Today, I’m live-blogging the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. The next speaker I’ll be live-blogging about is Jeremy Courtney.
Jeremy is the founder and CEO of Preemptive Love Coalition, a “first-in, last to leave” community of peacemakers who provide front-line relief and long-term development in Iraq, Syria, and other areas of polarizing conflict.
What is Preemptive Love?
We ended up moving into Iraq during the Iraq War. The events of September 11th, 2001 changed my life.
We made a slight posture change. Rather than seek revenge, we turned towards the enemy.
You describe the problem that Preemptive Love is trying to address. What is different about the way you’re attacking the problem?
People frame the issue as “Those people over there. They’re the enemy.” But we’re afraid of all this stuff.
It’s important to recognize where our rhetoric is coming from.
What we’re trying to do is put real flesh on the issues. Our lives are on the line. We go to places where no one else will go.
You’ve experienced really dangerous situations. There has to be fear in all of the courage. You’ve been shot at. Family potentially kidnapped. How do you face that? What allows you to have the kind of courage you have?
I moved into Iraq early on. There, I met a girl who needed a life-saving surgery. I didn’t know how I would get the girl the help she needed.
Then a man wooed me on. He called me and asked to just take a couple of steps forward. I meet with the girl and her father and I’m done.
It’s no longer an issue. Meeting the little girl made it about the little girl.
We don’t get out with the personal, particular people who are involved in the issues. This allows the average person to stay arms-length away.
I love the term you have all over the website: Local solutions for local people. How does that happen?
Unfortunately, a lot of the big aid industry is where you’re trained to see problems, not people. That’s not how we do it.
We came through the church planting side of things. Above all, we were taught to see people, not problems.
As a result, we’ll do things that don’t scale. We care for people.
First in, last to leave.
The thing I’ve been so affected by is that this doesn’t just work in Iraq, Syria, and other dangerous places. These tactics work in our neighborhoods as well. You said “I want to love first and ask questions later.” Can you explain that?
When we first moved to Iraq, we were surrounded by militia. Their idea was to shoot first and ask questions later. This didn’t comport with the Jesus I grew up with.
The mentality of shoot first and ask first didn’t settle well. The idea of love first and ask questions later came from that. And a place of naivety.
As you age, I’ve found love first hasn’t evolved well with us. But as you start living it out, we begin to retreat to these safe places. We begin to feel like “we know how this plays out.”
What we found is that when the world is scary as hell, what do we do about it?
Are we going to be a people who love anyways?
How do we have these type of conversations with people who don’t understand what you’re doing?
Stop talking. Take a step toward the things that scare you the most.
Talking alone with and to each other will do nothing.
Take people by the hand. Bring them to people. Have them speak with the marginalized people.
How can people connect with you, Jeremy?
Doing this thing of Preemptive Love works. It does. I’ve seen it.
Email our team. If there’s anything we can do to help you, we want to be there for you.
My email address is [email protected]