Letter from Iraq: Peacemakers consider their future

 What now for Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq, after a three and a half years presence and four months of dealing with a hostage situation, culminating in Tom Fox's death and the safe release of Jim, Norman, and Harmeet? The celebration of the three's release and the mourning for Tom will continue, but it is also important for CPT to make decisions about the Iraq team's future. As part of this process of discernment, the remaining team in Baghdad has been meeting with Iraqi friends and colleagues from various religious and ethnic backgrounds who have shared in our work and understand our goals. What we hear varies widely. We hear the worry our friends have for us as they say: "Now that everybody knows about you, it is too dangerous for you to stay." "We are not so afraid for us, but we are afraid for you. We don't want another of you to die." "The situation in Iraq is getting worse. You should leave until there is a stable government, or until public attention on CPT subsides and then return." Another human rights colleague, however, said: "I believe you are very useful here, so wonder why you would leave." We hear differing opinions about the focus of our work. One person valued most our work with prisoners. Another said: "The most important thing you can do is to tell the truth about the situation here." Others suggest a change of location for of the focus of our work. One human rights worker suggested we focus on building bridges between the Kurdish north and the central section of Iraq and relocate to an area near the Kurdish region to explore that possibility. Another suggested the south. One positive voice of support for CPT to remain in Iraq came from a Christian leader who also suggested relocating temporarily to another part of Iraq to explore future direction. He wrinkled up his face in disbelief when we asked if he knows Christians in Iraq who thing our presence is making it unsafe for them. "I would feel bad if something happened to you," he said, "but I would be angry if you disappear. If you care for us just in the good times, I will orget you. If you take care of us in the bad times, I will remember you. You die when you do nothing, but live when you do something. Everyone dies, but not everyone lives." Referring to Tom, he added: "When we lost our friend, the suffering is hard, but it gives us courage. When they bombed my church, it didn't weaken us; it made us strong. Iraq's recovery may take ten years or more. But we can't wait until the tragedy is over to work, laugh, and hope. We are not certain where God will lead us, but we find courage and hope when our friends warn us, challenge our assumptions, or push us to be clear, while also offer their continued support and love. To learn more about CPT, please visit www.cpt.org.

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