Pledge of Peace

by Judith Fein


There’s this organ in the middle of my chest that obliges me every second of every day by beating. It can be wounded, disarmed and stunned, but it keeps on doing its job. And it only asks me for one thing in return: “stay open,” it whispers. “Just stay open.”

photo by wiccked via flickr common licenseMaybe at one point in time it was a real effort. I think I recall suspicions I harbored and some swirling fears. But, over the years, my heart does its job and I do mine. It beats, I stay open. Not all the time—because there are hurts that catch me off guard and cause me to recoil—but, as a rule, I stay exposed in life.

The risk, as you can imagine, is pain. The reward is pleasure, connection, and the ability to feel freely. I have weighed risk and reward and come down on the side of the latter.

My heart and I have traveled widely, and when someone asks me what my favorite country is I generally answer, “the last one I visited.” I am moved by the generosity, quirkiness and depth of the people I meet on the road. I love their cultures and customs and the unique way they navigate life.

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Peace and union for all

by Eric Lucas 

The afternoon sun was highlighting the vineyard rows next to us as I asked my Croatian guide the key question of the day, if not of all days. She stopped short, appraised me for a minute and smiled, but not an easy smile, one weighed against both pain and promise.

“Of course I visit Serbia. I have many Serbian friends. They are our neighbors. Each people, each country, there are bad persons and good. We do not hold to the bitterness of the past,” Biljana declared. “We must not.

“Do you understand?”

Do I? I strolled off through the countryside, past the cinnamon vines of autumn, to the gate of a nearby cemetery. Perhaps here were buried a few of her contemporaries, Croatian citizens gunned down by Serbian troops in a war just half a generation old, or even Croatian children who stepped on land mines left behind, buried in the willow breaks along the Danube like toxic waste.

To declare that one must be neighborly to those who made war on you, that is not a sentiment I have often heard. The human race proves each new day that the word “humanity” is a misnomer; bitterness and conflict stretch hundreds if not thousands of years. In China I watched hordes of protesters surround the Japanese embassy, anger from World War II still cankering. In Alabama Confederate flags still fly, not for décor value but for hate. In Arizona armed vigilantes gun down Hispanics who have crossed the border. In the Caribbean, islanders cast fearful glances over their shoulders at Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. I have personally set foot on ground where millions—10 million people, roughly—have fought and died. I’ve been inside the Auschwitz gas chamber. Those are just the places I’ve been. Elsewhere dozens of fire-points flare daily around the world.

Yet in modern Europe 700 million people in dozens of different countries live in peace, prosperity and promise.

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American ambassadors in Arab lands

 by Judith Fein

Photo Slide Show by Paul Ross

View in Photo Gallery


“What country you from?” two young men shouted at me from the stalls where they sold clothing.

“United States,” I answered.

“America! We love America!” they replied, grinning broadly.

The stalls were in the souk in Aleppo, and Aleppo, which has been inhabited by our species since the llth century B.C., is in northern Syria. Yes, an Arab country. Where cautious Americans are not supposed to go.

In Damascus, the capital, I was picking food from a sumptuous buffet and piling it on my china plate when the restaurant owner approached me.

“Where do you come from?” he asked.

“The United States,” I said. “And it’s my birthday today. This is my celebration.”

“Your birthday? Come with me, please.”

I followed him over to a large, standing, locked glass showcase which displayed jewelry and antiquities. He unlocked the case and withdrew a stone.

“Here, for you,” he said. “It’s a rock from the moon. May you have a wonderful day.”

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