Her olive-toned fingers work the purple play-dough, shaping and rolling. She giggles. Working with her friend, their fingers push and dance on the rough-hewn table. We are just women here, gathered in this temporary refugee camp, ironically named Hercules, situated right off of the tourist-bound Aegean coast of Greece.
I pause in conversation with my new Syrian friend, O, and feel the prick of tears. It is not the first time that I will wipe moisture from my eyes, not the last time that I reach out a hand in love when I cannot find words, or hold my belly in laughter. I am on a roller-coaster of emotions as the sweat pools between my breasts.
I am learning. Learning to speak Arabic words. Learning to be woman in the midst of cultures, learning to find my beauty and to see the beauty of others deep-down, under the skin that identifies our ethnicity but says absolutely nothing about the nature of our hearts.
Right here, in this inauspicious, unplanned, unknown place on a map, we are engaged in one of the most radical pursuits on the planet.
We are quietly reclaiming our humanity.
My twenty-year old daughter is perched on a bench watching the play-dough messages unfold. And right beside her are the teen-aged daughters of these Syrian mothers. And bouncing on their knees are their drooling, cooing babies, propped up by arms and hugs and kisses. And, I don’t want to use the word refugee anymore, because it seems to strip the significant meaning from who we are becoming.
My girl is watching. And their girls are watching.
Watching us learn from one another. Watching us speak. Watching us reclaim a moment from a world frenzied with debating refugee best-practice, and filling thousands of people into busses to move them to camps and calling it refugee re-location and watching the media cover the story of ISIS as it traps helpless Syrians between a sword and the Turkish border.
Our girls are watching us.
And, we are quietly reclaiming our humanity.
They are watching us establish our dignity. Watching us be who we are created to be – women – in God’s image. Created to birth, and to nurture, and to be strongly wise leaders in our world, regardless of whether our wombs produce babies. You see, we have a global role, a global perspective, a global reach that is tied to our identity as women but not limited by it.
This younger generation, perched on wooden benches here, are watching women revolutionize the current refugee situation as we make a herculean effort to put the world straight and to plant the seeds of peace. It is not solely through NGO programs or initiatives that this happens – the roots of peace start here – rolling out Arabic words with purple play dough on rough Greek wood.
LISTEN TO US WORLD! We are shouting it out as only women can do.
Women in our hi-jabs.
Women in our western clothing.
Women who have heroically crossed borders with babies on our backs and in our stomachs and sacrificially cuddled into the folds of our skin in tents to stay warm.
Women with cameras on our backs and medicines in our backpacks, putting words on screens, and grabbing children from smugglers and digging resources out of nowhere.
LISTEN TO US WORLD! We are determined to plant peace into hearts even when our world offers us only the absurd option of guns and bombs.
LISTEN TO US WORLD! Because we reject your prejudices and your fears and your political agendas for something that we know to be more valuable, more powerful, and more essential.
LISTEN TO US WORLD! Because when you cannot craft it into official documents, we will write it here in play dough.
LISTEN TO US WORLD! Because we are sewing the seeds of peace here … in the fertile soil of our next generation. And you cannot rob that from us.
We will plant it.
We will sew it.
Here in the heart-soil of our daughters and our sons as they watch and they coo at our antics. We plant it with play-dough and smiles and our tears as we voice our stories of a world gone insane with war.
YOU SEE – WE DEMAND PEACE!
Because in the midst of your insanity, God has given women the good sense to know that it is both our words and our actions that preserve life. Your mouth cannot speak about peace while your heart nurtures war.
And, so it is that with a herculean effort, we mean to change this world today.
We speak with power. We speak prophetically. We WILL deliver peace to the next generation.
My new friend, O, tells me that she fled her home just 10 days after beginning university. She saw dead bodies in her street and lived through bombings.
“I chose to maintain my freedom to make choices for myself even though my enemy demands that I be locked behind the doors of a home as a wife and a woman. Whatever that costs, I will keep my right to make my own choices.”
O switches from translator to story-teller as our numbers grow. We talk about our faith. I am a devout Christ-follower. Many of them are Muslim. We choose to crush the barriers that separate us. We choose to find common ground. We choose.
We tell our stories to one another.
“When you come back next week, we will make a party and dress you in our traditional way. You will be beautiful,” they proclaim with anticipation. And, I find myself counting the days until I return to this refugee camp.
And, I find myself wondering if our world is willing to understand that the essential part of who we are is buried far below our clothing and our skin color and even our gender.
And when the tears have dried and the giggles subsided and the fingers have stilled, they push the purple play-dough forward to reveal two words in beautiful Arabic script.
And, I think to myself what a revolutionary path to peace while all of us perch upon the precipice of this pivotal point of time and history.
HEAR US World as women powerfully lead this peace revolution by writing it deep into the heart of this generation.
WE HAVE, ARE, AND WILL SPEAK PEACE.