Last week I stated:
ope-filled, informed pragmatic help is on the horizon. We'll take a look at the inspired efforts of a growing number of our nation's young people to counter "Tower of Babelism" next week.
This hope comes from a article entitled, "For American Students, Life Lessons in the Mideast," [8-8-10 New York Times] and gives a positive long term solution to our war-driven problems in the Middle East [and elsewhere to be sure]. We have a Tower of Babel situation; havoc created by hatreds, fundamental misunderstandings, and total reliance on weapons—spread out from Israel and Iraq to all neighboring countries.
Palestinian stones of David against Israeli Goliaths. Photo by Larry Towell, Shati Refugee Camp, Gaza 1993
We start to change the conflict by learning the language and culture of the place in conflict. Those who take the time to do this are inspired and inspiring. More of our young people are choosing this path. There is a young man from Marysville, MI [son of a nurse at Physician HealthCare Network I worked with] who right now studies Arabic in Jordan [with 2 years of Arabic in so far at MSU]. Last summer he was a Michigan Peace Teams volunteer witnessing the troubles in the West Bank.
s the article cited above informs, the numbers of young adults taking this path of "critical" foreign language study has increased six fold from 2002 to 2007, at 3339 students when last counted. Part of this is due to the State Department's creation of the Critical Language Scholarship Program. Yet we need so many more. There are one and a half million U.S. soldiers. Extremely few speak useful fluent Arabic, Pashtu, or Dari. Even our "critical" diplomatic missions have a dearth of true foreign language speakers.
Listen to the opinions of some of these students, and then read the full article if possible. U.S. citizens interested in real lasting national security need to call with one voice for a huge mobilization of foreign language proficiency.
ore important, these students say they now view the region completely differently. Kathryn Baxter, 20, a student at American University, said of her time in Egypt, "I will never again look at a story about the Middle East with such a one-sided perspective." Anthony Clairmont, 21, a senior at Sewanee: The University of the South, who spent six months in Morocco, said, "I genuinely enjoyed watching the bottom fall out of every one of my preconceived ideas about the Muslim world."
Yet none of them said they had confronted anti-American sentiment, other than occasional disagreements over foreign policy. "I found that whether I was in Cairo, Aswan, Amman or Damascus, people with whom I interacted wanted to talk about common interests — family, sports, music and economics — rather than our struggles and disagreements," said Richard Frohlichstein, 21, a senior at Georgetown University, who spent last autumn at American University in Cairo.
Or as Anna Oltman, 21, a senior at Franklin & Marshall College, said about her semester in Egypt: "For better or worse, and certainly not unintentionally, 9/11 linked our generation of Americans with its parallel generation of Middle Easterners. We need to get to know them."
"Christians must become active in every possible way, mobilizing all their resources for the fight against war. First of all there is much to be studied much to be learned. Peace is to be preached, nonviolence is to be explained as a practical method, and not left to be mocked as an outlet for crackpots who want to make a show of themselves. Prayer and sacrifice must be used as the most effective spiritual weapons in the war against war, and like all weapons they must be used with deliberate aim: not just with a vague aspiration for peace and security, but against violence and against war." Thomas Merton writing in 1962 height of the Cold War, in Passion for Peace published in 2006, p. 26
What follows are a background list of what I'd hoped were "wise sayings" for a small youth group on faith & young people politics I'd help start at Port Huron Northern High in the late 90's. The weekly discussions on varied topics were an attempt to offer for my teenagers, and the parallel ones I knew [mostly from hours and days with their soccer teams] something that would touch on the difficult regular questions they faced—an open forum. My kids didn't often come, but sometimes did, and some others did weekly after the fall sports season, and that was enough to keep it going 4 or 5 years.
The first two sayings I believe are from Ghandi. The last four are mine. The very last one my wife composed into a sacred chant. People of our peace faith community in Detroit sang it a number of times through the five years lived beyond predicted, in a strong writer, and strongly loved mother's struggle with cancer. An honor to play this small part, already making the composition attempt below worthwhile. I'm not really certain what the members of the youth group made or make of them.
MYSTERIES / LESSONS FOR THE YEAR 2000
APATHY, IN THE FACE OF RELIEVABLE HUMAN MISERY, IS RADICAL EVIL.
GHANDI, A HINDU AND ADMIRER OF JESUS, SAID: "THE WORK WE DO FOR A SELFLESS GOAL, WITHOUT THOUGHT OF PROFIT, IS ACTUALLY A FORM OF PRAYER."
WHEN I DO SOMETHING PURELY TO HELP SOMEONE ELSE, I AM MOST LIKELY, ALSO, TO BE HELPING MYSELF.
GOD'S LOVE AND MERCY KNOWS NO LIMIT; OUR LOVE AND MERCY SHOULD BE LIKE GOD'S. JESUS GAVE THE NEW COMMANDMENT, "LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU." THIS LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL, NONVIOLENT LOVE.
UNLIMITED GRACE IS AVAILABLE TO US. THE LITTLE GOOD THAT WE TRY TO DO IS MULTIPLIED A HUNDREDFOLD.
BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY—AN ALMOST UNBELIEVABLE GOODNESS HELPS US FACE THE FIERCE UNKNOWN.
Thought provoked by the funeral mass for a 39 year old enfeebled very feisty, blind yet exceedingly sensitive member of our Port Huron community last weekend.
We are all only one faltering step away from eternity.
Illuminations by Kathy Brahney