OUR CORE VALUES: Multi-Dimensional Reconciliation
February 8, 2010 by Jeremy
Photo: Matt Addington
Call it settling accounts, setting to rights, or the restoration of friendly relations – reconciliation is why we do what we do.
There are thousands of children in Iraq who are born with hearts “at odds” with the good intentions of GOD when He created the world. We want to set that physical situation to rights; to reconcile what is with what should be.
But a healed heart is an occasion for only a tempered celebration if your family is living in the middle of civil conflict between ethnic neighbors or regional superpowers. Sure, much of this strife comes from global issues that are beyond our direct reach. But a few days on the ground in Arab Iraq, Kurdish Iraq, Turkey, etc makes it clear that these “global issues” are exacerbated by our closely held opinions about “the other.”
Photo: Matt Addington
So we work to unravel the effects of evil that were wrought by Saddam Hussein’s genocidal campaigns, by years of sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shi’i Muslims, and by ethnic struggles.
For example, Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen are in a political (and possibly cultural) struggle over the historic city of Kirkuk – each laying some sort of ancient claim to the city; each group (generally) vilifying the other. On his Restorative Justice blog, Dr. Howard Zehr talks about our “temptation to emphasize ‘otherness’,” whether it be through photography, storytelling, or our administration of justice. At the Preemptive Love Coalition, we do not deny “otherness” when working between ethnic and tribal prejudices or religious worldview differences. But we try not to make “otherness” our starting point.
Communication guru Joseph Grenny talks about the important role that “storytelling” plays in our emotions and actions. According to Grenny, (1) we make an observation (e.g., Saddam Hussein was an Arab with largely Arab soldiers that attacked our city) and (2) immediately start telling ourselves a story (e.g., therefore all Arabs in Iraq want “our” land and are evil and would kill us if they had the chance) which (3) leads to strong emotions (like fear and hate), thereby (4) triggering fight/flight instincts inside us such as protectionist policies or aggressive police (or vigilante) action. The fork in the road is that first story we tell ourselves when faced with an observable fact.
Photo: Ben Hodson
Torture used by Saddam’s Baath Party in the “Red Security” building leaves an easy “observable fact” as the basis of an errant Kurdish story against all Arabs.
You can see how this plays out closer to home, as well. Observable fact: Men who wrapped themselves in Islam attacked America on September 11, 2001. But the stories that have flowed from that fact have been varied. And the emotions that arise from those stories have been serious and sincere. And over the past decade the actions that have come out of those various emotions have changed the course of world politics, international relations, and daily life for millions.
So when you donate, host an event, or buy a tshirt or pair of shoes, you are engaged in something bigger than the shuffling of money from one place to another to save a child’s life. We give people over “here” a tangible opportunity to save a life over “there” and to see “those” people as exactly that: people. Humans. Sons and daughters. We are all more than the images we receive from the professional media. It’s not “us” helping “them” get over “their” problems. It’s “us” becoming reconciled with “us”.
And in case you are wondering… Yes, we are just naive enough to believe that when we start seeing each less as other and more as brother these “global issues” might start to change too. And if they don’t… well, we are still committed to making change in the neighborhoods where we live and work; to be people of peace – whether anyone joins us on the journey or not.
|Jeremy Courtney lives and loves in Iraq as a co-founder and Executive Director of the Preemptive Love Coalition. He's also the father of two spectacular children, and married to the lovely Jessica Courtney. When not absorbed in PLC work he can be found writing songs and singing about hope and future. Follow Jeremy on Twitter: @JCourt.|