Finding Hope on the Front Lines

Editors Note: What follows is an update recently received from Maggie Konstanski, World Relief's Disaster Response Manager. Maggie writes from Iraq, where she is currently working with local leaders to assist families forced from their homes because of the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

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Since last May, this is my fourth month here in Iraq, and I am enjoying being able to come back to friendships and appreciating the comfort of familiarity. Local shop owners know me and are happy to see me, friendships are strengthening and my love for this place grows.

Some things have changed even since my last trip here. The frontline has been pushed back in some places, opening access to some locations and creating new opportunities. There are new tensions, however—new groups being targeted by violence, with civilian communities caught in the crossfire.

Another change is the temperature. Many homes here are built to stay cool in the hot summers, which means they are incredibly cold in the winter. The key to staying warm is to have four walls, a sturdy roof and a heater, luxuries that many of the displaced do not have. It breaks my heart to know that many of my friends are cold through the night, while I enjoy a warm, dry and comfortable night of sleep. These are the disparities that are so hard to comprehend. Honestly, the more I learn, the less I understand.

It is hard to explain, but even though my heart aches over these disparities and the injustice and horrors of conflict, I keep coming back to hope. While the realities of war and conflict are devastating, and the losses many, it is in these same places that I see courage, hope and love on a scale I could never have imagined. I get to spend my days with people who have lost much and suffered deeply, yet daily choose to serve others and build towards the future. I am surrounded by peacemakers. Their courage astounds me.

This week I had the privilege of training a group of local trainers who will train others in facilitating child-friendly spaces, running support groups for youth and providing psychosocial support to their communities. If the love, generosity and courage that I have seen in these people and so many others is any indication, then I believe we can pray for peace and healing with great hope. It is hard sometimes to not despair, but I now can count some of the most courageous people I have ever met as friends, sisters and brothers. What a privilege.