Recently three Christian Peacemaker Team members of the Iraqi Kurdistan team took the Children’s Art and Peace Project to the students of Kobani School in Sulaimani.
The children were refugees from Syria. Their cheerful faces belied any suffering that they had endured. Several were wearing school uniforms they may have worn when they were students in Syria. They eagerly participated in the program, in many ways demonstrating the resilience of children.
Wanting to show that working together is enriching, we told them that we came from different countries, with the same dream. One of us is from Poland, another from Canada and the third from the USA. We are a peace team, involved in working for peace in spite of our own government’s decisions regarding solutions to the violence. People around the world are joining hands, seeking peace, dreaming of what a world of peace would look like. Then, ready to have them share their dreams, we asked them, “What does peace look like?”
- Peace looks like me sitting with my family.
- Peace looks like being able to talk on the telephone to relatives who live in nearby towns.
- Peace looks like safety, no police knocks.
- Peace looks like kind words.
- Peace looks like a circle, people holding hands.
- Peace looks like bringing flowers after an argument.
- Peace looks like riding a bicycle free and unafraid.
In the conversation that followed, when describing working together with her group, one young participant quoted a Syrian proverb: “Instead of putting eyelashes on, we poke ourselves in the eye.” Another Syrian proverb that came out of the group was, “Instead of building a bridge, it was so difficult to express ourselves, we made soup.”
Our translator told us that the participants were using familiar Syrian proverbs to describe the difficulties of working together. Sometimes our intentions are good and beautiful (eyelashes) but the result can be hurtful (poking ourselves) or our effort to create something beautiful and useful (a bridge) can result in a mess (soup). What comfort we can often find in our own cultural expressions. How can understanding these help unite us?
Our closing circle included a Syrian gentleman and four women: one Canadian, one Polish, one from the USA and one Iraqi, holding hands for peace as we reflected on the question, “Are we poking ourselves in the eye, making soup, or making peace?”