March 23, 2012 by Behar Godani · Comments Off
For millions of immigrants in America,
a sense of belonging and successfully handling their dual cultural identity is one of the most difficult and challenging of tasks. On the one hand, your heart is tied back to a land that was once your home—as is the case with my parents—or at least a place that feels a lot like home—as is the case with my siblings and I.
Yet no matter how many times we go back there or insist that we want to spend the rest of our days here, there never seems to be a perfect fit. There moved right past my parents and the memories they could have made had they not been forced to leave thirty years ago, and here feels much more familiar.
As a result, we’re stuck between here and there, never completely belonging anywhere.
But perhaps the beauty in the limbo that so many immigrant families find themselves in is that they are able to understand and exist in both places at once.
And perhaps that’s where the secret to truly co-existing beside one another lies as well.
There are immigrants who have walked in our shoes, but there are plenty more back there—in Iraq—who, like my parents, were forced to leave and if they survived were likely to be internally displaced. And that’s where so much of the current resentment lies. It was never truly an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ mentality in the sense that entire groups of people became alienated from one another. No matter how bad things became in Iraq, there was always a recognition that the majority of its citizens were good people.
Now, many wonder if the country and its people—in light of recent political developments—will ever live up to the potential that so many of its own politicians boast about and so many in the West had initially hoped for.
The key lies not in government policies, per se—which I yield, can at times favor one group over another and further disenfranchise other groups who already don’t feel welcome in the political system—but in all-natural and real human connections. When people can put a face on families affected by violence, when a doctor from a different faith or ethnicity saves a child’s life, when a Muslim breaks bread with a Christian who’s just as Iraqi as anyone else, the concept of “preemptive strikes” and bombings will become just as foreign and distant a concept as they were all those years ago. Then “preemptive love” and a true sense of commitment to the success and prosperity of the Iraqi state for the sake of its people will begin to emerge.
No more will bureaucrats, insurgencies, or fringe groups attempt to dominate the hearts and minds of the people as much as they have in the past because the people, like my parents, will come to learn the importance of existing in the now. They’ll learn that yes, you may have been displaced and you may have lost loved ones like so many innocent Iraqis have, but our humanity and our hopes for a better future must transcend the easy way out which often involves blaming an entire people or religious group for why things are currently the way they are.
Most immigrants face the challenge of simply reconciling their ethnic identities with their American ones, but families who hail from conflict zones—both those who had an opportunity to escape and those who were forced to stay behind—face the added difficulty of not only staying true to the identity that various groups have tried to wipe out, but also of keeping the anger and sadness in their hearts from ultimately skewing how they view “the other.” That of course can only happen with social projects and movements that focus on bringing different groups together so that individuals can begin to put a face on “that religion” or “that ethnic group.”
Eventually, they’ll come to find—as we all eventually must come to find as human beings—that religion, ethnic identity, the types of clothes a person wears, or the color they choose to dye their hair quickly falls away once that connection is made and “that” person becomes a friend.
December 21, 2011 by matt · Comments Off
A view from the minaret of a local mosque as the call to prayer sounds.
I’m in an Iraqi hospital room, surrounded by five conservative, Muslim women, discussing Michael Jackson. Wait–what?
During our last Remedy Mission in southern Iraq I became curious about what these families think when they see me. When they meet a young, white, American girl do they take me for who I am, or do stereotypes and reality TV characters precede me? What kind of reputational baggage have American media, troops or aid workers left in Iraq that I don’t even know I’m up against?
Needing to get to the bottom of this, I grabbed a translator and headed to the hospital ward to ask these mothers, “Who or what represents ‘America’ to you?”
The first few answers were easy– “democracy”, “freedom”, “independence.” But these were not the answers I was looking for. I wanted to hone in on who was the singular “face” of America. So we started asking just that, “Which single person represents the United States to you?”
The most popular answer? Michael Jackson. I couldn’t help laughing out loud. Really? Michael Jackson? I was expecting Lady Gaga, Brad Pitt or perhaps Katy Perry (or President Obama, at the very least). But MJ? And I got this answer from not one but several Iraqi families. Pretty interesting, right?
But the resounding response I also kept hearing was….Dr. Novick! Our very own, world-renowned, rockstar heart surgeon from Memphis is revolutionizing the way Iraqis see Americans.
Many of the women agreed that this ICHF team had completely exceeded their expectations on the kindness of the West. I guess saving their child’s life leaves a stronger impression than “American Idol.”
Dr. Novick–Michael Jackson’s got nothing on you!
The streets were absolutely silent. No kids running around, no mothers yelling after them. It was a little after one on the first day of Ramadan and the whole neighborhood seemed to be telling me, “For goodness’s sake, get out of this heat, go back inside and preserve what few bodily fluids you have.”
But I had a specific mission this day. Having been raised a Christian in the Midwest of the United States, I have very little first-hand experience with Islam. So on this day I was headed to a friend’s home to learn more about this Ramadan business.
Medya and her family welcomed me into their quieted home. The soporific atmosphere had already gotten to her older brother, who lay sleeping on the couch, while other family members wandered around in their house clothes alternating between reading the Koran and staring into space. So this is it? I wondered.
Thirty days devoted to inactivity and religious texts? If there’s one thing I’ve picked up on about my Muslim friends its their whole-hearted love and respect for God’s will. They are intensely devoted to knowing it, following it and furthering it. I soon discovered that the scene in this room demonstrated no less than this.
For the next hour and a half Medya and her siblings (and Google Translate) walked me through the ins and outs of Ramadan. I learned that any good deed done during these 30 days will count for many times over during the rest of the year. They explained people will be more generous, more kind and more caring during this time than any other.
