In December 2007, in Iraq, I wrote:
”As Christmas was coming, we read scriptures about the light shining in the darkness and the darkness not overcoming it. (John 1:3) I write from a place in the world so tangled in violence that people talk as though there is no really good solution or way out. Each year in Iraq, it seems like the hopelessness and darkness increases.
People we talk to from south and central Iraq, tell us stories of Iraqis living in fear and continual violence in the form of explosions, fighting between militias, coalition force operations, killings by police death squads, and kidnappings. To this they add the stories of human suffering from structural violence, such as a broken health care system and oppressive or corrupt economic practices. Iraqis fear that the recent decrease in violence is temporary and not indicative of a substantial strengthening of society and governmental unity.
People in the KRG are thankful for more security on the streets, but realize that this has come at the price of restricted freedom and human rights. Kurds fear that terrorism will move into their region.
So what is the good news of Advent for the Iraqi people? How does the light break into the darkness here? Has God forgotten them, or is God entering into their world?
These are questions we ask as we live among and walk with the people in their struggles. We don’t see corrupt and violent institutions or international powers dramatically turning around. What we see are some people willing to speak out when it is risky to do so, people giving themselves to help others in need or to rebuild their society. We see the light breaking in where we find institutions being transformed or people who have a vision of another way of getting out of the mess they are in. This other way includes revealing the truth, working for reconciliation, and using the power of love and nonviolent confrontation to stop the cycles of violence.
We hold on to the belief that the power of this light of God is stronger than the darkness. Wherever people are open to God’s Spirit of love and truth, God will enter and work among and through them to break down the walls of hostility. We pray that we can be witnesses to the light breaking in, and be part of God’s work of healing and establishing justice.”
(adapted from Walking Through Fire: Iraqis’ Struggle For Justice and Reconciliation, (p. 155) by Peggy Faw Gish, Cascade Books, 2013)