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Posts Tagged ‘humanity’

Bridge of hope

Posted by Richard on November 12, 2008

Courtesy of Reuters (!), here's the feel-good story of the week from Iraq:

The Bridge of the Imams connects the Adhamiya and Kadhimiya neighborhoods of Baghdad, named for mediaeval Sunni and Shi'ite holy men whose landmark shrines on opposite sides of the Tigris are surrounded by homes of members of the separate communities.

It had been closed since 2005 when rumors of a suicide bombing panicked thousands of Shi'ites crossing the bridge for a pilgrimage to the Kadhimiya shrine. About one thousand people died in that stampede, clogging the river below with corpses.

But on Tuesday Sunni children from Adhamiya raced to see their Shi'ite friends in Kadhimiya. Women from the two communities met up on the bridge, kissing and hugging each other with joy.

"When the faces met, the lips smiled, hands shook, bodies hugged, the tears flowed out of joy. This is the Iraqi citizen," said Sheikh Ahmed al-Samaraie, head of Iraq's Sunni Endowment, which runs Sunni religious offices and mosques in Iraq.

A banner across the bridge read: "The bridge of love and reconciliation between the people of Adhamiya and Kadhimiya."

Officials said the event was a sign that the sectarian hatred that fueled years of violence in Iraq is ebbing away. The number of Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops killed last month was the lowest monthly toll since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

"This day is a remarkable day, a day of a great Iraq. The day of meeting, love, brotherhood, affinity … The day we proved to the whole world that we are one nation," Sayyid Salih al-Haidari, Samaraie's Shi'ite counterpart said in a speech. Delegations accompanying the two officials then went to pray together at a nearby mosque.

That's worth a tear of joy or two, don't you think?

HT: Instapundit, who observed that "Now that the election's over, we may get more of those!"

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Michael Yon: Come Home

Posted by Richard on November 16, 2007

So you think that the war is lost and Iraqis just aren't ready to live in an open, tolerant, pluralist democracy? Then go look at Michael Yon's new dispatch, Come Home, a photo essay about the mass at St. John's Church in Baghdad yesterday (you might want the tissues handy). You really need to go look at the whole thing, but here's something to think about:

LTC Michael told me today that when al Qaeda came to Dora, they began harassing Christians first, charging them “rent.” It was the local Muslims, according to LTC Michael, who first came to him for help to protect the Christians in his area. That’s right. LTC Michael told me more than once that the Muslims reached out to him to protect the Christians from al Qaeda. Real Muslims here are quick to say that al Qaeda members are not true Muslims. From charging “rent,” al Qaeda’s harassment escalated to killing Christians, and also Muslims. Untold thousands of Christians and Muslims fled Baghdad in the wake of the darkness of civil war.  Most of the Christians are gone now; having fled to Syria, Jordan or Northern Iraq.

Today, Muslims mostly filled the front pews of St John’s. Muslims who want their Christian friends and neighbors to come home. The Christians who might see these photos likely will recognize their friends here. The Muslims in this neighborhood worry that other people will take the homes of their Christian neighbors, and that the Christians will never come back. And so they came to St John’s today in force, and they showed their faces, and they said, “Come back to Iraq. Come home.” They wanted the cameras to catch it. They wanted to spread the word: Come home. Muslims keep telling me to get it on the news. “Tell the Christians to come home to their country Iraq.”

Wow.

Don't forget, Michael Yon's reporting is entirely reader-supported. Please contribute a little something to help support the next dispatch. 

UPDATE (11/17): Two comments from Vodkapundit's 11/16 post about Michael Yon's dispatch:

What makes the picture and the people so moving to me is the background of this cross raising event. St. John's Chaldean Catholic Church was car bombed along with two other churches all within minutes of each other exactely one year ago on November 8, 2006. The congregation took down the cross and bells and put them in storage. They cleaned up the interior of the church, and at an Easter liturgy this year they welcomed a Shiite notable, who spoke movingly of the unity of Iraqis. I am touched by the generosity of spirit of these Muslims. The cross and bells are hated by reactionary Muslims. What a magnificent rebuke is this event of neighborliness. This is an icon of tolerance and mutual acceptance and,yes,love.

