Our goal is to bring peace and freedom to Iraq through education: teaching refugee children about their rights and educating the Iraqi people about the dignity and freedom that every person should own.
How? Through flowers.
Our teachers bring children from a refugee camp into a garden – wild, full of life and color, abundant in its beautiful diversity.
“Isn’t this a beautiful garden?” the teachers ask.
“Of course!” answer all the students.
It truly is difficult to say that a garden is ugly. Even an overgrown tangle of weeds is beautiful in its own natural yet complicated way.
“Now,” the children are instructed, “pick all of the flowers except the yellow ones.”
And so they do as they’re told, tearing up handfuls of flowers and plants that aren’t yellow.
“This is what is happening to our country. All the people of beliefs other than Islam are being cut down through forcible displacement, genocide and enslavement. ISIS and religious intolerance are doing this.” The teachers meet their students’ gaze. “Will you help replant the seeds of freedom?”
The answer: a resounding “Yes!”
The first steps towards a more tolerant, compassionate and understanding generation have been taken. But more importantly, these children are learning their importance and value – what they contribute to their societies. Moreover, they recognize that value in each other.
In order to truly cultivate the seeds of freedom, we need to stand up for the value that we each possess and help nurture it in others.
You might be thinking to yourself, easy enough when you’re interacting with people who all share a singular faith, but that’s the thing: these refugee camps aren’t segregated by religion. There are diverse people living in these camps who are only now beginning to reach out to one another. They’re starting to see that despite their differences, they share horrific experiences of being raped, persecuted, targeted and mistreated due to their faiths.
In fact, this lesson has been so successful thus far, that the Director of the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Kurdistan wants to implement this exercise in all of the schools in Kurdistan. We at Hardwired are helping him achieve that goal – currently interviewing and training teachers who will spread this invaluable lesson:
Every person has the right to freedom of religious expression and their own dignity. It is with the help of others that this freedom is protected and their dignity is allowed to flourish.
Join our Brave Ones movement and help sponsor teachers; help rebuild the garden and plant the Seeds of Freedom. No one deserves to be pulled from his or her roots and tossed away to wither.
The Lesson of the Peaceful Garden is written into the human-rights booklets we’re distributing in Iraq today. It’s part of our Brave Ones campaign, and you can be a part of it!
Check back weekly as we post more about the booklet, as well as stories from our international partners.