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