Peacemaker Fridays: March 25, 2016

Using Arabic graffiti to challenge stereotypes in Egypt; political and racial reconciliation in South Carolina; protesting child marriage through rap; stepping across the sectarian divide in Iraq.

Here are the week’s best stories of people reaching across enemy lines, loving the other, and waging peace…

“Calligraffiti” challenges stereotypes in Egypt
The inhabitants of Zaraeeb, a Coptic community in Cairo, Egypt, have created a sustainable economy by collecting, recycling, and disposing of the trash for the city of Cairo. Despite the essential role they play, they’re “perceived as dirty, and are often marginalized and belittled,” according to eL Seed, a French artist. He recently created a massive work of art spanning 50 buildings in Zaraeeb using a graffiti-style Arabic script called calligraffiti. For the work, he used a quote from St. Athanasius of Alexandria, a 3rd century Coptic bishop: “Anyone who wants to see the sunlight clearly needs to wipe his eye first.” The piece, which can only be fully seen from a specific point on a nearby mountain, “stresses… that changing your point of view can greatly affect what you can fully see.” The son of Tunisian-born parents, eL Seed added, “I hope I can break stereotypes… through the beauty of Arabic script.” Read more… 

sisterhood soap

Bipartisan pilgrimage to South Carolina steps across political and racial divides
This past week, 14 members of the U.S. Congress led a civil rights tour across South Carolina during the annual Faith and Politics Institute Pilgrimage. The tour included a visit to the Charleston church were nine members were killed last summer. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) sought to explain how relatives of survivors could”say to the accused perpetrator of that act, ‘I forgive you.'” Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) spoke of “power that eradicates hate, that brings light into dark places.” Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) added, “When people tell me nothing has changed in America, I will say…come and walk in our shoes…our country is a better place.” Rep. Lewis, who was a Freedom Rider in 1961, was beaten by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Years later, one of his assailants came to seek forgiveness; the two embraced and cried together. “It is time,” says Rep. Lewis, “for all of us to lay down the burden of division and separation.” Read more… 

Afghan teen speaks out against child marriage through rap
Afghan teenager Sonita Alizadeh was nearly sold as a bride at age 10, and then again at 16, to help finance her brother’s wedding. After escaping, she turned to rap. She wrote “Brides for Sale” and got the attention of a US-based nonprofit, who offered a full scholarship to a music school in Utah. Now she uses her passion to create a better life for other girls. “It shows that girls can have power,” she says of her music. “They can change the future. Families need to know that there are other possibilities for their daughters.” Sonita dreams of becoming a lawyer for women’s rights to end child marriage. Her story is told in the newly released documentary, Sonita.


Sunni widow becomes an ambassador of reconciliation after saving 64 Shiite soldiers from ISIS
Um Qusay is a poor widow from a Sunni tribe in Iraq. In June 2014, she sent her son and daughter into ISIS territory to rescue six soldiers. Her Sunni tribe went on to save 850 soldiers, primarily Shiite, from certain death at the hands of ISIS. But Um Qusay “went above and beyond the role played by townspeople in sending her children on the dangerous rescue mission and then sheltering 64 soldiers in her home.” Iraq, long known for sectarian violence, has embraced the sacrificial gesture of Um Qusay. Her actions are especially poignant, since ISIS has been targeting Shiite Iraqis, making Sunni Iraqis a source of suspicion. Um Qusay was recently honored by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. But her work is not done—she now serves as a community advocate and distributes aid to needy neighbors. As her son said, “If all Iraqis were like her, there would be no [ISIS].” Read more… 

Stay tuned for more hope-filled peacemaker stories next Friday!

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