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I have been thinking a lot about hope and fear the past few weeks. It is hard to avoid at this time of year. Christmas and New Year’s are holidays of hope. Yet that hope easily can turn to fear when we find out people are flying with explosives in their underwear.
Fortunately, that attempt to kill innocents in the airplane failed. But in Iraq last month, one of the countries where I work with young people in Mercy Corps’ youth leadership program, the attempts succeeded, with terrorists killing 127 people in Baghdad.
One of the great things about working in Mercy Corps is the exposure you get to extraordinary people. I listened to two such people last month, hoping to get their perspectives. Both have dedicated their lives to bringing education to girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan; Greg Mortenson, author of Three cups of Tea, and Julia Bolz, a Seattle-based activist. Between the two of them, they have helped build hundreds of schools for girls in this part of the world, impacting not just these individuals, but generations to come.
The question weighing heaviest on my mind is what do we do to end the terror? There is no simple answer here. But one thing stuck out to me as I listened to them both. Both spoke with one clear message; “promoting peace is based in hope. Fighting terrorism is based in fear”.
Two days after the terrorist bombings in Baghdad, I heard from another group of extraordinary people. Two hundred Iraqi youth in our Global Citizen Corps responded to the bombings by organizing a caravan to the city and donated their blood, most for the first time. Their story was picked up by national and international media, reaching more than 5 million people with this story of hope. The driver of one of these vans was so moved by what these teens were doing, that he refused to take any money for his services that day.
I doubt we will ever capture, kill and eliminate every person who is set on terrorizing others around the world. But I am convinced that most people want to live with hope instead of fear, as these young Iraqi demonstrated last month. If we only give them a chance.
Greg Tuke teaches and travels internationally, working with university faculty in India, Indonesia and the MIddle East, sharing strategies for implementing international collaborations within course work. This blog chronicles key experiences and insights about those experiences. All opinions expressed are mine, and represent no other institutional affiliation.