Thursday, May 12, 2005

Throwing Open the Book

It was the 20th of April, the birthday of the prophet Mohammed. We had guests from Najaf and Kerbala visiting us for dinner that night. For grace before the meal a CPTer went into the office and opened up the team’s English/Arabic Qu’ran and put his finger down on this passage,

“One day shalt thou see the believing men and the believing women- how their Light runs forward before them. And by their right hands their greeting will be, ‘Good News for you this Day! Gardens beneath which flow rivers! To dwell therein for you! This indeed is the highest achievement.” Surra LV ” God Most Gracious” section 2, verse 12

We asked one of our guests to recite it in Arabic and then a CPTer would read the English translation. It was a passage the guest knew from memory. This opened up a discussion of the tradition in Islam, Christianity and Judaism of throwing open the holy book of that faith tradition and reading the first passage that your eyes fall upon. Is this superstition? Does it have any relevance for our broken lives and chaotic world?

Many people have said that there is no logical, rational reason for CPT to be in Iraq right now. The level of violence, which subsided after the elections, has risen each week until now the attacks and kidnappings of Iraqi officials, civilians and internationals are as bad or worse than the months leading up to the election. The infrastructure of the country continues to deteriorate. The people of Iraq appear weary. The people of Iraq are angry. The people of Iraq placed so much hope in the election process but now it seems as if the elected officials are subsuming to the politics of factionalism. This week, a member of the Provisional Assembly was entering the Green Zone to attend a session and he apparently seemed threatening to U.S. military guards. They arrested him by subduing him on the ground with a soldier’s boot on his throat. When he did make it into the Assembly session he was so distraught that he wept. Crying in public is not something that is a cultural norm in this society for a man. Why is CPT here when the “principalities and powers” seem to be in total control? What can a few (currently three) of us do in the face of such massive physical and structural violence?

We are throwing ourselves open to the possibility of God’s grace bringing some rays of light to the shadowy landscape that is Iraq. We are letting ourselves be guided by something that is beyond rational, intellectual analysis. Gardens beneath which flow rivers can again be the dwelling place for the people of Iraq. Everyone whose government and corporations are playing a role in this land needs to throw open the book of their heart. They need to let their Light run before them as they bring redemption to those in power who are seeking to rule from a place of fear, violence and shadows. That truly would be the highest achievement.

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