These toy guns are a symbol.
They represent the irrational violence that currently holds Iraqis in a tight-fisted grip. On Sunday, 33 people died in attacks in Baghdad and in a town along the Syrian border, while Wednesday bombings south of Mosul and in Baghdad raised the number of deaths in October to 222.
Lately it seems that every day a major news organization is releasing a story of a new bombing in Iraq. There have been nearly 5,000 people killed in violent attacks since April, according to Associated Press, and close to 1,000 related deaths just in the month of September. Analysts are saying this year’s violence compares to the height of sectarian conflict in 2008.
Times like these frighten Sunni and Shiite Iraqis alike. Those aren’t neighborhood statistics where any parent wants to raise a child. But these deaths aren’t the only narrative in Iraq. On September 21 the United Nations sponsored the International Day of Peace an annual day of non-violence and cease-fire. A group of children in Najaf, Iraq chose this day to make a statement to their Iraqi brothers and sisters during this time of surging violence.
Children from the southern Iraqi city of Najaf gathered their stockpile of toy-weapons and celebrated Peace Day in Najaf by publicly and communally destroying their weapon stockpile with an asphalt paver. Omar and Ayah, two of the children who collected their toys, assisted in driving the large vehicle over the symbols of violence and revenge.
Amidst the surrounding, and presumable suffocating context of suicide bombings and sectarian attacks, stood a group of children willing to challenge its social environment and wage peace in the heart of southern Iraq.
We salute you Omar and Ayah and pray you and your friends continue to wage peace in this country!
Photo Credit: Muslim Peacemaker Teams