Local effort to overcome hatred takes cue from Love Anyway film
When it comes to finding ways to end violence and hatred in our communities, our country and our world, practicing kindness and reducing the hatred that exists in each of our hearts would be a wise place to begin.
That was a central message of the film Love Anyway: A Journey from Hope to Despair and Back in a World That’s Scary As Hell, a powerful documentary that tells the story of an American family that moved to Iraq during which tells the story of Jeremy and Jessica Courtney, who moved their family to Iraq to wage peace a little more than a decade ago.
The film was shown at Café Mela last week, thanks to the sponsorship of New Song Community Church in collaboration with the North Central Regional Library. Kelsey Eberth, a pastor at the church, led a lively small-group discussion session after the film. The film can be viewed free at the loveanyway.org website.
The Courtneys founded the Preemptive Love Coalition, a nonprofit devoted to bringing assistance and support to people living near the frontlines of conflicts.
Eberth said she and her husband Kyle have found great inspiration from the work of the nonprofit. “Loving the enemy and loving all people is so counter to our culture,” Eberth told me. The divisive cycle of hatred and conflict will only be broken when people decide to love those who are “the other” — with different values, languages, life histories and lifestyles, she said.
We can choose to hate those who are different from us or we can choose to love them. Choosing hatred will continue the cycles of violence and hatred that are consuming our country and our world these days. As Martin Luther King Jr. once observed: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
The Eberths were drawn to the work of the Preemptive Love Coalition because of the positive message and opportunity to put those principles into practice in their work.
When the Courtneys moved to Iraq, they discovered a community of Muslim neighbors who helped them figure out how to find their way in the society. “I came to see my Muslim neighbors, my Muslim friends, through a much more fully three-dimensional view,” Jeremy Courtney said in the film.
The Courtneys started their community work helping find medical aid for children with heart conditions. In an atmosphere when the United States was seen as an enemy, the Courtneys’ effort to bring medical care to children told a powerful story of caring and brotherhood.
They Courtneys stayed in Iraq when ISIS started rolling through the countryside, prompting a humanitarian crisis and a massive refugee problem. That prompted Preemptive Love Coalition to expand from heart surgeries to providing support for communities near war zones. As Jessica Courtney said in the film, “they are us, and we are them.”
Not many of us would be willing to relocate to war zone and that’s OK. What the film asks of us is to find ways to build bridges to other human beings where we are. The work is universal.
This is the work that Kelsey and Kyle Eberth hope to foster in our valley. It’s that spirit of openness that is a core part of the community at New Song Community Church, she told me.
To that end, the church will host a community meal on Saturday, Dec. 29 at 11 a.m. that is free to the public. Like the discussion at Café Mela after the Love Anyway film, there will be conversations topics to foster deeper connection among those attending.
I cannot think of a more meaningful way of living the value of love and acceptance.http://loveanyway.org