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“Peace be with you.” Following the resurrection and appearing to the disciples Jesus’ first words are peace. Peace is the expression of the resurrection Jesus brings. Following the violence and the trauma of the crucifixion, Jesus bears peace. Today in our world, Christ’s disciples are still called to peace.
This week, the Steering Committee of Christian Peacemaker Teams is meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Christian Peacemaker Teams or CPT’s mission is about building partnerships to transform violence and oppression. It works out of a vision of “a world of communities that together embrace the diversity of the human family and live justly and peaceably with all creation.” An example of the work of CPT follows, a story shared by Jen Yoder, Communications & Engagement Director
for CPT. I invite you to hear this testimony of peace, to pray for peace, and even to see if you might engage in the work of CPT.
CPT Iraqi Kurdistan has begun a project, “Bringing Hope and Fun,” to work with children in Sulaimani, in Iraqi Kurdistan. Begun by our intern, Alicja Zasadowska, and aided by local organizations like STEP, we were able to create an activity for the children of Arbat, a camp housing people who were driven from their homes by ISIS. CPT then did a similar workshop with Christian children driven from their homes in Qaraqush at the Monastery with children.
We asked them to draw a picture and write a story explaining the best day of their lives. The children we’ve worked with ranged in age from five to fifteen. For many of them, grief and horror has become a central part of their lives. People often ask them to reflect on these difficult things as they tell their stories. However, we wanted them to share about something happy, so that they could practice cultivating good memories even in the midst of their trauma.
Alicja faced some resistance as she spoke with others about her intentions to have the children draw and write about happy moments. One father told her, ‘My children know nothing of joy; this project will not work.’ Some of the staff at the camp warned her that ‘these children do not have happy stories to tell.’ Another NGO questioned why we would want to share happy things, when sad stories influence people much more. However, her focus was not on others but solely on the children.
The look on the faces of these children when we asked them to share about happy moments was priceless. One fifteen-year-old young man burst into a smile and shook his head, “yes.” You could almost see him transported to another place and time a he began to work on his drawing. These children have been though so much, but are still capable of happiness and of remembering joy. Even while we were setting up for the project a group of girls begin playing a clapping game in a circle.
At the recent workshop in the monastery, one group drew the church that they went to in Qaraqush and missed a lot as they couldn’t return.
Another group drew Father Christmas as they said that he brought gifts and made children happy and as they had to leave Qaraqush and their homes last summer because of ISIS Father Christmas didn’t visit them this year.
The third group drew the Resurrection as they said that when Christ comes there will be peace.
The fourth group drew a picture of the monastery that they are staying in now as they said that the monastery had offered them safety and looked after them.
Terra Winston, Delegations Coordinator who spent time on team in Iraq, said “For me, while sitting with people in their grief is difficult, I found it equally challenging to sit with these children in their joy and creativity. The humanity of young people drawing is something that I could easily connect to and understand. However, at times, something would call me out of their joy and into the surroundings of the IDP camp, and those moments almost broke my heart. The juxtaposition of these young people as they drew, made silly faces, sang songs, and giggled against the sorrow, cold tents, and worry of us grownups for their future, overwhelmed me.”
No child should be made to leave their homes because of violence.
Please pray for peace.
“Bringing Hope and Fun” will be an ongoing project for CPT Iraqi Kurdistan.