Zainab Salbi: Invest in Women, Invest in Peace

Zainab Salbi is the founder of Women for Women International. In the mid-1990s, I worked with her advocating for Bosnian women in the middle of the Bosnian genocide. At the time, she and I were one of the few women in the DC-area who were organizing for peace in Bosnia. Zainab’s an Iraqi refugee and we bonded over Christian and Muslim women coming together for Christian and Muslim women in the former Yugoslavia. Zainab’s team at W4WI lifts up the stories of women in war zones around the world.

As the U.S. and others once again go to war in Libya – under the guise of “redemptive violence” – I’m prompted by Zainab to call to mind the women and children in Libya, the doctors, the pacifists, and all those who refuse to fight for any side. Pray for them. Look for their stories.

Below is a TED talk by Zainab from Oxford last summer.

I grew up with the colors of war — the red colors of fire and blood, the brown tones of earth as it explodes in our faces and the piercing silver of an exploded missile, so bright that nothing can protect your eyes from it. I grew up with the sounds of war — the staccato sounds of gunfire, the wrenching booms of explosions, ominous drones of jets flying overhead and the wailing warning sounds of sirens. These are the sounds you would expect, but they are also the sounds of dissonant concerts of a flock of birds screeching in the night, the high-pitched honest cries of children and the thunderous, unbearable, silence. “War,” a friend of mine said, “is not about sound at all. It is actually about silence, the silence of humanity.”–Zainab Salbi

“There are women who are standing on their feet in spite of their circumstances, not because of it. Think of how the world can be a much better place if, for a change, we have a better equality, we have equality, we have a representation and we understand war, both from the front-line and the back-line discussion.

Rumi, a 13th century Sufi poet, says, “Out beyond the worlds of right doings and wrong doings, there is a field. I will meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” no longer makes any sense.” I humbly add — humbly add — that out beyond the worlds of war and peace, there is a field, and there are many women and men [who] are meeting there. Let us make this field a much bigger place. Let us all meet in that field.”–Zainab Salbi

Martin Smith: ‘The Parts Prose Can’t Reach’

Episcopal priest Martin L. Smith wrote a lovely piece on poetry and spirituality in the May-June issue of Washington Window (the Episcopal Diocese paper in D.C.) titled Refreshing the Parts Prose Cannot Reach.

Smith is a wonderful spirituality writer, having published such books as A Season for the Spirit, Love Set Free, and The Word is Very Near You. Martin is pastor at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church in northwest D.C.

Below is an excerpt from his article:

Many of us have had the experience of responding to poems so viscerally that we are physically and emotionally shaken as they speak to us. We have a heightened sense that somehow the opposites of life – birth and death, connectedness and brokenness, love and fear – are being held together. We hold our breath on the brink of being suffused with meaning. Words glow on the page and like magnets seem to pull us out of our usual harried state into a place where we recognize our own right to be passionate, to be human beings on a divine quest.

Researchers have made some intriguing discoveries. The typical length of the line in poetry in cultures the world over is virtually identical, taking between 2.5 and 3.5 seconds to pronounce. There is a convincing theory that when words convey meaning to us in this short package, followed by a tiny pause before the next line, it allows the input to pass from one hemisphere of the brain to the other, and so our receptivity is fully opened and our consciousness unified. No wonder human culture and religion has placed such value on metred poetry and song in the sharing of meaning, and in ritual. No wonder that pages and pages of text or hours of speech seldom have a fraction of the effect that a short poem committed to memory can have as it lodges in our consciousness and continues to illuminate and challenge us from within.

I am sure I could write an entire spiritual biography by stringing together the poems that came to me unsought as visiting angels at the right time year after year. About 15 poems of Rilke that I learned 40 years ago shaped my whole way of feeling about God: “we feel round rage and desolation the finally enfolding tenderness.” I look through the pages, worn round the edges from use, where I have copied out the poems. Here’s the Tao Te Ching and Li Po. Here are the poems of David Whyte: “always this fire smolders inside. When it remains unlit, the body fills with dense smoke.” e.e. cummings: “all which isn’t singing is mere talking.” Rumi. Mirabai. Machado. W.H. Auden. Gerard Manley Hopkins. Peguy. None of them deliberately researched. We just come upon the poems when we are ready.

In a beautiful poem, Seamus Heaney remembers the counsel given in confession by a Spanish priest: simply, “Read poems as prayers.” Wise man.

Read Smith’s whole piece here.

“There Is A Candle” by Rumi

There Is A Candle

by Rumi

candleThere is a candle in your heart,
ready to be kindled.
There is a void in your soul,
ready to be filled.
You feel it, don’t you?
You feel the separation
from the Beloved.
Invite Him to fill you up,
embrace the fire.
Remind those who tell you otherwise that
comes to you of its own accord,
and the yearning for it
cannot be learned in any school.