Sophia's Peace Work

Monday, June 16, 2008

A recent email from a close friend who is a peace worker based out of New York City

About two months ago I had the opportunity to speak with a 6th grade class at a school in Brooklyn. Never having spoken with a group so young, I was very mindful of how impressionable I was myself at that age. How to bring the reality of Iraqi children to them? I asked myself. I passed pictures of children their age around, Iraqi children living in Iraq as well as Iraqi children living in Syria and Jordan. I carry an ID piece of a cluster bomb around with me in my change purse which reads "MADE IN THE USA." As I was speaking it occurred to me to take it out to show the children. This particular cluster bomb exploded in the air on the afternoon of March 31, 2003 during the "Shock and Awe" bombing campaign. It hit 7 homes and killed three boys aged 18, 13 and 7 years of age. I visited the bombing site the next day and, as I walked through the homes of the modest residential area holding ugly twisted metal parts in my hand and speaking with some of the wounded, I had to listen to the keening and wailing of grieving family members. The sound of their mourning stayed with me for months and months.

When I returned home from the school I heard on the radio news that in a neighborhood of Baghdad where I had lived under the occupation, two suicide bombs had gone off killing 68 persons and wounding over 100. Equally tragic, but unknown to many, is the fact that more Iraqis are killed on a daily basis by U.S. air strikes than by suicide bombs and mortar attacks. A close Iraqi woman friend here in the city—but whose family is in Baghdad--recently asked me with tear filled eyes "Why are they bombing us?" Her 13 year old daughter followed up on her mother's question, "And is it true they are using planes [drones] that have no pilots!"

A couple of days after my visit to the Brooklyn school class the 6th grade teacher, a friend of ours, brought me letters written by her students. Here are a couple of excerpts from those letters which moved me deeply.

"Since the war has been going on for years, I have kind of forgotten about it. It just didn't seem that important anymore until you came. I had no idea how bad it is and I wish I can do something about it. It seems so unfair."

"Most interesting fact that you told us was the bomb that let out little pieces that said 'Made in the U.S.A.' I find that very interesting because it shows that we too can be the bad people or maybe in Iraqis' eyes a terrorist, not only the people we are against."

"I think the war should end. We are fighting for a silly reason. We don't need to kill people and their friends and family."

"I was sad when you said 3 boys died of a bomb that was made in the United States….Another scary picture was where the girl was walking from school and there was blood all over the steps."

"Something that I found pretty overwhelming is when you were passing around the piece of the bomb. It was hard for me to comprehend that this had cut short 3 boys lives, that it had caused great sadness to 3 families…3 innocent families. Another thing that's hard for me to think about is what growing up there must be like. Especially for a child that was born at or during the war. This would mean that violence would be all they have ever known, they've never known peace. My younger sister is 5 years old. The war has been going on for 5 years. This makes me realize how different her life would be if we lived there."

This morning I read a recent interview of Fr. Daniel Berrigan by Chris Hedges. (The Nation, May 21,2008) In the article Dan says "This is the worst time of my long life. I have never had such meager expectations of the system. I find those expectations verified in the paucity and shallowness every day I live." Dan goes on to say, Hedges relates, that all empires rise and fall. It is the religious and moral values of compassion, simplicity and justice that endure and alone demand fealty. "…the tragedy across the globe is that we are pulling down so many others. We are not falling gracefully. Many, many people are paying with their lives for this. The fall of the towers [on 9/11] was symbolic as well as actual. We are bringing ourselves down by a willful blindness that is astonishing."

Dan argues, says Hedges, that those who seek a just society, who seek to defy war and violence, who decry the assault of globalization and degradation of the environment, who care about the plight of the poor, should stop worrying about the practical, short-term effects of their resistance.

"The good," Dan says, "is to be done because it is good, not because it goes somewhere. I believe if it is done in that spirit it will go somewhere, but I don't know where. I don't think the Bible grants us to know where goodness goes, what direction, what force. I have never been seriously interested in the outcome. I was interested in trying to do it humanly and carefully and nonviolently and let it go." I take comfort from these words, and it is in this spirit that I write to you, dear friends, who have supported me throughout the last dark years of war.


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