Sophia's Peace Work

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Out from under my rock comes forth a snipet!

I've finally crawled out from under my rock ... feeling better, finally. Now I need to make up for the down time I took. The following is an update/snipet sent out from the Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq. I know of only one peace group still working in Iraq at the present moment and that is CPT. They have kept their team member numbers down for many months now ... usually having only two or three people keeping the office open and trying to maintain some of their projects in Iraq. Recently they conducted a nonviolence training for a new group called the Muslim Peacemaker Team.

The team is currently hosting a delegation from the U.S. in Iraq. Many people have debated the wisdom of bringing Americans into Iraq at this time.

I am currently living in Jordan with one of CPT's primary translators ... he was asked to join the delegation as the translator, but he felt it was far too dangerous for him and for the delegation right now and he declined. Even within the CPT organization (based in Chicago) I know that the debate must have raged on as to whether this was a good idea or not and the delegation was informed that their trip could be canceled on a single days notice. But the team in Iraq reported that they were receiving many invitations from Iraqis for a delegation visit and they believe that there is great value in bringing ordinary Americans in to see what is happening largely in their name. So they decided to go forward.

When the team went in this past week, everyone in Baghdad and here in Amman was crossing their fingers. Fortunately everyone made it in safely and the delegation was split into two groups to spend their time in two different locations. Below is an update from one of the groups.

Said Salah, Farmer
By C. Kindy, February 24, 2004

Said Salah is a farmer with his father and uncles in a rural area outside of Kerbala. During the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 soldiers attacked and bombed this farm. Sixteen family members died in the attack and another nine were injured. The house was demolished and furniture and belongings were destroyed. In addition, the attack killed 75 sheep. Shepherding is one of the ways he makes his living.

Four days after the war he went to Iraqi Human Rights Watch, in Kerbala, to document the tragedy. Media from around the world carried stories of the event. Then Human Rights Watch International visited his farm. Human rights workers found unexploded ordnance on the farm and he was able to report to them that he knew the locations of six mass graves from the 1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein.

The United States is pushing the documentation of the deaths by the Saddam Hussein regime in the 1991 uprising and, with the interim Iraqi Government, has established a committee to find the disappeared from those years. War crimes charges are being brought against members of the Iraqi Government from the Hussein years.

Nevertheless, the United States has refused to offer compensation for any damages or deaths that occurred during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Said Salah has received no help from the U.S. military, from the Interim Iraqi government, or from anybody else. He, as a Shi'a Muslim, told CPTers in Kerbala, "Jesus gave his life for peace. The lives of my family were given for peace. Let the Christians of the world hear my story."

He continued, "Nothing can replace my lost family members. I need no compensation. I only want people to understand how this affects my heart."

Friday, February 25, 2005

Team Released

The field team was released about five days ago in Iraq ... the families payed, collectively about $25,000 for the five-person team (nice to know what the going rate is for birdwatchers, no?)

I would have written sooner but I've been in four days of UN intensive meetings on some drinking water, sanitation and environmental restoration projects in Iraq. Just finished last night ... I'm exhausted and on top of that have caught some kind of intestinal bug that is laying me low.

So I'm gonna sign off right now and crawl under a rock for a few hours. Will post soon. I promise!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Snipet & Update

As of yesturday the kidnapping of the field team is still not resolved. I hope you will forgive me for not giving too many details. I don't want to say very much about this issue until it is resolved. Instead I will give another snipet from my former team (Christian Peacemaker Team - CPT) working in At-Tuwani, a small Palestinian village in the south Hebron Hills of the West Bank. Last fall, two of my team members were attacked by settlers from the Ma'on Settlement just above At-Tuwani. Now there has been direct violence against an Italian partner organization called Operation Dove. The following was written on February 16th, 2005 by CPT member Barbara Martens.

Settlers Attack and badly Injure two OD Team Members in At-Tuwani

At 11:00 a.m. today while CPTer Dianna Zimmerman and an Operation Dove (OD) team member were accompanying shepherds on their own land above At-Tuwani, near the Ma'on Settler Outpost, two settlers accosted them. One stood with his gun aimed at Zimmerman while she engaged the other in dialogue. When the army came the settlers left.

Shortly thereafter CPTer Sally Hunsburger and two OD members appeared over the crest of the hill from herding in the direction of Tuba. Settlers reappeared, noticed the video camera and attacked the two OD team members. One is admitted to hospital with a head injury. He has short term memory loss, and blurred vision. The injuries of the second person are unknown at this time. Hunsberger, witness to the whole attack was not injured.

Monday, February 14, 2005

So what am I doing here?

I've had a complaint from a family member stating that I'm not saying enough about what is happening to me personally. Well, that was partly because I didn't feel I had much to report ... but that changed today: Some of my co-workers (a field team doing work in the south of the country) have been kidnapped!

