Dani and I are on the front lines in the fight against ISIS. Ok, not physically, but we have found a way to help Syrians and Iraqis as they are liberated from ISIS. As ISIS is pushed out of cities like Aleppo and Mosul the people they they have held captive are left behind, hungry and in need of medical attention and supplies. And we are able to help. There are so many people in our world in desperate situations; famine and war, occupation, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis. When horrible tragedies strike, we all feel a desire to chip in, to help alleviate the suffering. But in a world where there is so much overhead for non-profits, so many fraudsters, and so much money to be made in the name of charity, it is really easy to feel like helping isn’t really helping.

But there are good organizations out there. Ones that do amazing work, who value transparency, and who celebrate, and don’t aim to change, the cultures that they work with. One of our favorites, and the way we are able to help on the front lines in Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Lybia, is The Preemptive Love Coalition. The easiest way to describe them is this: they are the complete opposite of the recent presidential campaign in every way imaginable. They are an amazing organization that does great work to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East. They are tireless workers for good, mercy, and compassion. They tell the truth. They fight injustice by waging peace, and bringing food, and organizing surgeries for children that would otherwise die. They are undoing the mountains of wrong and evil that have been done in Iraq, both by local tyrants and radicals and by foreign invaders. They stand in stark contrast to so much of the negative, divisive, hate-and-fear-filled news that bombards us all daily.

Preemptive Love identifies a specific problem in our world that they are working to remedy and I really like the way they put it:

“AT THE CORE OF VIOLENCE AND CONFLICT, IS FEAR.

We fear loss. We fear shame. We fear ideologies and religions. We fear vulnerability.

So we fight, first with attitudes and words, then with fists and bombs.”

It is easy to see this problem, not just in the Middle East, but everywhere one looks, from politics, to neighborhoods, to world conflicts, to work environments.  This is how they see the required response to that problem:

“Preemptive Love is a global movement of peacemakers changing the way we engage the world’s most polarizing conflicts by confronting fear with acts of love.”

I think that part of what I find most compelling about this organization is their hopeful realism. Once known as an eternal optimist, I find myself weary of optimism these days. I have been growing in my knowledge that for most of humanity the coin usually lands face down, and that a small percentage of the globe gets much more than their share. Becoming more aware of concepts like “privilege” I know, uncomfortably, that I belong to the latter group. Even though just surviving can often feel like a struggle, I see more and more the ways in which I have been given much more than I deserve or need, often at the expense of others. My struggle to survive is not even on the same planet as the struggle that the majority of humanity, past and present, has been presented with.

While optimism can seem ungrounded, pessimism seems too easy. Like gravity, the downward pull of all that is broken in our world seems to be a fundamental law of the universe. Pessimism leads to cynicism, and cynicism means that we have given up hope that things can change.  While there so often doesn’t seem to be a neutral position between these two extremes, optimism and pessimism,  Preemptive Love presents that refreshing perspective of a hopeful realism that doesn’t shy away from the darkness, but also doesn’t hide under the bed and lament. They carry both light and darkness, and do so in bold action.

They are as close to the front lines of conflict as they can get, serving the most vulnerable of people. People that have just liberated from ISIS and have no food and have been traumatized for months or years find the Preemptive Love Coalition waiting with food and supplies and medical care and love and encouragement. In the aftermath, they provide education, help for business startups, and medical surgeries for children in need.

I first heard about them when their founder, Jeremy Courtney, was interviewed on Rob Bell’s podcast. Jeremy and his wife and young child went to the Middle East after 9-11 because they felt an overwhelming desire to help out. They started in Turkey, but eventually found themselves in Iraq. Jeremy and his team have found themselves in some crazy places, and have made a serious impact, not only on the folks in Iraq with whom they share resources, but on those of us who have learned from them here in the west. They have challenged me to see extremism, Middle East tension, ISIS, Islam, and the Kingdom of God with different eyes.

Here is an article that really changed my thinking:
http://www.preemptivelove.org/3_reasons_people_joined_isis

If that was interesting to you, try this one.  I talked with my 6, 5, and 2 year olds about this and had some fascinating discussion about war, evacuation, and about having little Bana come live with us (that’s what Saedy wanted):
http://www.preemptivelove.org/aleppo_syria_bana_tweets_for_her_life

Finally, this; it is shocking, and it made me really angry. I can’t imagine living this way…
http://www.preemptivelove.org/bombs_of_aleppo_syria

It can be so overwhelming to try to take on a problem like ISIS. What can we possibly do to make a difference in the Middle East? By ourselves, not much. But by finding others like the Preemptive Love Coalition and partnering with them, much can be done for so many. We continue to be inspired by their action in the face of danger, their love in the face of fear, and their honest story telling in the face of such a polarized media machine. We wholeheartedly recommend to you The Preemptive Love Coalition.

 

 

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