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Thursday, October 27, 2016
Baghdad: peace campaigner writes from a city in darkness
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 March 18 marks the third anniversary of the most recent outbreak of war on Iraq. With millions of US dollars allocated for reconstruction and promises to help stabilise the country, Iraq is still in the dark. In the month that I've been in Baghdad, we have averaged about five hours of electricity a day. Sometimes we get a couple more hours in the middle of the night. Last week, we had a 30 hour stretch with no electricity at all. Even our overworked generator died. The average Iraqi without a generator has no control over a basic necessity that, for the rest of the developed world, is as simple as flipping a switch. Lack of electricity is not the only thing that keeps Iraq in the dark. The lack of stability and security, which is at its worst ever, puts most people into social and psychological darkness. The occupation has played on the darkest fears of the Iraqi people, the fear of each other. Instead of helping to bridge the sectarian divisions, the occupation has widened them. Instead of fostering relationship building and reconciliation, it has created mistrust and hatred. Many Iraqis tell us they believe this was done deliberately. Divide and conquer is a war game that permeates throughout history. Iraqi human rights leaders say there are now signs pointing towards ethnic cleansing. Militias grow out of the different sects. They have infiltrated the Iraqi police force. There is no real sense of rule of law. Lurking in the shadows of darkness are the ever present US military advisors who excel in teaching counterinsurgency techniques designed to create, fear, mistrust and confusion. In my own dark night of the soul, I asked an Iraqi friend what good CPT does in Iraq. He said we need you here. You expose injustice. You shine the light on the evil. My mind immediately raced to all the others who bring light to these dark times. There are the human rights workers who train teenagers in non-violent conflict resolution, the Catholic priest who continues to preach the good news of the Gospel of love even while churches are targeted, the Muslim Peacemaker Team that strives to build bridges and heal relationships, children's laughter, genuine smiles from strangers, greetings of peace with hands over hearts, the local bread maker who refuses to take my money for bread, the joy expressed by new parents, the voices of hope, the voice or reason in the midst of insanity. The list goes on. "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it". (John 1:5) Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumenical violence-reduction program. Teams of trained peace workers live in areas of lethal conflict around the world. CPT has been present in Iraq since October, 2002. To learn more about CPT, please visit
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