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Giving their blood for peace

Iraq, January 7, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Muslim Mohammed/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Iraqi Global Citizen Corps members give blood to help survivors of a deadly terrorist bombing in Baghdad, Iraq last month. Photo: Muslim Mohammed/Mercy Corps

I have been thinking a lot about hope and fear the past few weeks. It is hard to avoid at this time of year. Christmas and New Year’s are holidays of hope. Yet that hope easily can turn to fear when we find out people are flying with hidden explosives.

Fortunately, that attempt to kill innocents in the airplane failed. But last month in Iraq — one of the countries where I work with young people in Mercy Corps’ youth leadership program — the attempts succeeded, with terrorists killing 127 people in Baghdad.

The question weighing heaviest on my mind is: what do we do to end the terror?

One of the great things about working for Mercy Corps is the exposure you get to extraordinary people. I listened to two such people last month, hoping to get their perspectives. Both have dedicated their lives to bringing education to girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan; Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, and Julia Bolz, a Seattle-based activist. Between the two of them, they have helped build hundreds of schools for girls in this part of the world, impacting not just these individuals, but generations to come.

There is no simple answer to the terror question. But one thing stuck out to me as I listened to them both. Both spoke with one clear message: “Promoting peace is based in hope. Fighting terrorism is based in fear.”

Two days after the terrorist bombings in Baghdad, I heard from another group of extraordinary people. Two hundred Iraqi youth from our Global Citizen Corps responded to the bombings by organizing a caravan to the city and donating their blood, most for the first time. Their actions were covered by national and international media, reaching more than five million people with this story of hope. The driver of one of these vans was so moved by what these teens were doing, that he refused to take any money for his services that day.

I doubt we will ever capture, kill or eliminate every person who is set on terrorizing others around the world. But I am convinced that most people want to live with hope instead of fear, as these young Iraqis demonstrated last month — if we only give them a chance.