Most tragedies never fully disappear. They share your breath, your blood, and walk around the ridges of your ribcage when they can’t fall asleep.
Ahmed Badr was 8 years old when a bomb crashed through a window of his family’s home in Baghdad. It was a dud missile, meant to cause destruction, but not explode. It shattered a piece of his home, but it also shattered his entire life—forcing his family to leave their home, family, jobs, and everything they’d ever known.
They took refuge in Syria prior to the war and then in 2008, they ended up in the United States.
Navigating life as an Iraqi refugee in the United States wasn’t easy for Ahmed. His experiences felt disconnected from those around him in the U.S., but also disconnected from the experiences of his cousins who stayed in Iraq. It was a weird middle-ground that made him feel always-out-of-place.
Writing helped him process his experiences and publishing his stories for others to read helped him feel empowered and understood. Like the poem he wrote called “A Thank-You Letter From the Bomb That Visited My Home 11 Years Ago,” pieces of which are woven throughout this article:
I usually turn children like you and your sister into dust. When meeting new people, my palms tend to be bloody. Haven’t you always wondered why your dad rarely spoke about me? He told you that tragedies always ended with a period. Yours ended with a semicolon.
But Ahmed knew there were countless young people around the globe just like himself, young people struggling to navigate their complicated identities and realities created by our complex world. He wondered if others would also find a sense of freedom, empowerment and belonging by sharing their stories.
So last year, as a college student, Ahmed created a website called Narratio where young people around the world could tell their stories and express themselves through art and creativity. It’s a place for them to feel known and seen, a place for them to safely process, be uncertain, and slowly heal from trauma.
I don’t enjoy meeting people. I don’t relish in the destruction. I am designed to collect breaths and keep them to myself. No matter which side I’m working for, this purpose never changes. Us bombs never get to choose who to visit.
With Narratio, Ahmed created a space for young people to work toward wholeness. This is peacemaking.
I’m writing to thank you. Thank you for using me for good.
You know what else is peacemaking? Reading stories and poems on Narratio to learn about young people’s experiences. Looking at their art and photography and seeking to understand the way they see the world.
This is peacemaking because sharing their experience makes these kids more whole, and seeking to understand someone else’ experience without judgement or comparison makes you more whole.
And true peace means wholeness for everyone.
Take a few moments today to explore Narratio, and do your best to see the world from a different point of view. Seek to understand these young people and their experiences, regardless of how different they are from yourself.
It’s probably the easiest peacemaking you’ll ever do.
Peacemaker Friday is published weekly to share stories of people unmaking violence around the world. Be inspired. Take Action.