Bombings in Baghdad: Turning Grief into Hope

Wednesday morning brought news of yet another ISIS attack—three car bombs targeting a public market in Baghdad, which killed at least 93 people. It’s never easy to find the right words in response to such a tragedy, so to put it simply: we stand by you, the people of Iraq, in our hearts and prayers. We send our deepest sympathies to you and your families.We all wish to see an end to needless acts of terror. But we must not become numb to these events or accept them as the new “normal.” We must continue striving to see humanity as the norm.I take courage in the ongoing efforts of individuals and groups around the world that are working tirelessly to promote lasting solutions to conflict. One such example is the network of organizations that partner with the United Religions Initiative (URI). Though diverse in their work and mission statements, these groups all share a commitment to tolerance, respect, and cooperation for the ultimate goal of peace among people of every faith. Following the Baghdad bombings, there was an immediate outpouring of compassion from this community. The essence of their collective responses first, acknowledged a terrible sense of grief; then, reinforced our values and actions to counter extremism; and finally, served to inspire hope. It was a helpful reminder to me that together, we can more effectively strengthen our voices and have a greater impact for good.I also recalled the incredible work of one Iraqi woman, Zuhal Sultan, the 2015 Euphrates Visionary of the Year. An accomplished pianist, Zuhal had a vision to unite the many ethnic and religious groups of her country through the power of music. In 2009, at age 17, Zuhal’s dream was realized when she founded the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq. The orchestra is comprised of 43 young musicians of Shia, Sunni, Kurdish, and Christian backgrounds who managed to overcome deeply embedded cultural divisions and create harmony. Zuhal’s initiative has accomplished what government institutions have failed to provide in Iraq and she represents the antithesis of ISIS.While there’s no use for naïveté amid trying times, I don’t believe we should underestimate the ability of those like Zuhal to foster understanding and forward the cause of peace, rather than violence. We need more stories like hers to outweigh the attacks we read about in the press. We all have a part to play in stopping ISIS, and every act of humanity, however big or small, counts as a step in the right direction.

Image credit: BBC News and Al Jazeera