We are not in the position to allow elephants into our room. Due to the nature of a 2014 “Suddenly,” following 72 “Suddenlies” for the Yezidi ethno-religious community, we have to confront and address every issue that has the possibility to affect our students in any way. With the solidification and establishment of the IEA or “Da Afganistan Islami Imarat” we had to speak up. Fear is rising in our region, there are those slaughtering sheep as sacrifices for the newly declared Islamic Emirate state of Afghanistan showing open support for the strengthening and take over by the Taliban (whose name means students, or seekers of Sharia Islamic law, and militant Islamism.).
This week, Prime Minister Masrour Barzani sought to calm the Kurdish population, whilst planes from a neighboring country, in an invasion mission of aggression, were once again bombing our border regions. Ears tuned in to the Prime Minister, whilst eyes were focused on the skies as Kurdish lands were again subject to air strikes, and quite frankly eyes won over ears.
This same neighboring country is permitting, or turning an extremely blind eye to supporters of the new IEA who are heading towards the Kurdish border. Not for a camping trip.
Islamic scholars are eschatologically vocal. Even some of our older teens who were forcibly conscripted into the army of ISIS, have heard the ancient prophecies of Khursan (modern Afghanistan) basically “when the black flags are raised in Khurasan, go and join with the forces, the Caliph is amongst them, and nothing will stop them until they raise the black flag in the holy place in Jerusalem”. We can not allow silence. Silence, darkness and fear work well together. We could not be silent in the face of this very real threat both from the IAE and ISIS/K.
Our students have surprised us with the level of care and concern for the children and women of Afghanistan. They could put themselves in their shoes but their messages were not ones of pity but challenges to be strong. They expressed the voices of those who have lived inside this time space called Suddenly.
“I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. And behold the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them.”
Ecclesiastes 4. 1
“I heard about Afghanistan. After seeing the pictures of the children, I remembered when we were running from the evil men, the black men who took over Shingal. This was an awful day and I have always prayed that such a thing would never happen again to any woman or child. Because I have experienced this, I really feel for them. I pray for the kids in Afghanistan every day, that somehow, they will be safe and, in the end, they will return to their homes and their schools.
I know that people who did not know me were praying for me whilst I was in the captivity of Daesh, so now it is my turn to pray for them. I feel brave and empowered to know that maybe I can help someone suffering with a single word, a single prayer.
My message to those suffering in Afghanistan is, "You are not alone, we see you, we hear your cry and we care about you." I took a balloon and wrote “Be strong” on it so that when it reaches the children, they will read the Arabic and be encouraged to be strong.
We released the doves. Yes, they are doves symbolizing peace, but because they were held tight in our hands, they represent freedom, release as they flew free to the sky and onwards to the children.”
“Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow."
Isaiah 1. 17
“I saw the videos on TV and we discussed it together in the centre. I am terrified. I remember what happened to me, to my family, to all of our community in Shingal. I think that the black men will come again, it will all happen again and we will have to escape again. I am terrified, I can not be alone at the moment, I do not want to be alone when they come for me.
It was important that we as children send messages to the kids in that country, we must give them hope. With Hope they will be motivated to be strong, to study so that in the future they will know how to fight these bad people. I hope that they are strong now.
I want to tell them not to be sad. When they are sad, their sadness kills their parents. They have to give their strength to their parents who have the ability to find the way to freedom.
I have learned that even in the darkest of times, there is always hope. Don't give up.”
“The world is breaking into too many pieces. Now there is war in Afghanistan. Because of the Taliban more children like us are losing their home, their families and bad things are happening to them also. I am afraid. Yes, I am afraid. This makes me so sad. To lose your family, your friends, your home, your school and to have bad things happen to you is simply the hardest feeling ever, the hardest experience. It takes a lifetime to recover from these things.
I do have a message to the children. “Be strong. Be patient. Do not ever give up hope. Hope is found everywhere. Hope is found when you look for it. Keep dreaming. They can never take your dreams from you. With time, it may be hard for you to understand that now, but we know, with time, everything will be ok. It may never be the same, but hope makes things ok.”
When I have the chance to help or encourage someone else I am on cloud nine. I just fly with a sense of achievement. I can't always help because I have no material substance to help with, but I do my best. My main message is to be strong in order to challenge these hard times. If you challenge evil, it will have to go back. If you challenge it and don’t accept it, you will become stronger and more ambitious to see your dreams fulfilled. You must challenge bad things and bad people.
We sent you the doves so that you will see peace and hope on the horizon, you will see the doves coming to look for you and encouraging you to be strong.”
“We are as great as the challenges we have the courage to undertake.”
Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks ( OBM
"I saw pictures on TV and asked what was happening. I was scared that it was in Iraq again. My family told me that exactly what had happened to us was now happening to a different group of people. I was sad and wept when I saw and heard. We know exactly what that means.
When I came to The Hope Centre I realized that I had to "change my weather" and do something to help the kids in Afghanistan. I put myself in their place and thought about how other people helped me. Now it is my turn to be strong and think of others who are suffering.
I wrote HOPE on my balloon. I pray that you don't lose hope. I hope that you will remain with your families. I hope that you will soon return to your homes. I hope that you will have food and shelter until you go home. Then I felt happy as we released the balloons. I looked up and all the balloons with our messages were smiling down on us. The balloons understood us.
Just before we released the doves, one of them laid an egg. That was a promise to us of new life coming to the children of Afghanistan."
“We don't have a TV in our tent so I didn't know anything until I came to The Hope Centre and saw the painting of Afghanistan with the doves. I was sad. I think that we the kids from Shingal don’t need words, we automatically identify with anyone who is going through anything similar to our experience. I lost family and friends and I still miss them, I am still sad for them.
I think that it is just as important to send messages of hope as it is to send material help. You can send some clothes but if you don't have hope, you may have a dress on your back but you are like the walking dead.
I wrote “Be strong and be safe.” Not because my friends were writing the same words but because I know that this is the message they need to hear right now. I will pray that despite all the suffering they will find people to help them such as here at The Hope Centre, and that they will have a bright future.”
"This event was for the young kids so I did not participate but I do have something to say. I remember crossing the Sykes-Picot line with the leader of ISIS, they taught us about the geography of the Caliphate. We shouted when we crossed the line as we knew its importance in extending the rule of the Caliphate and joining Iraq and Syria as one. We also discussed Khorasan, we knew it was not in Syria, the Afghani fighters who had joined us knew the old teachings about the black flags. So, I remember those days. I remember listening. I remember everything. I hope and pray for other young boys like myself, that they will have the courage and the bravery to survive. God help them."
Before we made this small event, we spoke with our students. We knew they were fearful and we listened to them. No one had to participate, only those who wanted to. They all spoke about how they had lived through their 'Suddenly' for some it lasted three years until rescued, for some five, six years and some seven. Yet here they are, with loss, but with life, stronger than what happened to them, thanks to people that love them, which dear friends are both you and us, together we are pushing their darkness back and giving them the strength and wisdom to push back the evil for others.
As yet another new form of an ancient darkness encroaches again, we have to
continue with the utmost dedication to our important mission for the sake of these our kids, Our Tribe, the Kids from the World of Suddenly.
As human beings, we have the capacity to thrive when challenged, when new demands present themselves. God himself is a challenge and speaks to us in the language of human situations. The language of Suddenly. A language which we need to learn for the days that lie ahead. A place where we can enter without fear. Suddenly, a place which holds both calamity and redemption. A place where miracles replace atrocities.