( contd from part one)
A hoarse voice, filled with five years of pain and uncertainty, whispers into the silence, “Where is God.” And I am gone. His despair fills my heart, and I feel as though I am slowly disintegrating from the inside. Then another voice, soft at first, but rising as she gains strength in her faith and in love, “God is everywhere. Always remember that God is with you, wherever you go. God is here. God is love.” And a new feeling swells inside me. In this one instant we no longer drift alone, for we are joined by our love for one another. We are forever connected by the emotion we have been able to share – the despair, the confusion, the desperation, and now the transcendent love.
We breathe as one, we weep as one, we love as one, and as one we say good bye to those who have left us. We pray for hope, we pray for peace, and we are empowered by the realization that love is everywhere. Love transcends space, time, conflict and despair. And love has held us together.
The next day we occupy the same space, yet we are not the same group of people. No longer are we a group of new acquaintances, so recently complete strangers. We are a nuclear unit, revolving around a shared experience and bonded forever by love in its truest sense. We now feel comfortable enough to share the most personal stories, and today I sit in silence absorbing the horrors of life in wartime. My heart grows cold as I struggle to comprehend that my dear friend was recently kidnapped, that after 24 hours he resolved himself to die, yet by some miracle he now sits before me. But today I do not cry. It is though we have already felt the despair that each of us holds in our hearts, and today what we need from one another is strength.
As we close another day, I feel the need to assure my friends that there is hope. For as they bring forth within themselves the true ruin of their lives, perhaps for the first time, it seems some hope is drowned in despair. “Hope is possible” I whisper with as much conviction as I can muster. And from around the circle, many voices chorus at once in a true sharing of hope and the collective consciousness, “Peace is possible.”
It has always been my firm belief that peace is possible. Otherwise, what are we humans good for? And for several months it has been both my dream and my quest help bring peace to Iraq. But before this experience I naively believed that to bring peace all we needed to do was to withdraw all U.S. troops. No troops no war, right? But we are not at war with the Iraqi people. We are not enemies of the Iraqi people, nor are we fighting the Iraqi army. What we have is an indefinite occupation without a mission, sustained only by chaos. So how does one build peace when there is no war to end?
It begins with trust. The Iraqi people need to trust that the United States intends to help with the rebuilding of their country. And in order for that to happen, we need have this intent and mean it. We must stop fighting against them and start working with the Iraqi people to create a stable country. Neighboring countries must also trust that the U.S. army will not go out and attack another country once we leave Iraq. One of the greatest threats to security in Iraq is terrorist attacks from external militias. Why? To prolong chaos in order to suspend the U.S. army in Iraq. We need to show the world that we are sincere in our efforts to build peace in Iraq, and that we will not be driven again by profit and power to attack an innocent population.
Next, we need to change our mission. We need to stop calling it a war and stop insisting that we are going to win it. We must engage in a cooperative peacebuilding effort with the Iraqi people. That means stabilizing the infrastructure, rebuilding schools and businesses, supporting the formation of an autonomous government that is neither reliant on nor beholden to the United States, and providing security in order to stabilize the country while all of this takes place. We must also provide the Iraqi people with a timeline for the withdrawal of all American troops in order to impress upon the leaders the urgency with which order must be attained.
We have a responsibility to our Iraqi brothers and sisters to repair the damage we have wrought upon their lives, and to provide them with the peace and security we take for granted. Each day I am haunted by the fact that people I love will soon leave America and return to the constant danger of their everyday lives. One of my friends may very well die in the months to come if we as a country do not change our course of action in Iraq, and fast. Peace is possible.
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