This is a fragment of a long and very readable piece on the situation in Iraq. I was struck by this particular quote and how it relates to the Caucasus region. I posted it as a note on my Facebook profile, but I figured I might just as well post it here.
“When people aren’t familiar with each other,” Captain Looney [a US Army officer serving in Iraq, MK] said, “they think the worst about each other. They don’t realize how much they have in common. I’ll sit down with people and say okay, let’s talk about our differences. And then let’s talk about what we have in common. We want to have a safe environment for our families to live in. We want our children to have a better life than we did. We want to be happy in our profession. We want to be happy with our family. What beyond that makes us so different? Okay, they’re Muslims and I’m a Christian. But we talk about this stuff and they realize we aren’t that different.”
Contact between peoples really does reduce tension and can help reduce the chances of war.
“You’ve seen Dances with Wolves?” Captain Looney said. “Remember how when they don’t know each other, they’re scared of each other? But as they get to know each other, they realize they’re not that different? They want the same things in life. They want peace. They want prosperity. They want a better life for their children. What culture in the world does not want those things?”
Encouraging contacts between Turkish, Armenian, Georgian and Azeri people (and all those smaller peoples living in the area) on a grassroots or individual level may not be to the liking of everyone in the region, but I do believe that part of solving the conflicts in the region lies in doing just that.