I lived in Israel and Palestine for three years. My heart still beats and laughs and rolls and tumbles in a cohesive scramble of love and vision for that place. I long to see peace reside there fully. The story of one woman’s prophetic planting is sweetly inspiring. May it prompt the question: “What can I do toward peace?”
Iraq had national elections last week. Prevailing through the pain of disillusionment, death, and destruction, people arose and shared their voices – putting votes of possibility into the collective POT-ential. This is crucial. In times of uncertainty, sharing one’s voice is key. Yet, it is not easy to do so in a nation belabored by official and unofficial war. Much is shifting since the end of the official war in Iraq in 2011 (the war ended the same month I returned to America from a visit to precious Baghdad).
If you’d like more perspective on Iraq these days, here’s a great article from The New Yorker.
As you consider the staid countenance of Prime Minister Maliki, send him some loving thoughts. Point your mind toward “What would it look like for Iraq to move past its conflict and flourish?” Imagine that world. Dream with Iraq and for Iraq.
If you want, pray that Maliki receives an infusion of courage today straight from the heart of God. Pray that he feels safe, peaceful, and appreciated. Pray that he comes to a full revelation of how loved he is by God. Pray that he arises as a model of courageous vulnerability in Iraq. In a schema of self-protection, mistrust, violence, threats, assassinations, and power-play after power-play, CREATIVITY and VULNERABILITY can bring healing. When people are scared, they hole up. They lash out. They use might to establish power, instead of leading through humility and love. Iraq is stuck in this cycle of fear. Yet, the nation can be un-stuck! We can collectively use our hope and resources to invest love in Iraq. Consider today how you can help Iraq, or your next door neighbor, experience more freedom from fear-cycles. Get on the hope-cycle.
This Wednesday (April 30), Iraq will have national elections. These are the first elections post-war. Yet, Iraq is experiencing sectarian violence, lawlessness, and bombings at the highest levels in years. This week is a key opportunity for Iraq to move past fear, history, statistics, power-plays, and bad habits into HOPE.
It is an important time to pray for Iraq.
HERE is a great infographic to help you better understand the elections.
It’s a possibility-charged Middle East Monday here at upsidedownbethelehem.com!
I’ve been cogitating about how to help people be equipped for understanding and loving the Middle East in increasingly direct and effective ways. Well, one way is to do what our really fantastic, smart, kind godson Jonah is doing: learn Arabic! OR help your kids or important kids in your life learn Arabic! Jonah is one. His parents lived in the Middle East for a couple years. His grandparents still live there. Before age six, is the statistically optimal time to learn a language. Granted, Holy Spirit can trump that and help one learn language at any age, but still, it’s extremely useful to facilitate language learning in young children.
So, I highly recommend the Little Pim language learning program! They offer all of the following languages!
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It’s really amazing to get the complete set, which includes the teaching DVDs, a chart, AND a stuffed animal version of Lil Pim, the animated panda who narrates the program. I love the fact that Jonah can sit with Lil Pim to learn Arabic while watching Lil Pim teaching Arabic on a screen! It’s very connected!
Check it out today! Order the program! Start the learning journey!
And if your child, or a child you know, is learning Arabic as a second language, please do share about that in the comments below! I’m sure we can encourage each other by sharing our stories about language learning!
This is an absolutely incredible, wise, and loving word from the President of Russia to America.
It was published in the New York Times.
Please read it, think about it, and share it widely.
The fate of a nation is, to a measure, IS in our hands.
We must let love lead our international policy.
A Plea for Caution From Russia
What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria
VLADIMIR V. PUTIN
Published: September 11, 2013
MOSCOW — RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.
Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.
The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.
No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.
The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.
Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.
Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.
From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.
No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.
It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”
But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.
No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.
The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.
We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.
A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements ofPresident Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.
I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria. We must work together to keep this hope alive, as we agreed to at the Group of 8 meeting in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland in June, and steer the discussion back toward negotiations.
If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust. It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.
My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
Vladimir V. Putin is the president of Russia.
A version of this op-ed appears in print on September 12, 2013, on page A31 of the New York edition with the headline: A Plea for Caution From Russia.
This clip is POWerful. Let your hope and faith toward the salvation of nations expand today.
I have walked Baghdad’s streets: the vendors, the families, the lives churning.
I have walked Boston’s streets: the vendors, the families, the lives churning.
There are a lot of similarities between these two cities.
Seeing the upheaval over the bombings in Boston has deeply grieved my heart. I hate war – in all its forms. And the attacks in Boston are a form of war. War isn’t just about nations striving against nations; it’s about unrest, it’s about fury, it’s about a climate (whether individual or corporate) that spews hatred via violence and death on other people.
Baghdad is one of my very favorite cities in all the world. Having spent seventeen years praying for that city, it is very important to my heart. Moreover, I have spent weeks in Baghdad. I know its curves, its smiles, its dreams. I love Baghdad.
I also lived thirty minutes north of Boston for four years. While there, I asserted my spiritual responsibility to pray into that region’s destiny. I roamed the streets of Boston for countless hours. I know quite well the segments of streets where the bombs went off. Ouch. Those images are awful.
In seeing those images I immediately thought of my beloved Baghdad. Someone’s Boston is someone else’s Baghdad – their hometown, their neighborhood, their family’s dwelling place. Both cities matter.
I hope that the bombings in Boston bring more understanding to Americans of what many people living in cities like Baghdad experience DAILY. Imagine worrying about going to the grocery store, school, or a friend’s house because of the potential to be blown up on the way. It’s a rough way to live.
Of course, I wish the incidents in Boston never happened. I wish the incidents in Baghdad never happened. I wish there was no war anywhere. Since that isn’t the case yet, I do want to use this moment of similarity to bring to the forefront the universal pain of war.
Perhaps this week’s experience will help Americans think more holistically before they support war in other nations. Perhaps it will open up the reality of how evil war and death are. Perhaps it will draw out the courage within all of us to search out solutions which prevent war.
I pray so.
In the meantime, as you ponder these elements, here are some articles for your contemplative fuel.
(With the above article, I’d like to note that I know exactly where “a parking area used by vehicles making their way to Baghdad’s heavily-guarded airport” is. I got out of one heavily armored vehicle and into another at that very parking area (all while surrounded by a security detail of eight armed men) when I was leaving the Baghdad airport in 2011.)
Lastly, I ‘d like to ask ,”Who will go to Boston, Baghdad, and other places experiencing war?”
These places need hope. They need people to be their advocates. We can change cities and nations from war zones to peace zones.
As Jesus said, “Go into all the world.” (Mark 16:15)
Ask the Holy Spirit right now, what your part is to play in this peace-making.
(P.S. I love you. I love your city. May both flourish today.)
This is beautiful, powerful, and important.
Seeing this movement is one of my life’s most ardent prayers realized.
Bless the Lord! And bless all the true peacemakers and true lovers.