|March 30, 2006|
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
It is early Saturday morning and I am safely home in West Virginia. I arrived back Tuesday evening and learned early Thursday morning of the release of Jim Loney, Harmeet Sooden and Norman Kember. It is a bittersweet hallelujah moment to know they are safe even as we continue to mourn for Tom Fox.
I left Baghdad last Saturday by bus along with another CPT'er and a group of Palestinians seeking to leave Iraq for their safety. The decision to go this way was difficult as the road is dangerous and it felt like abandonment to leave our team mates behind so soon in the wake of Tom's death. But we have worked long with the Palestinian community in Baghdad and know the dangers they face there are very real. Going with them seemed the right thing to do.
Exodus looks very different in the 21st century than it did for Moses and his people all those centuries ago; but the cost of leaving behind the felt security of the known (even when the known is dreadful) is the same. Like the wandering Jews of Exodus, these Palestinians face an unwelcome reception wherever they go. No fire and smoke leads them, no clear voice emerges to tell them the right direction. Yet they go because they must; they go in hopes not for themselves, but for their children.
And now, 88 Palestinians (42 of them young children) sit on the Iraqi side of the Iraq/Jordanian border, wanted by no one. Please keep them and the remaining Palestinians of Iraq in your prayers: that they may find a place to call home, a place of safety and peace and prosperity; that their children may grow up in a world untainted by the violence of war and bombs, killing and death. Pray that the nations of the world may be moved by their plight and offer them sanctuary.
And as you pray for them and remember joyfully the release of Jim and Harmeet and Norman, please remember the many thousands, even millions, in Iraq who continue to be held in captivity: in the captivity of detention without due process, in the captivity of uncertainty about the lives of loved ones who have been disappeared, in the captivity of the hostage taken from family and friends (during the two months following the kidnapping of my colleagues, over 350 Iraqis were kidnapped), and in captivity to the fear and dread of living in the chaos and brutality of war and violence.
Please also pray for CPT and for all Christians, especially in the United States, but certainly throughout the world. What has developed since the release of our colleagues and friends is a series of e-mails filled with hatred and anger sent to the Team mates I left behind in Baghdad. These e-mails generally come from other Christians in the US who support the war in Iraq and thus are angry with CPT's opposition.
I understand that reasonable minds can and do differ on these issues so important to our time.
And I can to a certain extent, even understand the anger. I do not understand the hatred within the community of believers. It breaks my heart.
And so I offer a sort of 'apology' for CPT for those who may themselves have such feelings. There seems to be some thought that CPT advances the cause of the enemies of the United States by opposing the war in Iraq. In Iraq, CPT does not advocate for violence by anyone and in fact, opposes violence everywhere by everybody.
With whom do we meet? Usually, with ordinary Iraqis, law-abiding folk trying to live their lives as best they can in an untenable situation. We do sometimes meet with people who harbor ill will towards the United States. And we listen. We also meet with soldiers, with police men, with multi-national forces. And we listen. And we urge what we hope is the better way, the way of non-violent resolution of problems. Of humane and just treatment for everyone. Of peace and reconciliation.
I ask myself the question, is there anyone with whom I would not meet? And I remember the Jesus of the New Testament, the man as a Christian I try to follow. And I ask of him the same question, is there anyone with whom you would not meet? And I remember the indictment lodged against him in his day that he spent time in the company of the unsuitable, the unfit, the unclean, the 'enemies' of his own faith, his own country (I particularly think of the Roman centurion and the Samaritan woman, to name but two).
I'm sorry if this sounds preachy; that is genuinely not my intent. I had the rare privilege for a CPT'er to spend time with American soldiers while waiting to see if I would be allowed to accompany Tom's remains home. And I learned that soldiers, like the rest of us, have many different points of view. I learned that one soldier resents the 'support the troops' ribbons on cars at home, feeling that they are saying, 'support the troops to death', by insisting that she and her fellow soldiers remain in Iraq.
I learned that soldiers struggle with the right and wrong of killing more acutely perhaps than anyone else. I learned that they come from all sorts of families and homes, some broken, some abuse-ridden, some happy, some very sad. I learned that they take their duties seriously. I learned that they are being threatened with court martial if they speak against the war or in opposition to President Bush's policies in Iraq. I learned of their own sadness at viewing so much death and destruction, as I helped them catalogue Tom's belongings, a routine chore they must do with each body sent home. I learned that they are kind and silly, informed and ignorant, for and against the war, and all anxious for home.
For those who think that CPT ruins the morale of our troops, all I can say is that the troops I spent time with, from Anaconda Air Force Base to standing at check points, were merely happy to talk with someone from home, to hear about our work, to learn what we know from living and working with Iraqis, and to share something of their own stories with a friendly ear, even an ear they knew disagrees with the mission.
And so I close with the request that you pray for the soldiers: that they never be asked or required to do anything with which they cannot live; that they come home safe, that they come home soon; that we at home open our hearts to hear their stories; that all that we do be directed toward bringing about that day when they need study war no more.
For my fellow believers, let us pray for ourselves: that our hearts be melted, that our anger be overcome with love, that we always be mindful of Jesus' answer to the question, 'who is your neighbor?', that we claim the truth that love of enemy does not mean hatred of brother or sister.
And finally, for me, please pray that I find the humility to genuinely hear the pain and anger of my fellow believers who feel betrayed by my actions. I continue to be a work in progress.
Tired, but safe; happy and sad; in peace and inner conflict,
Beth, back from Baghdad
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
a Presbyterian member of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq, returned from Iraq a couple days before the three surviving hostages were released. In December 2005 she began her assignment in Amman, Jordan doing the press work necessitated by the kidnappings. She moved to Baghdad mid-January 2006. She and other team members have documented human rights abuses of Iraqi detainees and continued building relationships with the Muslim Peacemaker Teams in Iraq. The team has also sought to provide an alternative, grassroots view of the current civil strife touched off by the bombing of the Shi’a Muslim shrine in Samarra.
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