Posted by Michael Barger at November 16, 2007 10:56 PM
Again, wow. Thank you, Michael, for the additional background information. 

I am neither a Christian nor a Muslim, but this makes me happy for both. "One foot in front of the other"… that is what it takes. How wonderful it is that those feet are usually walking alongside a strong young American idealist. I am so proud of my country and its young warriors for peace.

Posted by sherlock at November 17, 2007 12:49 AM

Like sherlock, I'm neither a Christian nor a Muslim. But I enthusiastically second his comment. There are, as I said recently, many "decent people of good will" in Iraq, and I'm so very proud of them and of the brave and dedicated Americans who are helping them. The scale is smaller, but looking at Michael Yon's photo essay evoked in me many of the same emotions I felt when I watched the Berlin Wall fall — a tremendous feeling of joy and pride about the greatness and glory that we humans are capable of, and a sense of optimism and hope for the future. 

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An exceptional young citizen

Posted by Richard on October 9, 2007

Every so often, I link to something I think is truly special and encourage you, dear reader, to go read it. Never have I done so with the intensity, urgency, and depth of feeling with which I ask you to please, please read Christopher Hitchens' November Vanity Fair article, "A Death in the Family":

I was having an oppressively normal morning a few months ago, flicking through the banality of quotidian e-mail traffic, when I idly clicked on a message from a friend headed "Seen This?" The attached item turned out to be a very well-written story by Teresa Watanabe of the Los Angeles Times. It described the death, in Mosul, Iraq, of a young soldier from Irvine, California, named Mark Jennings Daily, and the unusual degree of emotion that his community was undergoing as a consequence. The emotion derived from a very moving statement that the boy had left behind, stating his reasons for having become a volunteer and bravely facing the prospect that his words might have to be read posthumously. In a way, the story was almost too perfect: this handsome lad had been born on the Fourth of July, was a registered Democrat and self-described agnostic, a U.C.L.A. honors graduate, and during his college days had fairly decided reservations about the war in Iraq. I read on, and actually printed the story out, and was turning a page when I saw the following:

"Somewhere along the way, he changed his mind. His family says there was no epiphany. Writings by author and columnist Christopher Hitchens on the moral case for war deeply influenced him … "

I don't exaggerate by much when I say that I froze. I certainly felt a very deep pang of cold dismay. I had just returned from a visit to Iraq with my own son (who is 23, as was young Mr. Daily) and had found myself in a deeply pessimistic frame of mind about the war. Was it possible that I had helped persuade someone I had never met to place himself in the path of an I.E.D.? …

… I feverishly clicked on all the links from the article and found myself on Lieutenant Daily's MySpace site, where his statement "Why I Joined" was posted. The site also immediately kicked into a skirling noise of Irish revolutionary pugnacity: a song from the Dropkick Murphys album Warrior's Code. And there, at the top of the page, was a link to a passage from one of my articles, in which I poured scorn on those who were neutral about the battle for Iraq … I don't remember ever feeling, in every allowable sense of the word, quite so hollow.

I writhed around in my chair for a bit and decided that I ought to call Ms. Watanabe, who could not have been nicer. She anticipated the question I was too tongue-tied to ask: Would the Daily family-those whose "house lay wrecked"-be contactable? "They'd actually like to hear from you." She kindly gave me the e-mail address and the home number.

I don't intend to make a parade of my own feelings here, but I expect you will believe me when I tell you that I e-mailed first. For one thing, I didn't want to choose a bad time to ring. For another, and as I wrote to his parents, I was quite prepared for them to resent me. So let me introduce you to one of the most generous and decent families in the United States, and allow me to tell you something of their experience.

I promise you that reading the rest — both Hitchens' fine prose and the wonderful passages he quotes from Mark's statement and letters — will be well worth your time. Just have some tissues handy. It's both profoundly sad and joyously uplifting. I feel better just knowing that people like Mark Daily and his family exist.

