Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Hardest Day (Part 1)

          The last Sunday of my trip was the hardest day I experienced on the trip. The entire day was full of meetings and experiences that ripped a hole through my heart. Even now, weeks later, I can still feel the intensity of that day and I am only beginning to realize the impact it will have on the rest of my life. On that day I saw the worst of what humanity can be. But more importantly I saw the hope that exists within a broken community and within the Kurds who have devoted their lives for the cause of peace.
          In the morning a local mullah (Islamic leader) came to tell us about the Arab Spring demonstration that occurred in early 2011. He explained to us how the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government) has the same system as is familiar all around the Middle East. The government claims to be a democracy, but during the elections there were many pressures against the people and the government is extremely unjust. And so the people began to protest.
          The mullah told us how he believes the Islamic faith calls for an end in oppression and his role is to advise others to speak out against oppressions and encourage people to not use violence. He wants Muslims to be the best human beings they can. He believes that Muslims must not harass non-Muslims, other religions or secularists, but work against all oppressions. This is the reason why he joined the demonstrations to speak out against the government and call for a jihad of peace. He wanted to help the Kurdish people peacefully encourage the authorities to have better government. And the protests were for the most part very peaceful. Guns are very prevalent in Iraq, but at no point did the people use any weapons other than stones against the authorities.
          However, the authorities then used weapons to end the demonstrations. More than 47 people were injured and 10 died in the region. Hundreds were arrested including the mullah. In his case, he as first attacked in his house, kidnapped, and tortured for two days before being released. He was then arrested legally and tried for acts of terrorism. Under this sentence, he faced anywhere from fifteen years in prison to execution. However, they eventually listened to his speeches and found out that he never encouraged anyone to use violence.
          The demonstrations ended after a few months because the people wanted an end to the killings. However, the oppression and injustice from the government has continued. The amazing part of this story is that the mullah did not focus on the bad... he did not seem angry that nothing changed or that he was tortured and tried for acts of terrorism by the government. Instead, he told us of the good that came out of the demonstrations. He told us how the people have so much more respect now for religion and the role it played in the demonstrations. He told us how the religious and secularists worked together and have formed good relationships with each other.
           The mullah told us that he believes at some point the people will speak up again. And when they do, he is ready to suffer to help his people. He hopes that the next demonstrations will be more peaceful, but if they are not, he is ready to die. I was blown away by his faith and commitment to nonviolence. He showed me more of what it means to live an authentic life than anyone else I have ever met. Through his words and actions, even though he is Muslim, he showed me how to live as Christ. 

No comments:

Post a Comment