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Sunday, December 11, 2016
Iraq: some 'songs of the ordinary'
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 Christian peace campaigner Sheila Provencher sends this account of a few 'ordinary' days she spent in Iraq last week. So much of Christian Peacekeeper team's work focuses on the terrible suffering here - the sorrow of families of detainees, the painful testimonies of released detainees. But so many small things happen every day that I wish you could see . . gifts, all of them, notes making up the song of the ordinary life that is going on all around us, all the time. An Iraqi human rights lawyer gave us a ride home from a meeting with a Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) official. "I want to help you, because of the situation [of danger to foreigners]," he said. "But also, because I want you to feel that we are your family." The day after Nick Berg's beheading, many strangers were especially nice to me. The man at the market wouldn't let me buy the eggs from the sidewalk table. He went into the shop and got some other ones. "These are more fresh!" he said. A taxi driver refused payment, even though he did not know I worked with CPT. Our translator told me: "The Iraqi people feel very sad about this beheading. They are angry that others have done this thing in their name. Imam Hussein died by beheading more than 1,400 years ago, and his death still causes us grief. We would never do such a thing. It is against Islam." The priest at little St Raphael's Catholic Church welcomed everyone to Mass, and then, smiling down the aisle to me and Matt Chandler, he said: "welcome back especially to those we have not seen for some time." Sheikh Turky came to see us. His son, 20-year-old Arras Turky Hadi Hussain, has been disappeared since April 9, 2003, and is part of CPT's Adopt-a-Detainee letter-writing campaign. Sheikh Turky said: "I have pity on the soldiers who are suffering, I do not blame the individuals. But tell your government to release the detainees!" He also said, "I consider you a part of my country now. I care for your safety. My own son's life is not worth more than your safety." Jets were flying overhead last night and this morning. Several distant explosions reverberated through the heavy air. The two-year- old son in my Iraqi host family buried his face in his mother's arms. The father said the explosions were in Sadr City. I wonder if Kerbala is being bombed too. My host father is weary and sad. "I hate this," he says. "Do you know what the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) said? He said, `When you go to war, do not burn the trees, do not frighten the children, do not kill civilians, do not even hurt the animals.' What has become of us?" Last night I slept on the roof under the stars at my Iraqi family's house. Their two-year-old son sighed in his sleep and rolled into me, curling his arm around mine. The Big Dipper hung in the sky. What more could I want? Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumenical violence-reduction program with roots in the historic peace churches. Teams of trained peace workers live in areas of lethal conflict around the world. CPT has been present in Iraq since October, 2002. For more information see: http://www.cpt.org.
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