We talk about wanting peace. What is peace? How do we achieve it? Is it possible to obtain world peace? Can we design a vision of peace?
Israeli designer Ronny Edri is attempting to do just that. It began with uploading to Facebook a simple poster of him and his daughter, with the words “Iranians we will never bomb your country. We love you.” Here is a video of Ronny Edri sharing about how it all began..
If you have yet to discover and “like” the Israel-Loves-Iran facebook page, please visit. I have been following along with this amazing project since it began. This is a grassroots peace movement that shows how social media is changing how we can connect and see one another as people, not nationalities that are supposed to be at odds with one another.
This building of relationships and connections is incredibly powerful. When the faceless people of a nation suddenly have names and are sharing that neither wants war or mean each other harm, there is a shift that takes place. A powerful shift. Is it strong enough to hold back the tides of a war that political leaders may be manipulating into reality?
Thich Nhat Hanh shares this in his book Being Peace:
“During the war in Vietnam we young Buddhists organized ourselves to help victims of the war rebuild villages that had been destroyed by the bombs.
Many of us died during service, not only because of the bombs and the bullets, but because of the people who suspected us of being on the other side. We were able to understand the suffering of both sides, the communists and the anti-communists. We tried to be open to both, to understand this side and to understand that side, to be one with them. That is why we did not take a side, even though the whole world took sides. We tried to tell people our perception of the situation: that we wanted to stop the fighting, but the bombs were so loud. Sometimes we had to burn ourselves alive to get the message across, but even then the world could not hear us. They thought we were supporting a kind of political act. They didn’t know that it was a purely human action to be heard, to be understood. We wanted reconciliation, we did not want a victory. Working to help people in a circumstance like that is very dangerous, and many of us got killed. The communists killed us because they suspected that we were working with the Americans, and the anti-communists killed us because they thought that we were with the communists. But we did not want to give up and take one side.
The situation of the world is still like this. People completely identify with one side, one ideology. To understand the suffering and the fear of…[another citizen] we have to become one with him or her. To do so is dangerous-we will be suspected by both sides. But if we don’t do it, if we align ourselves with one side or the other, we will lose our chance to work for peace. Reconciliation is to understand both sides, to go to one side and describe the suffering being endured by the other side, and then to go to the other side and describe the suffering being endured by the first side. Doing only that will be a great help for peace.”
So how do we create understanding between people? How do find common ground? I think it is helpful as Thich Nhat Hahn recommends, is identifying with not just one side, but with both sides. I think there can be much enlightenment when we look back and explore the history of a situation, the back story, so to speak. What is the history between Iran and the United States of America? Does the past between our two nations have any affect on the current situation? If you want to learn more keep reading below.
The Iran Agenda:
I still cringe to this day when I recall George W. Bush’s State of the Union Address from January 29, 2002. This is the speech in which Bush referred to Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the “Axis of Evil.” I still want to slap my forehead, shake my head and ask aloud to anyone listening, “How in the world did the President of the United States think it was okay to label three nations as evil, and even worse, do it in public at an event where the world was listening?”
My own take on those events is that the administration was beating the drums of war and building their case to convince the American people that more wars would likely be necessary to protect their homeland. The war in Afghanistan had begun on October 7, 2001, less than a month after the events of September 11th. Then on March 19th, 2003, after many accusations that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction, the United States, accompanied by the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland attacked Iraq.
Even after Bush’s axis of evil pronouncement in 2002 a number of nations were alarmed at this statement. Mohammed Khatami, who was President of Iran at the time, had made a concerted effort to tone down hostile rhetoric toward the U.S. as part of a more pragmatic foreign policy, but he condemned Bush’s demonizing of Iran as “meddling, warmongering, insulting and a repetition of old propaganda.”
Many Iranians expressed sorrow and support for the United States after 9/11. There were even candlelight vigils held by Iranians. What was also very fascinating to read in a book by Reese Erlich called The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis is how “the Iranian government cooperated with the United States in its efforts to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan. This may come as a surprise to those who want to neatly place all Islamic fundamentalists into one group, but Iran solidly opposed Taliban rule. The Taliban murdered nine Iranian diplomats in 1998, almost leading the two countries to war. Iran had supported the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban.” Iran was going to assist in the alliance to invade Afghanistan. The US initially praised Iran’s “constructive role” in the meetings. “In January 2002, Iran pledged $560 million for Afghan reconstruction aid, the largest amount offered from a third world country.” According to the author Erlich, Iranian officials told him “that they expected the United States to extend the contacts over Afghanistan into a wider dialogue about U.S.-Iranian relations.” Instead President Bush proceeded to denounce Iran later that same month as part of the “axis of evil” and this effectively shut down relations.