Seeking Peace on Earth

With “Holiday Shopping” starting before Hallowe’en this year – [can you believe it??!!], we’ve been greeted in so many – as in, a lot of commercials – by carols already – and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet! Now, whoa…. I’m not launching a grumple-rant with sour grapes. Instead of that, I’m just wondering how long we’ll hear “peace on earth, good will to all” without its losing its intended meaning. There has always been the trap of over-sentimentalizing the age-old phrases – feeling a “good, old-time feeling” with all its fuzzy warmth – without giving any thought to what its all about in our present world.

So, speaking for the real world where morality can make such a difference, guest speaker Matthew Bogdanos, came to visit the L.I. Shields some time back. He told us about how, when he was asked to do so, he felt challenged by what’s right and good…. to head up an investigation into the when and how, the by whom, and how much might have been lost in the outrageous looting of the National Historic Museum of Baghdad following the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regieme in 2003. With a Marine officer’s education, experience, dedication, and fidelity, Colonel Bogdanos led a team that began to create an inventory of all the historic artifacts which the museum’s damaged facilities continued still to hold…. and establish a catalog of everything that now needed to be found and reclaimed. By showing respect for the people whose knowledge could make this team effort work successfully, he helped a city of frustrated, demoralized, and angry Iraqi citizens calm down the rhetoric and demonstrate the need for national pride to replace selfish profit-taking. He surmounted tribal and ethnic suspicion and hatred by focusing sharply on ability and truth.

As Bogdanos saw it, “peace on earth,” had a lot to do with restoring to the people of Iraq appropriate recognition and celebration of the incredibly long history of that ancient land. Against the backdrop of news reports making baseless and false reports of vast losses (in order to sell newspapers), Bogdanos found a way to show that, even though, yes, there were thefts, no, they weren’t as high as the hysteria-generating news items made it to appear. Furthermore there was a backdrop of unscruptulous dealers in antiquities who knew where to go and what to take as plunder from the people of Iraq in the midst of turmoil and lawlessness; these “thieves of Baghdad” needed to be stopped – or at least hindered – from wrenching profits from a nation’s heritage. By making the rest of the world aware of the kinds of items that were missing, the dealers’ markets became more and more limited; the best of the “loot” could not be easily sold.

The book “Thieves of Baghdad” has the power to make anyone who thinks he or she could ever match the service of this Colonel to simply stand in awe. It also gives the power to catch a glimpse of how our best efforts for good and the right, for honesty and respect…. can indeed make a difference in this hurt-saturated world where the hate-filled and violent villains seem to get all the headlines. With strength to care and aid, even “the little guys” can cause the marginalized, the poor, the down-trodden, the sick, and the needy of our world to also catch a glimpse of what “peace on earth” might look like, feel like.

Chaplain JGAnderson