The colors, sounds, and emotions of the Ashura begin for our group in Baghdad this evening by visiting the Shrine of Imams Kazim and Jawad (the 7th and 9th Imams, or historic leaders) within the Shia tradition. There will be a crescendo through this week and next as we build up to the main act in Karbala when the martyrdom of Hussain is remembered. We will be there for that.
This is a deeply lived and felt experience that the Shia community was not able to practice in these places during the Saddam era. Some may feel it is strange, especially the self-flagellation (see the video in the photos below). For many, even within the Muslim tradition, this is not a shared practice. Especially for the majority Sunni branches. I have several brief observations. 1) this is all about a deep lament, arising from a wound and longing, that what happened back then, did NOT happen. 2) But it also feels like a deep public naming that what happened was horrible, wrong, a travesty of brutal proportions in the desert long ago. 3) Finally it feels like a release of that injustice into God’s merciful care and hope for a new, better day.
In conclusion, I believe this is something oppressed people across the globe can identify with. Maybe a minority people within a larger context where someone with more power or control over the rest feel subjugated, abused, and not seen.
I’m pressing into this experience to know and understand some of my Muslim friends better, and since my heart’s call and longing is for salaam/shalom–for ALL– I’m called into peacemaking. I strive to walk alongside others so I can know them better to love them better. For Shiias as well as Sunnis. I try to do this within my Christian tradition, which has a tremendous and sometimes fractured reality as well. I’m an equal opportunity peacemaker. Because I believe this is what Jesus calls us to. At least I’m trying to be. God knows I fall short often.