I'll quote one more passage, this one from Hitchens' recounting of the day that Mark's ashes were scattered:

I became a trifle choked up after that, but everybody else also managed to speak, often reading poems of their own composition, and as the day ebbed in a blaze of glory over the ocean, I thought, Well, here we are to perform the last honors for a warrior and hero, and there are no hysterical ululations, no shrieks for revenge, no insults hurled at the enemy, no firing into the air or bogus hysterics. Instead, an honest, brave, modest family is doing its private best. I hope no fanatical fool could ever mistake this for weakness. It is, instead, a very particular kind of strength. If America can spontaneously produce young men like Mark, and occasions like this one, it has a real homeland security instead of a bureaucratic one. To borrow some words of George Orwell's when he first saw revolutionary Barcelona, "I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for." 

Amen.

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A gift from a grateful Afghani

Posted by Richard on July 18, 2006

Lt. Col. Grayson Gile completed a tour in Afghanistan recently. Now that he’s back in Illinois, however, he still has one more mission to complete — delivering a special gift from a grateful elderly Afghani to President Bush. Thanks to The Anchoress for pointing out this wonderful, heartwarming, feel-good story in The Southern Illinoisan — you just know it’ll never be covered in the MSM:

One of those friendships involved a Kabul rug merchant who pulled Gile aside before he left the country. The merchant told Gile the story of an elderly man, so overwhelmed with gratitude to the United States for its intervention in the conflict that he made a gift for President Bush – a gift that was a year in the making and made, given the conditions of the country, under penalty of death.

Gile was astonished when he saw the hand-knotted rug, a portrait of Bush, filled with Christian and Catholic symbolism. Filling the center of the rug is an incredible likeness of Bush, dressed in religious vestments, standing at a podium decorated with the official seal of the country and flanked by two waving American flags.

Directly above Bush is Jesus with a sacred heart and stigmata carefully knotted into the rug’s pattern. The rug also shows cherubs and, apparently in an homage to both Bush and a fallen Northern Alliance leader, two lions.

"(Ahmed Shah) Masood was often called ‘the Lion of Panjshir.’ As one of the country’s military leaders, he put some very, very heavy licks to the Soviets and then turned around and delivered the same to the Taliban," Gile said. "He was assassinated two days before 9/11."

One corner of the rug reads, "President George W. Bush," while the opposing corner has the words, "Number one champion."

Gile said he was impressed by the man’s efforts.

"For this man to sequester himself away for a year to hand knot this rug speaks highly of his gratitude," he said. "And for an extraordinarily devout Muslim to have taken very strong Christian and Catholic symbology and incorporate them into the rug is amazing. He may come from a different religious culture, but he was respectful enough to do that, and that is very interesting and humbling."

Here’s Lt. Col. Gile showing off the Afghani rug (photo by Steve Jahnke / The Southern):
 

Afghani rug honoring Bush

As The Anchoress said:

Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

Someday, when the current fever of hate and the trend to mendacity has faded…in a saner world…right-thinking people will look back and realize that this president – THIS president – has not been an evil, moronic, malevolent and war-mongering dictator but one of the greatest humanitarian presidents in the history of our nation. It may not happen in Bush’s lifetime, but Dr. Martin Luther King said, "a lie can’t last."

This is one of those stories that so marvellously illustrates the decency, goodness, and humanity of which people are capable — and the empathy that one human being of good will can feel toward another, no matter how different they are — it just stirs me to the quick.

I remember hearing about Ahmed Masood from the late David Segal of Denver, a former IDF officer whose knowledge of military history, the Middle East, and Afghanistan never ceased to amaze me, and whom I thought about — and mourned — just the other day when the current fighting between Israel and Hezbollah began.

Segal, too, admired Masood and thought that his assassination was a real shame for the future of Afghanistan — and he believed it was no coincidence that Masood was eliminated just before al Qaeda struck us.

Given some of the negative news from Afghanistan lately, it cheers me to hear that there are Afghanis who still admire and honor Masood. And Bush.
 

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