Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Iraq reflection: Anger, forgiveness, and healing.

We were Sunni Muslim, Yezidi, and Christian--two Christian Peacemaker Team members, and two Kurdish Iraqi companions. We had taken a trip together to learn about and explore relationships with a community in northwest Iraq that has suffered religious persecution, poverty, and mass displacement. On our trip home, the four of us were kidnaped at gunpoint and taken to a family compound in a small village.

Our religious differences suddenly became a big deal when our guard asked each of us who we were and about the organizations we were a part of. The questions about our religion raised an extra layer of fear in our Iraqi companions. Depending on the background of our captors, their religious identity could mean life or death.

When our guard asked me if I was a Christian, I simply said, “Yes.” But after he repeated the question, I sensed a veiled threat in what he asked. Then I knew I needed to say more. I wanted to be sure our guard would understand, so I asked one of my companions to translate my words.

“You are holding us here, and you would do us harm,” I said, “I am a Christian, and because I am, I will forgive you!” Our guard seemed taken aback at first, and then responded defensively, “No, we will not harm you! You are like my mother.”

My words about forgiveness startled me. Mixed with my fear was also anger toward these men who held us. I had no idea what they would do with us. I wanted to be able to forgive them, but I knew I wasn't there yet.

We were very thankful when two days later our kidnapers released one of our Iraqi companions and me. They released the others six days later.

Since then, I have been walking on a path toward healing, which I believe includes forgiveness of all involved in the kidnaping. I want to be free of the burdens of resentment toward those who took us captive and threatened to harm us, yet allow room for a healthy anger toward injustice and abuse.

Looking back, I see that the anger I felt during the kidnaping was a gift God gave me and has been part of the forgiving process. This anger helped me combat the feelings of helplessness encroaching on me at that time and made it possible for me to speak the truth about the harm our captors were doing. My comments, in turn, interrupted the guard’s threatening questions.

Now, recognizing and facing these feelings of anger keeps me honest and real about my need for healing and God’s grace.

--Peggy Gish is a Church of the Brethren member and longterm worker with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq. This reflection appeared in a release from CPT on May 31; the kidnaping happened earlier this year. Since then CPT’s Iraq team has returned home for healing, examination, and discernment.

Source: 06/06/2007 Newsline

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