Ramadan is “the month of forgiveness”—a time of fasting and petition before the Most High. A sin forgiven during Ramadan is a sin forgiven 100 times over for the next year. And as Medya reminded me, “God is at all times merciful.” Similarly, if you read the Koran during these 30 days it will be to God as if you’ve read it 30 times. (Medya and her sisters will each read the Koran twice this year—to build a credit of 60 times).
As the afternoon wound down (if that’s possible) they began explaining the concept of “Zikat”. It’s a percentage of all your “saved” assets that must be given to the poor. Any money you’re not using, gold you’re not wearing, or livestock you shepherd must be accounted for. 1 oz of silver for every 140 oz you have, 2.5% of your gold, 1 sheep for every 40. This rule instated by the prophet Muhammed himself has changed some over time.
In most Muslim countries, there is no longer a “Ministry of Zikat” to monitor and distribute these offerings. Instead each family brings their personal percentage of wealth directly to a family in need. “In need” ranges anywhere from abject poverty to refugees to those people displaced because of volunteer work or schooling.
As we covered this last category, Medya’s brother looked at me and laughed, “Lydia—that’s you! Maybe you will get a sheep.”
June 12, 2011 by Liz · Comments Off
For a month now we've posted mid-week photos titled “In a Word,” and we've received some great feedback from you guys.
We want you to know that these aren't just pretty pictures, they're tools to help as all build an understanding of Iraq through the artists who live here.
We know you care about the future of Iraq, the kids and the training of nurses and doctors, but we want to offer you even more perspectives.
So here are 3 reasons we believe “In A Word” matters:
1. Images can be used to promote peace.
“Peace is waged when a child is served, a voice is heard, a story is told, a dialogue is created, and a community is engaged.”
We're waging peace when we LISTEN to and TELL a story about Iraq, kids with CHD, local healthcare, local solutions (i.e. politicians, donors, doctors, etc.), Muslim and Eastern perspectives, Christian and Western perspectives, the war, etc. These photos give us the opportunity to engage another community. They tell stories and create dialogue.
They're opportunities for us to understand.
2. We live among the people here.
We work with them, care for them, argue with them – we love them. And many of you have expressed interest in what those things look like here, so “In A Word” is our way of helping you visualize our day-to-day. It helps our families, friends and supporters 'come around', and for a few seconds, that makes us feel like you aren't an ocean away.
3. It's a platform for artists.
These Iraqi and Kurdish artists are unsung heroes, and their work deserves to be showed off and shared. They show their people that beauty can bring hope and truth in the midst of devastation.
“In A Word” is a forum – a sounding board – where artists can show off their work and prove emphatically: we're here, and we're talented.
Do you have any photos that you'd like to submit for an “In A Word” midweek post? If so send to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject “In A Word”
See One. Do One. Teach One. Remedy Mission Trains Iraqi Heart Doctors and Nurses for the Future of the Children and their Country
February 23, 2011 by Jeremy · Comments Off
Push play above for a peek into what it means for our volunteers to be here training local Iraqi heart doctors and nurses.
After you’ve viewed it, please “SHARE” below with Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg, etc.
If you’re on Twitter this week be sure to use the #RemedyMission hashtag to describe all the good news coming out of Iraq this week via @preemptivelove.
February 21, 2011 by Cody · Comments Off
This morning Alawi got the heart surgery we’ve all been waiting for!
Local doctors and nurses – alongside the ICHF team – took a minimalistic approach to his repair, seeking to do as little “trauma” to his heart as possible. Unfortunately, after surgery, it seemed the minimalist approach wasn’t holding as well as they hoped. They decided to perform an even more robust correction that would make Alawi even stronger than he already was.
So Alawi went yet again into the operating room just as bravely as he went into his first operation.
Alawi’s a reminder of what we’re committed to – we will do whatever it takes to make each child and each Iraqi doctor and nurse into the healthiest child and most-skilled doctor or nurse they can be.
Hoping for the best still never makes it easy to watch a child go in for surgery.
We could not do this without you! You are our heroes and you inspire us to keep going so much! Stay tuned to get the latest update on Alawi from the ICU via our Facebook Page!
Photo by Just Us 3
In Los Angeles last week we met three brothers who had given up their birthday money to help save the life of a child in Iraq. All three brothers are under the age of five, which makes them the youngest heart menders we’ve met on the tour!
From their house I hopped on a plane that took me to Dearborn, Michigan outside of Detroit to spend an afternoon with Imam Qazwini. Imam Qazwini is the leader of the Muslim community in Dearborn where he preaches and leads times of prayer in the largest mosque in America. He is also widely held to be the leading voice for Muslims in North America while also advocating tirelessly for reconciliation, tolerance, and peace.
He was born in Iraq but spent 32 years as a refugee after Saddam Hussein killed his grandfather along with 15 other family members for being Shiite. During my time with Imam Qazwini, we shared stories and drank tea as he told me about his family and his love for Iraq. But what impacted me the most was his vision for the future.
This man believes in peace. This man believes in reconciliation. This man is a heartmender.
He’s committed to a future for Iraq that doesn’t involve bombs, chemicals, or racism. To my surprise, he and his ayatollah father (who is still in Iraq) are both actively committed to a future where a backlog of 20-30,000 children waiting for lifesaving heart surgery is a thing of the past.
As I finished my tea with Imam Qazwini I thought about those three boys who had given their birthday money to save a life. What does a 2-year-old have to do with someone like Imam Qazwini? They both believe they can make a difference. They’re both heartmenders.
Today I thanked GOD for Imam Qazwini in Dearborn and for those three boys in Los Angeles along with all those out there who believe in tomorrow.
What are you up to today to mend hearts in your community or in Iraq? Let us know on Facebook or via Twitter (both below).