Preparing to Leave
June 14, 2011 § 1 Comment
I leave today from Minneapolis for Najaf, Iraq, where I will live for a month. After a few days in Amman, Jordan, I’ll stay in Najaf until July 20 to work with the Muslim Peacemaker Teams (MPT) and its director, Sami Rasouli. MPT is a non-profit organization supporting human rights and nonviolence in Iraq.
I’ll be in Najaf as part of the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project (IARP), where I have worked for the last three years. IARP uses art, education, health, and cultural exchange programs to support reconciliation between Iraqis and Americans. It’s an organization that works to rebuild relationships broken by war.
I’ll also be traveling as a Minneapolitan to my Sister City of Najaf, carrying a letter from Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak to Najaf Governor Adnan Al-Zurufi. Minneapolis and Najaf became Sister Cities in 2009, establishing a city to city friendship and initiating professional and personal citizen connections. Since then, 5 delegations of doctors, city officials, engineers, academics, artists, and others have traveled from Najaf to Minneapolis. I’ll be the 2nd delegation (both 1-person) from Minneapolis to Najaf (you can read about the first delegation here).
Many of my friends and relatives have asked why I’m going on this trip. From my limited knowledge, Iraq remains torn by American-led war and sanctions. It has left the spotlight of American media. But I am not going as a “war correspondent” to report on the devastation of war, and I am not (I hope) going with an American-centric perspective. I want to meet in person the Iraqis who I know through IARP–students, professionals, and others who are optimistic and work hard for the future. I want to learn from them and present a different side of Iraq–their side–through this blog.
As an American I cannot escape the destructive actions of my country, but I can help present an alternative model of an American living peacefully with America’s “enemies.” While I do not imagine my 5-week trip will change the relationship between Iraq and the U.S., I do imagine that it will have a large impact on me and that I will learn a great deal.
Besides teaching English classes and helping with office work, my goal will be to document and highlight the work of the Muslim Peacemaker Teams. Throughout the trip, I will use this blog to write about both my own experiences and their work. I will be “embedded” with these peacemakers and will hope to build support for them by sharing their stories. I invite you to follow my trip through this blog.
I also have a goal of raising $2,500 for the Muslim Peacemaker Teams by July 22, the day I return to Minneapolis. They are doing critical work with Iraqi youth and professionals to rebuild a nonviolent, peaceful society in Iraq, and need your support. You can make a contribution to MPT here.