Monday, January 01, 2007

This We Resolve

What will we have seen and experienced when the clock strikes January 1, 2008? My greatest hope is that the Shia and Sunni will have buried their swords and joined forces in an effort at mutual understanding and unified opposition in the face of senseless terrorism. May such resolve have, by that time a year from now, succeeded in bringing a springtime of peace to a people who are so deserving of it after a long night of darkness.

As the new year dawns I look back on my time in Iraq with fond memories. As I travel the highways and byways of Iraq in my mind, I realize that I have developed an intense love for a people that I scarcely knew existed before I was called to active duty military service in 2003.

As I read the news reports this morning, Iraq seems 'relatively' calm today. Somewhere around 20 people have been killed (still 20 too many), a far cry from the 50 or 80 or more than a hundred of some days. I don't know if this is just an aberration, but I hope it is rather a trend for the richly deserved better. The prayer of my family and me is that 2007 can finally be the Year of Iraq. That together Sunni and Shia can celebrate their commonalities and forgive past indiscretions, egregious as they may be.

Peace in Iraq can come only through the goodwill of the Iraqi people. People the world over can pray, they can send humanitarian aid, and they can help to provide security, but at some point, the overcoming of the cycle of violence will only be achieved by Sunni and Shia alike saying "I forgive you."

A society of long ago experienced a similar time in their history--a time of general strife and bloodletting. A major transformation occurred in that society, a transformation that I believe can happen in Iraq as well. An ancient people whose bloodthirst had become commonplace began to see the futility of constant anger, greed, and revenge. A transformation came over the society, which caused them to bury their weapons deep in the earth, never to take them up again.

Despite the wrongs and the violence that are being committed on a daily basis in Iraq, many people have seen the light of peace and what it can mean in their lives if such peace were to become pervasive. They want that peace, but to fully obtain that peace will mean the overcoming of nearly insurmountable fear and prejudice. For such finely ingrained passions to be overcome by passion of a more noble nature, Sunni must come to love and respect the world of the Shia, and Shia must equally celebrate the right of Sunni to worship Allah as he or she choses. Religious lines, which, to some extent before the civil strife of today, had become blurred, must become blurred again.

Nearly every Iraqi wants this pervasive sort of peace, but only Iraqis can truly achieve it. Those of us who are not Iraqis cannot live their lives, and so we can never really know what the struggle to overcome fear, prejudice, oppression, torture, and death entails in a uniquely Iraqi cultural setting. But neither are we required to stand on their sidelines with our hands in our pockets and our lips sealed. We can cheer them on in their quest for victory. We can continue to provide them humanitarian and technological aid. We can can continue to attempt to provide them security. But most of all, with our combined efforts we can call down the blessings of God on a people who have suffered enough and are truly in need and deserving of God's blessings.

Let us resolve to put aside our political differences in the year 2007 and pray, regardless of how we feel about the American Occupation, that Iraq can secure for itself the blessings of pervasive peace, which up to now have been so elusive.

Then, in such retrospect, New Year's Day, 2008 will be a day on which we can look back on a truly magnificent year.


Cliff said...

Hi Frank, I did not comment when I first read this because I bumming every out today, but here goes.

I hope you are right, but I just don't see 2007 being the year the Sunni and Shia suddenly reverse 1500 years of an uneasy co-existence.

I hope I am wrong.

Frank Staheli said...


You may be right. It would take something bordering on (or equaling) the miraculous for it to happen.

I'm actually a little bummed right now since I just read the NY Times account of what happened at Saddam's hanging (see Richard's comment of today in "He's Dead" below.)

Elizabeth said...

"but at some point, the overcoming of the cycle of violence will only be achieved by Sunni and Shia alike saying "I forgive you.""

You are so right. Are you going to go back to Iraq as a Christian missionary? Unfortunately, I don't think the Iraqis would listen to you. It would take an Iraqi leader saying these things, and even then, it might not work.

Frank Staheli said...

I agree, Elizabeth, that not even a Christian missionary would have the needed effect.

I'm not sure what your religious feelings are, but I think the best effect we can have now is to pray for them.