Peacemaking Through Art
by Susan Brooks
It’s incredible how impactful a few hours of interaction with someone from another culture can be! Our State Department sponsors various cultural groups to visit the U.S., and sometimes those groups come to our city, Louisville, KY, through the local chapter of the World Affairs Council. Because of my husband, Martin Brooks, and his ties with the World Affairs Council, one such group visited my school. The group included 12 Iraqi high school students and their sponsors who had come to the States to explore “peacemaking through art and sports.” Our students were so friendly and gracious to them! I began to wonder if angels had taken the souls of my eighth graders away and inhabited their bodies for that afternoon. We broke up into groups of 4 or 5 and answered questions about culture, family, political struggles, hobbies, school, etc., and then when the principal asked what they had learned, one of our boys shouted, “Iraqis are awesome!”
This exclamation, though it may not seem impressive on the surface, was a beautiful way of expressing a profound truth: that we are all created in the image of God, no matter where we may have been born; and we are all so loved by God, and indeed, we are all “awesome.”
After lunch our guests went to P.E. with the ninth grade boys. Our Iraqi guests graciously divided themselves between two teams, placing Iraqis on each team for a fantastic soccer game that our boys will never forget.
The last class period of the day, the Iraqi students were divided between art class and yearbook class. Doing art together turned out to be a wonderful ending to our great day of peacebuilding. At one of the tables, two Iraqis and two of my American students decided to work together in such a way that their tile paintings became individual designs as well as parts of a whole, making a larger, more beautiful and complex design when placed together. Perhaps that says something about God’s design for us. One of our students said it well in a tweet she sent out that evening:
“We may be culturally different and even messy, but there are some things, such as art, that unify us in a way that can't be denied.”
The next day, my eighth grade writing class processed the experience through blogging, and they had some great comments:
“By the end of our time with them they felt like friends, even one of us started crying.”
“I loved the Iraqis and wish they were Christian. I would love to have them as friends in heaven.”
“They also came over here to let people know that not all Iraqi people are terrorists; and they don't want war; they just want peace. The experience of meeting our guests yesterday changed the way I think and react to stories on the news and to life in general. I think this time with the Iraqis was very inspiring.”
I think so too.
Read more from Susan at susanebrooks.com.