Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Peacemaking: An Anti-Venom

I receive email updates from Christian Peacemaking Teams. Here's an interesting one I just received, thought I'd share it. The blog post was written by a member of the October 2010 CPT delegation to Iraqi Kurdistan. To read the entire post or to see the actual blog, click here.

On Sunday our delegation visited Amna Suraka, a prison where Saddam Hussein
kept Kurdish dissidents and political prisoners. We walked through the
facility and listened to our guide tell us stories of merciless torture,
overcrowded cells, and unsanitary conditions for men, women, and children.
On Monday we travelled southeast to the village of Halabjah, where the Iraqi
government used chemical weapons to murder more than 5,000 Kurdish civilians,
almost two-thirds of which were women and children, in March of 1988.
The things we saw got our group talking about the nature of evil. Tiffany,
one of our delegation members, noted that violence of this nature was what
happened when there is a lack of accountability amongst people, and the more
I've pondered this idea, the more I've realized that each of us has what it
takes to commit unspeakable acts of cruelty. Because of sin, each of us has
been poisoned to consider violence as an acceptable means of resolving
conflict; when we are allowed to explore that option without any kind of
deterrent, it tends to grow and expand like a cancer until it has dominated
our lives.
We tend to think of peacemaking as stopping one group of people from killing
another, and while that is part of it, it addresses only one specific
manifestation of the violence in the world. The true essence of peacemaking
involves forcing people to examine the attitudes and prejudices in their
hearts and exchange them for love, forgiveness, mercy, and friendship. It is
a method that involves not just convincing an army to lay down their weapons,
but convincing a person to ignore his/her own violent impulses. By changing
hearts, minds, and souls, we attack the very nature of the problem and not
just a symptom. I am learning about how CPT is doing this in ways they have
forged powerful and lasting connections to members of the Kurdish community.
In time, the hope is that enough people will undergo this transformation so
that violence is taken off of the table as a viable option for future
We got to see an example of this in Halabjah. Both of the men that guided us
through the exhibit were able to point at pictures on the wall and identify
corpses of family members killed in the chemical attacks. I was shocked that
a man could set aside the anger in his heart in order to face the bodies of
his loved ones on a daily basis. When asked why they continued to face their
demons in this way, they replied that they wanted to teach the next
generation about what had happened so that it would never happen again.
My hope is that in my life, both in Iraq and back at home in America, I can
embrace forgiveness and mercy in the manner of our new friends in Halabjah.
May I always choose to reject anger and violence, embrace forgiveness and
non-violence, and teach others to do the same.

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