Muslim Peacemaker Teams holds on to a vision of peace
by Peggy Gish
"With an organization linking peace and environmental issues, we took a survey of 5,000 people concerning the dangers of small weapons. We put children's pictures, showing the problems of weapons, in galleries and displayed them at the Cairo conference on banning small arms. Now I hope to start a camp for scouts and train and mentor them in peacemaking, but I need much more training to train others," reported Omar*, a member of the Muslim Peacemaker Teams (MPT) from Kerbala.
Five members of MPT from Kerbala and Najaf had come to Suleimaniya to talk with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) and network with Kurdish organizations. CPTers and MPTers shared what has happened with each group in the six months since they last met in Baghdad. Members of MPT took turns talking about their hopes for the future.
"I used to believe that violence was the strongest way to deal with conflicts, but I learned from MPT that peaceful methods are best," said Hassan.* "I want to be peaceful in all areas of my life. As a law student, I am trying to understand how I can work for peace through MPT."
Wisam* spoke about working with different organizations teaching democracy and helping women learn about their rights. Now he wants to educate people about the dangers of children playing with violent toys. He also wants MPT to publish booklets and writings, and make posters and signs. He hopes these materials would "increase people's awareness about MPT, the importance of peacemaking and its roots in Islam."
"In the MPT meetings I learned that I need to look inside and understand the violence inside myself in order to understand how to work for peace," said Leela, a young university student.
Sa'id* added, "We not only want to work for peace in Iraq, but in the whole world!"
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CPT and MPT also spent time discussing how they could continue to work together. CPTers explained that their own ability to continue working in Iraq is not clear. If they are able to do so, they see possible ways to work with MPT: assisting them in launching their campaigns, contacting and networking with other groups and getting them more intensive training.
As with other Iraqi organizations, the increasing violence and instability around them has made moving forward for the MPT difficult. MPTers have struggled with organizational problems.
Their strengths have been in their ability to intervene in violent situations in their own community and reach out to other Iraqis from different ethnic groups. Their work is rooted in their faith, and this has given them strength to move beyond their fears to working for peace.
And while so many others in Iraq have lost hope that any positive change can take place, they have held on to their vision for a peaceful world and know it is the only sane choice they have.