Saturday, December 25, 2004

Candles in the Shadows

At a team worship time soon after the kidnapping of Margaret Hassan I have a very clear image. It was of a land of shadows and darkness. But within that land candles were burning; not many but enough to shed some light on the landscape. Some candles disappeared and it was my sense that their light was taken away for protection. Other candles burned until nothing was left and a small number of candles seemed to have their light snuffed out by the shadows and the darkness. What was most striking to me was that as the candles which burned until the end and the candles whose light was snuffed out ceased to burn more candles came into being seemingly to build on their light.

I have been reflecting on two very bright and powerful lights I have had the privilege of getting to know in Iraq over the last several months. One is a an Iraqi who is a member of the Dominican Order. The other is a teacher who also works for a human rights organization. Both have no illusions regarding the dark times their country is facing. But both have a vision of a land of peace that they are working to bring to fruition. As for the current situation in his country the Dominican Father says, "I am prudent. I try to be wise. But I have no fear. This is my rule- I have no fear but I seek prudence and wisdom." The human rights worker said," I believe that the foundation of all major religions (Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism) is peace. But it is a peace from within not a peace imposed from without."

For a number of years our friend the human rights worker has had a vision of what he now calls an Islamic Peacemaker Team (IPT). He credits his contact and partnership with CPT over the last two years with giving him some concrete ideas to work with. He feels that there are two major hurtles to overcome in the formation of IPT- one is the tension between Sunni and Shi’a people (and leaders) and the other is the issue of what we in the West call "redemptive violence" as an acceptable way of resolving conflicts. The Dominican Father has many projects going at this time. He is working on a translation project in that he says, "Arabic people make up over 5% of the world’s population but only l% of the world’s literature is available in Arabic." He is also starting the Open University of Baghdad. Renovation is beginning on an existing building that was used as a convent. It will be open to all, Christians and Muslims. Payment will be on a sliding scale with an emphasis on technical skill building and language courses.

Fearless, prudent and wise. We in CPT need to work to find a balance between all three of these character traits. But is its my sense that removing ourselves from the shadows and darkness will never create the capacity for those living in the shadows to grow in the light.