June 5, 2013 by Charlie Eisenhood in Livewire, Opinion with 1 comments
Here’s a story from a nonprofit leader, who was working in Iraq to help stabilize the region in the wake of the Iraq war.
From the Euphrates Institute blog:
[quote]One experience I’d like to share—just a small example—but it remains one of the most powerful moments of seeing the power of unity in action. I was a big ultimate Frisbee player and we used to play with U.S. military and State Department folks on a field inside the green zone. Occasionally we’d see Iraqis using this same field playing soccer. A friend and I started thinking that maybe we could organize a Frisbee game where we were all playing together. I started asking around and seeing who would be interested; we got together a group of Americans and we convinced the Iraqis to play, as well as many Iraqis from outside the green zone who I escorted in.
In all, at our first joint game, we had about 25 people on a very hot day. And it was super awkward. Mind you, this was at the height of the insurgency, and this was the first real encounter with the “Other” that most of these individuals had had in a real way. The Iraqis had just seen Americans in their uniforms and from their Humvees; these American soldiers had only seen the Iraqis through the lens of the enemy. Through one of the Iraqis’ very rudimentary English, my friend and I explained the rules of the game and how we would be dividing up the teams so that there would be equal numbers of Iraqis and Americans on each. And then we started in. At first, it was the quietest game of Frisbee I’d ever experienced, because no one talked to each other! And then, slowly, people started motioning to each other and calling for the disc. Then…a score and shouts of excitement and “good job” from an American. Then, they gave “thumbs up” and started clapping each other on the back and shaking hands. By the end of the game, the tension was gone, everyone was somehow communicating and talkative despite the language barrier; we were all sweaty and there was a feeling of brotherhood, of connection, of unity.
We kept these games going for a while (that is, until the Iraqis started getting death threats from insurgents for consorting with Americans) and some of the military guys even chipped in to buy tennis shoes for the Iraqis playing barefoot. Both sides commented that it was the first time they saw the other side as human beings and that they felt they were seen as human beings. That’s the power of a simple game that puts people on the same team, that unites them, even if just for a couple hours.[/quote]