So let me clarify a few points:

Why am I back in the Middle East? I got a job for an Iraqi environmental organization called Nature-Iraq.

So why am I in Amman and not Baghdad? Because I'm the only westerner working for the group and right now it is rather dangerous for me (and for them) if I go there. But, I have to admit, it's a bummer to work in isolation like this ... plugged in to my job simply by a rather precarious internet connection.

So what do I do? Well, my job description is "Technical Editor" ... essentially the group needs to have reports and proposals written in English ... so I correct everyone's English. Ho-Hum, not very glamourous ... but I am learning alot about the environment in Iraq. And I'm not currently facing any kidnapping risks.

I am, of course (and much to the chagrin of my family, I'm sure), champing at the bit to go back to Baghdad and work with the team. When I asked recently if I could go in, my boss said, "Absolutely not!" The field team got kidnapped a few days ago (I just learned today), but apparently we know they are safe and it will just be a question of a ransom. Kidnappings in Iraq generally follow two paths ... beheadings or ransoms. The south of the country, where the team was taken, is generally safer but there are still alot of criminal elements (probably only fostered by the sky-rocketing unemployment in Iraq) operating there. My boss was fairly positive that he would get everyone back safely but I'm keeping all my fingers and toes crossed.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Another Snipet: Muslim Peacemaking Team

This is from the CPT Iraq Team and was written by CPT Member, Peggy Gish. The Team is working with an Iraqi group to form the Muslim Peacemaking Team (MPT) partially modeled after the Christian Peacemaker Team. CPT just finished conducting a nonviolence training for the MPT in Kerbala, Iraq.

Overcoming the Divide by Peggy Gish
February 2, 2005

The agenda for our CPT team's first post-training meeting with the fledgling Muslim Peacemaking Team (MPT) in Kerbala, seemed pretty straightforward and functional. The group proceeded to establish a coordinating committee to move the group toward establishing their goals and bylaws and plan for facilitating another nonviolence
training for students and staff at the Al Uhl Beit University in Kerbala. One long-range goal mentioned was to spread MPT throughout Iraq, and even beyond to other areas of the world.

Then, what we thought would be a quick discussion of a suggestion for their consideration, turned into an animated time of serious searching and sharing. Cliff Kindy shared about CPT in Hebron and Israeli groups helping to rebuild homes of Palestinians that had been demolished. He went on to say that the Iraq CPT team is
exploring the possibility of helping a refugee family from Falluja rebuild their destroyed home and invited the MPT group to join them if that worked out.

At first there was a general nod of agreement, but then the concerns began to fly around the room. "Yes, but there's a sectarian barrier between us (Shia) and them (Sunni)." "When we visited and helped the Fallujans at the Ain Tamur refugee camp, this was in our province, so that was easy." "Part of the problem is that the Sunni
used to be in power, but now that has been taken away by the Shia, so we don't know if they will accept us."

Among the fears and concerns expressed were also words of vision that even challenged us. "It may be difficult, but it is possible." "In the 60's, Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived together peacefully in Kerbala. It was after the 1991 uprisings
against Saddam Hussein that his regime helped spread tension among the different groups. Now MPT can help remove the barriers." "I see now that we are way behind in grasping the concepts of nonviolence. Nonviolence asks us to deal with the divisions in our own country." And, "We must not make excuses, we as Iraqi, are complicit with the mass graves and killings in our past. We must begin with ourselves to build a new Iraqi humanity. The suggestion of going to Falluja helped me to understand more deeply what nonviolence calls us to. We must move on to overcome the divide."

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


I get regular updates from the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Hebron, West Bank, & Baghdad, Iraq. I thought I would occasionally include short segments from these to give you some idea of what's happening in these two conflict zones. Here are two from the Hebron CPT team:

In the afternoon members of CPT and Operation Dove (Italian Peace Group) accompanied shepherds near Kharuba, Southern West Bank. On the way back they met two men from the village of Mgheir Al-Abeed, who asked that the group visit more often. They told a story about the settlers from the outpost bringing their dogs to swim in the village well. The settlers told the people of the village that it shouldn't be a problem for them, since they and the dogs are the same (dogs are religiously unclean for Muslims).

Members of CPT & Operation Dove (OD) walked to the Palestinian village Tuba in the morning to observe the children on their way to school. Another OD member and Peggy and Art Gish observed from the village of At-Tuwani where their school is located. When the eight children walked from Tuba to the junction where they normally meet the jeeps of the Israeli escort, an armed settler stood on one of the hills in between and threatened them. The children shouted to the soldiers waiting for them and then ran back towards Tuba. The CPT member and the ODer ran out to meet them. After a few
minutes the volunteers with the father and older brother of some of the children accompanied them to try again. The settler again threatened the children, but this time three soldiers got out of their jeep and started walking to the children, and their father encouraged them to go to the soldiers. The soldiers met the children and escorted them to school.