History has proven that in the face of great evil, ordinary people rise up to do extraordinary things. These ordinary people deserve both our respect and our support. If we are not careful, however, we will dismiss or overlook these modern-day super heroes. The rhetoric of the day declares whole peoples irredeemable and not worthy of our finite resources. By not recognizing and supporting the efforts of these grassroots champions of good, we miss opportunities to defeat the enemies of civil society. We all lose, then.
Consider my friend, Mohameed Alrubaye, an elected member of the Baghdad Provincial Council. I first met Mohameed while deployed in 2008 with the US Army to Karadah, a southeast Baghdad sub district. Mohameed served as the chairman of the Karadah District Council, which represents the approximately 200,000 citizens of Karadah. He was a force of nature, deftly and openly leading in an insecure environment where assassinations and kidnapping of influential people were common. Before I left Karadah in late 2008, we worked together to form a Sister Cities International partnership between Karadah and Council Bluffs, Iowa. That partnership is a lasting legacy to Mohameed’s ability to reach out to people and form working partnerships. He has now taken his leadership skills to the Baghdad Provincial Council where he now serves.
Mohameed has worked hard to bridge divides within Baghdad society. Using his influence, he is reaching out to Iraqi minorities. Mohameed could easily be successful without the support of Christians in Baghdad. At great personal risk, however, he feels it is important to create an inclusive community where all feel welcome and secure. This is against a backdrop of an intolerant and brutal Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) organization whose stated mission is to annihilate any opposition to its narrowly defined religious ideology. Mohameed said,
I have relationships with all the Christian priests,
my brothers, and the Church. I’ve attended
their special occasions and holidays for more
than 20 years.
Mohameed has used his influence to encourage fellow Muslim leaders and police officials to join him at Christian religious celebrations to build critical relationships. Mohameed said about the linked video below:
This video brings me to tears, singing the Iraqi national anthem with my
Christian and Muslim brothers and praying together for Iraq.
Iraqi Christians and Muslims praying together. That is certainly not an image we see often. These important relationships are being forged with tenacity and courage by modern-day super heroes. They operate, usually, below the radar of most media coverage. They are ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I am honored and humbled to call many of them personal friends.
Karadah Project International, a nonprofit committed to building sustainable and long-term solutions in partnership with the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, partners with Sister Cities International, Rotary International, Kiwanis International, Veterans for American Ideals, and other civic organizations to seek out and work with these ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
LTC (retired) Rick Burns is founder and president of The Karadah Project International, an Iowa 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation working in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a proud member of the Council Bluffs Iowa Sister Cities International Board of Directors, US Global Leadership Coalition — Iowa Advisory Committee, Atlantic Iowa Rotary Club, Elk Horn Iowa American Legion, Kiwanis of Lansing, Kansas, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and founding member of Soccer Salam; all organizations making positive and significant impacts on the world.