ministry and a dear friend - personally invited me. Her mission is to host events where more Kuwaitis can interact with her fellow nationals. She works tirelessly to bridge the divide between us. Isn’t it tragic that this issue even exists?

KT: Lastly, describe your passion for Co-Exist Kuwait in one word?

Yagout: Unyielding.

Instagram: @coexistkuwait [email protected]

By Ashlyn Sequeira and Snehika Srivastava