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Showing posts from February, 2016

Better for everyone to talk about peace

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Have mercy upon us, O Lord! Have mercy upon us! For we have had more than enough of contempt. (Ps. 123:3)
Over two years ago, their house in Aleppo, Syria was completely destroyed. The family of six lived in another village for four months, and then they walked six days to the Jordan border, sometimes needing to dodge sniper bullets. They finally made it across the border into Jordan to a refugee camp with not a single possession but the clothes they wore. They feel alone in their new country and they want to go home to Syria.
A second family fled Qaraqosh, Iraq about the same time. They lived in Erbil for two months, and while they weren’t able to get any help with food or shelter, they were able to arrange to get a visa to go to Jordan. They live in a small makeshift apartment on the fourth floor of another family’s house, but they have no family of their own here. The wife has a sister in the United States but she isn’t able to provide any assistance. The husband told me they’d go a…

Choosing a different future

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Let your compassion come to me that I may live. (Ps. 119:77)
Just outside Jerusalem in an area designated as “Area C,” a place in Israel and Palestine where it is sometimes possible for Jews and Palestinians to meet and talk with one another, Ali Abu Awaad has offered his family’s land in Beit Umar for exactly this purpose.
Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger from Alon Shvut walked to our meeting on Ali’s property and Shaul Judelman, from the nearby Tekoa settlement, got here easily enough as well. Together, the three help lead Roots, an Israeli and Palestinian organization located on Ali’s land, to foster a grassroots movement of understanding, nonviolence and transformation among Palestinian Muslims and Christians and Israeli Jews.
Ali says that when he, as a Palestinian Muslim, meets with Jewish settler groups, he tries to help them break through a barrier to see him as a human being, someone who shares their love for the land. “Even though we live so close to each other, we live in almost comp…

Regaining what has been lost

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Would you still want to kill me?

After the war in Sarajevo, Amra Pandzo started working with MCC. After some peace training, she decided she wanted to devote her life to help build peace in her country.
By day, Amra is a librarian, but she also started a small organization called Small Steps to work in the public school system. Children receive religious public education at school, but because children are separated for this education according to their background – Catholic, Orthodox or Muslim – the religious education contributes to deepening religious and ethnic divides.
Amra has since created a Handbook for Religious Muslim Teachers. She told me that her goal for the handbook was to do for the Koran what Mennonites have done with the Bible – to look at the Holy Book from a peacemaking perspective. She has helped to train 1,500 Muslim teachers who are teaching religion in the schools.
More recently, she organized interfaith meetings for religious teachers. The workshops encourage tea…

This is Bosnia and this is what should happen

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Naš put je mir (our way is peace)
Traveling north from Sarajevo through Zenica, we traveled three more hours through beautiful country to the town of Sanski Most. Here, MCC partners with the Center for Peacebuilding, a group begun by two Muslim imams, Mevludin Rahmanovic and Vahidin Omanovic, co-founders and co-directors, who are working for inter-religious peace in their community.
The goal of the center is to rebuild trust and to nurture reconciliation among the people of Bosnia – Croats, Serbs, Bosniaks and others – and to support peace wherever people have suffered from violent conflicts.
Both men have horrific stories to tell of many family members who were killed in the war. Mevludin told me how he had to go through a personal jihad (fight) with himself to decide not to hate, but to work for peace.
A memorial in the downtown area of Sanski Most commemorates more than 700 people in the community who died during the war.

Mevludin remembers one man who ordered the killing of Mevludin’…

Opening the lines of communication again

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Only 75 kilometers north of Sarajevo just off the one toll road in the region, the city of Zenica has a story to tell. All of its 17 schools were filled with refugees during the war here 20 years ago. The huge steel mill which employed up to 30,000 workers during the time of the former Yugoslavia now employs less than 1,500.
"We had a safe country and it was functioning well before the war and suddenly, overnight, nothing seemed to work anymore," Venira Alihođić, director of MCC partner organization SEZAM told me.
After the war Venira formed SEZAM to work with children traumatized by what they had experienced during the war. A flood of refugees, more than 50,000, fled here during the war. When it was over, the refugee camps were dismantled, but some of the refugees remained. Venira and longtime worker Emir Džiđić show me a book of children's drawings of the world of fear and grenades, of shelling and tanks, that these children still imagine surrounds them. . 
For many years…