by Kevin Stoda, Salalah in Oman
At church yesterday, I asked an Australian, who is an expert trainer in peace and reconciliation, about how we in Salalah might show assistance and solidarity with the victims of war (or so-called "collateral damage"in Yemen). UNICEF had only been allowed into Yemen a few days back--and its not clear how to get assistance to the people in need. This Australian shared that he was in contact with "his people in Yemen", that is, Yemenis who have been trained under him to work on conflict resolution in their homeland. However, he went on to say that these days they (the Yemeni peace negotiators) were not even able to leave their homes to the Houti fighting and Saudi bombardments.
This Australian conflict and resolution trainer said he'd get back to me as soon as the tensions dissipated and he could get a better feel on how to support victims of war in Yemen. Meanwhile, on Al-Jazeera TV News--almost nightly--a Saudi military officer gives a briefing and claims his country is doing as much as possible to minimize "collateral damage" in Yemen. However, almost every day, more innocents are killed.
"The humanitarian situation in Yemen is getting worse by the hour," say UN officials. Event though, the first two planeloads of medical equipment arrive in capital Sanaa.
MEANWHILE, SALALAH IS AS CALM AS EVER
At dawn this morning, my wife, daughter and I went to Haffa beach to stroll, run, and play in the sand. We could observe 12 ships waiting to unload cargo on the great docks of Salalah Port in the distance to the west of town.
Haffa Beach is one of the more popular places for tourists to visit in Salalah. Each year, 200,000 Omanis along with Arabs from neighboring lands arrive in Salalah in July and August because it's weather is much cooler and more tropical than almost all other regions on the Arabian peninsula. This period of fog and rain, known as "Al-Khareef", hangs in the Dhofar mountains--and over the towns on Salalah, Taqah, and Mirbat-- for nearly 3 months in good years . The weather phenomena was well-known in the days of Marco Polo, when he passed through the cities of Dhofar on his return trip to Europe from China nearly a millennium ago.
Only, coastal Yemen has comparable weather to Dhofar, but this country has been so troubled with internal violence over the past 6 decades that its economy and society has not grown or developed in a way similar to Salalahs, i.e. during this era of the so-called Omani Renaissance. In short, Dhofar--as beautiful land as it is--has had almost no tourism in recent years.
On last year's Renaissance Day (held on 23 of July in Oman), one Omani leader reflected the following local history in Dhofar and Oman: "While there have been many achievements in all facets of our life[ over the past 4 post Dhofar civil war decades] , I must emphasise the gifts of peace, cooperation between nations, and tolerance. These were accomplished through education, openness, moderation, and respect for our diverse Omani society and the entire humanity."
Thankfully, Dhofar and Oman have also been able to lift up local traditional ways of life and practices--even as the influx of tourism and change affect the citizens of Oman so regularly.
INTROSPECTION: LIFE & DEVELOPMENT IN MORE UNCERTAIN LANDS
Last week, I finished reading of an American missionary family who had worked in and grew up in Afghanistan between 1990 and 2007. One online magazine named their family story, For God so loved Afghanistan , and parts of their journal selections from 16 years of family living in a war-torn land are quite motivating for those who are thinking about what real faith and Christianity mean in our modern world.
The journal selections, in For God so loved Afghanistan , were mostly written by Sheryl and Steve Martin while they were serving with MCC. Sheryl served as a nurse in a clinic only run by women--while Steve ran a great variety of projects in an ecumenically mission community in Kabul. They also raised their children in that war-tattered land over that same period.
One day in late 2002, Steve Martin wrote of one of his family's experiences in that war-torn Southeast Asian land (on p. 21-22). Steve had been reflecting on the sense of security which God provided his family during their endeavors in Afghanistan--a land in Southeast Asia, like Yemen, Syria, and Iraq (all torn by civil strife and invasions from other forces in the past decades).
Stever wrote at that time: "For most of the decade since our arrival in Afghanistan in 1991, we have been some of the [very] few foreigners living in the country. But this year , the number of foreigners exploded, with literally thousands of aid workers, private contractors, foreign government agency workers, and numerous diplomats. Further, much of the physical security of these entities in the city is today being aided by international security forces. Most foreign entities are guarded by security personnel brandishing automatic weapons, and those working for them live with a fortress mentality behind secured walls and barriers."