A couple of months ago we received word that a friend of ours, Michael (MJ) Sharp had been killed in the DR Congo. Our family had met him back in 2005 when we had all been working in Europe/England as mission workers. Since then he went on to work with Mennonite Central Committee in Congo and then with the UN. While he was out with a colleague investigating some mass graves, they both were killed.
This news rocked the peacemaker and Mennonite and non-Mennonite world. One day when I talked to a friend about MJ, the friend asked if he had guards with him when he was taken. This question made me think about some of my feelings when I was working with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraqi Kurdistan. I wrote this poetic piece.
Are You Safe There?
The question from the bank teller, as she passes over my US dollars
I had said, (as she asked about my travels), “I am going to Iraqi Kurdistan”.
“Well, usually I feel safe”, I replied
(except the time there was live gunfire in the city square, or when I get into a taxi).
As I left she called,” Have a good trip- I don’t want to see your name in the newspaper.”
Oh--- she did not want to see that I was dead.
SAFE- no severe mutilation or death in the line of being a peacemaker and going into “dangerous” places without body gear that protects all vulnerable parts or an armoured vehicle or guards with guns or gated communities to hide in.
No- Ms bank teller- I guess I am not safe there.
My life is almost as vulnerable in my peacemaking in far away lands as the peoples I walk alongside.
But mine is a choice. I get to sign the waiver saying I am aware that my organisation will not pay ransom or send in armed troops to save me.
I am the one who can get onto a plane to go and then again to leave if the situation gets dicey.
My Kurdish, Syrian, Palestine friends can not.
Most must stay in their homes, cities, regions—hoping and praying to be safe.
But also- ma’am, I am not safe here.
My life may end early even in my homeland in my peacemaking work - walking across a road or riding in a car or meeting a wrong person during my day.
No ma’am, I am not safe and you may read my name in the Winnipeg Free Press.
But those of us who go or those of us who stay have decided that this is our life: our choice; to be one of the peacemakers.
Whether we follow Jesus or Allah or Creator or none
We have decided that nonsafety is not something that frightens us enough to stay home.