“Good intentions lead to forgiveness and peace,” declares Sayed Jawad, a Shi’ite Muslim religious leader from Tal Afar, Ninewa Governorate. Since 2004, Sayed has been working to fight sectarian tensions between groups in his community and bring people together in the name of peace. As a member of the Tal Afar Local Peace Committee, Sayed plays an important role in encouraging communal reconciliation and managing local conflicts in Ninewa.
Inspired to promote unity in his community by the Marjeya (Iraq's highest Shi'ite religious body) Sayed maintains that social cohesion is his duty. Sayed stays strong in his convictions, working toward a brighter future for Iraq, despite experiencing the deepest loss imaginable to a parent.
“He was 21 years old, and it was 2005. Ala’a was the dearest of my sons to me. He was very handsome. A student who loved media.”
During a clash between policeman and insurgents, Ala’a heard his cousin scream and ran outside. In a matter of minutes, he was shot. Mortally wounded, Ala’a was rushed to a hospital in Baghdad, where he was treated with care by two doctors from Fallujah.
“While Ala’a was dying, he asked me not to revenge his murder. We buried him. The grief still echoes in my heart.”
According to Sayed, the Marjeya also advised him not to exact revenge, and he agreed.
“Ala’a died, and I said we have to forgive everyone. We don’t have to revenge. The success of the Iraqi people, whether Sunni, Shi’ite, Yazidi, and all others, depends on forgiveness and avoiding collective punishment. There is no difference between us, anyway. We are all made from clay and water.”
Sayed advises that to mitigate tensions between groups, religious leaders, IDPs including minorities and families perceived as affiliated with ISIL, community members, need to come together to discuss their issues and problems, including the root of extremist ideologies. While the pain of losing his son remains, Sayed’s understanding of conflict and the repercussions of perpetuating the cycle of revenge have brought him closer to peace.
“My son volunteered his soul to Iraq.”
Sayed recently attended a two-day conference in Erbil bringing together close to 100 religious’ leaders from different backgrounds to discuss pathways to advance reconciliation, coexistence and combating violent extremism, as well as encourage the return of displaced families in Ninewa Governorate and promote societal peace among a wide range of sects.
The conference, organized in partnership with the Ministry of Migration and Displaced and the Governor of Ninewa, is a part of UNDP Iraq’s Integrated Social Cohesion Programme supported by the Government of Denmark.