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Quartet to Tell Stories of War, Peace, Tempe, AZ

Originally published in The Arizona Republic, February 10, 2007.

By William Hermann

A Vietnam veteran, a Muslim imam, a professional storyteller and a Christian pastor got together in a Tempe church office the other morning to rehearse stories of war and peace.

On Sunday, they hope to use those stories to "spark people's imaginations through storytelling," Pastor Doug Bland said.

"War is a failure of the imagination. If we can light the right fire, maybe we can help people look at war in another way," said Bland, who has been pastor of Community Christian Church for 12 years. advertisement

The church, at 1701 S. College Ave. in central Tempe, will host the storytelling session. It begins at 5 p.m. Admission is $5.

Bland said the presentation is not an anti-war session.

"I hope we can take a step back from partisan politics regarding the war we are faced with now and ask bigger spiritual and philosophical questions about war through our storytelling," he said.

Ricardo Provencio, a South Mountain Community College instructor, spent about a year in Vietnam and came home with a Purple Heart.

Provencio said his storytelling goal won't be to convince anyone of anything, but rather to give his listeners a clear idea of what war can mean.

"I'll tell of the personal experience of a young man going in as a 19-year-old, na´ve and not aware of what it implies to be a soldier in a war among constant fighting and killing," he said.

Liz Warren is also a SMCC faculty member. Warren will be telling a story of ancient Ireland and the headstrong, arrogant mythic Queen Medb.

The story is a cautionary tale of how pride and arrogance can lead a country into a disastrous conflict, she said.

Ahmad Al-Shqeirat, imam of the Islamic Community Center of Tempe, says he will tell a story "partly from the Bible and partly from the Quran," about how King Solomon made peace with the help of a warrior bird.

"My story says that whether there is war or peace depends on us," he said. "Any war can become peace, and any peace can be wasted and become war."