Last year, inspired by conversations on BC discussion boards I wrote a post about Ramadan and what it means to me. I am a (slightly confused) non-Muslim who has lived in Muslim countries, so perhaps have a different take on the holy month from some people. Ramadan is, for me, primarily a time for contemplation and reflection. This led me last year to write about being apart from loved ones and to announce the establishment of a imediate.org – a peace orientated organisation which I continue to run a year on.
Over the past year imediate.org has worked in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. We have worked on issues in Nepal, DR Congo, and Palestine and we are set to begin work in Uganda, Kenya and Bangladesh in coming months. Increasingly we are working in British communities and with British organizations - perhaps a good time to reflect on the reality that violent conflict is something that is capable of rearing its ugly head in every community, in every country, around the world – and not something, as some newspapers would have you believe, synonymous with Islam.
A few weeks ago in Baghdad, I posted a chirpy daily blog (which a flabbergasting 2,000 people tuned in). The aim of my travel blog was to present a different face of Iraq and Iraqi people and I even managed to draw some positivity from the truck bomb attack which came pretty close. However, I wasn’t in Iraq to blog and I perhaps skimmed over my mission there. I was in Baghdad to explore media campaigns that would address human rights issues – and as my time in Iraq ended as Ramadan began, I hope some seeds were sown that this month will be reflected upon.
Working with a group of people who had suffered torture, loss, and displacement first hand meant that human rights concerns were very real – and in Iraq stretch far beyond Camp Ashraf and Gay Rights (agendas being pushed by those outside of Iraq). Just one example - I was told horrific stories of sites in Iraq that are home to mass graves – where thousands of Iraqis, Kurds, and even Iranians lay dead, unidentified and not at rest. Some buried alive. A civil-holocaust.
Although not a huge issue for the Government of Iraq, who want to focus on those that are alive, I learnt that every day people arrive at the Ministry of Human Rights with pain in their hearts seeking information about missing loved ones. Perhaps because I have pain in my own heart this week, having lost a very dear friend to a very different kind of conflict (a very real battle with cancer), I am moved to reach out to these poor souls - stuck in limbo and unable to heal because of lack of governmental will and properly trained DNA experts. It is common sense to me that when both the alive and dead are properly at rest a community is better able to recover itself.
So this Ramadan (said again in my usual BBC Radio 4 "thought for the day" voice), I urge you to contemplate and reflect on those who have lost a loved one. Understand their grief, allow their frustration and angst and help them to heal.