by Terry K. Rockefeller
We thank the Fellowship of Reconciliation for making this possible. And we also thank the State Department, mind which took its time, ambulance but ultimately saw the righteousness of issuing Abdulsattar a visa!
There is a wonderful story of the connections among peace-loving people the world over that lies behind how September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows has come to know and work with La’Onf.
In 2007, illness at the second international meeting of the Nonviolent Peaceforce – that Anne Mulderry and Andrea LeBlanc (members of Peaceful Tomorrows who are here this afternoon) and I attended in Nairobi Kenya, one of the working sessions was on nonviolence in the Middle East. A young man from Spain told stories about a new organization in Iraq that his NGO was helping to get training in the philosophy and practice of nonviolence.
Later that year, I was able to meet two members of this Iraqi organization, La’Onf, when they came to a conference in Madrid. I was so struck by the vast difference between the images and stories Americans were receiving of Iraqis and what it was like to talk with these visionary activists. At the time the U.S. media depicted Iraqis as either violent terrorists or helpless victims. But the La’Onf members were neither – fully committed to nonviolence, they were deeply engaged in working to reclaim civil society in their nation, to make it possible for all Iraqis, women and men, to participate in rebuilding their nation, for themselves.
It was truly inspiring to meet people who had endured such injustice and violence yet had such vision and hope for a better future.
Eventually, Adele Welty (another Peaceful Tomorrows member, also here today) and I were able to go to Iraq last summer, where we attended La’Onf’’s first national meeting. Following that, Peaceful Tomorrows was honored to work last fall with many U.S. peace and justice organizations, including FOR, to spread the word about La’Onf’s third annual week of nonviolence.
Everything that La’Onf has done and is trying to accomplish confirms one of Peaceful Tomorrows’ deepest convictions that throughout our world in all places, and perhaps especially where there has been great violence, there are local peacemakers. They are our greatest hope for transforming conflict into peace. They need and deserve our support, and we should all feel challenged to find ways to strengthen and deepen our connections.
Abdulsattar’s presence with us today and for the next several weeks is an extraordinary gift and opportunity to do just that, and I am delighted to introduce him to you now.