Advent reflection from Baghdad

 A member of the Christian Peacekeepers Team in Iraq sends this report Last week I read a news report that said up to seven Iraqis are kidnapped every day. Today I found out that CPT's neighbour might be one of them. He was driving from Baghdad to Kirkuk when he disappeared. Sometimes kidnappers ask for ransom, sometimes thieves kill the victim and keep the money, phone, and car. It has been seven days since my neighbour disappeared. He has three children: *Mohammed (8) and Esam (6), my two miniature bodyguards who always insist on walking me down the street, and their sister Fatima (2). When I visited, their mother Um Mohammed sat on the living room floor and wept. The boys smiled hesitantly at me and did not know how to comfort her. They have always welcomed me to their home. Now they are shattered. "Allah Kareem, Allah Kareem (God is generous)," whispered Um Mohammed's elderly mother. She begged CPT to pray for them. All they can do now is sit by the phone and wait. These past days, large explosions have shaken our apartment. On Saturday we ran up to the roof to assess the damage. Black smoke billowed across the river. I have become numb to explosions, but this time I started weeping because I could tell from its size that people were dying. In fact, 70 people have died in Iraq these past three days. Why is everything falling apart? From the perspective of the Western countries, it is easy to point at the Iraqi resistance, the foreign terrorists, the common thieves. And they surely cause terrible damage with the use of violence. But from the perspective of those who are bombed, what is the difference between an insurgency bomb dropped on my street and a US bomb dropped on a Fallujah clinic? An explosion is an explosion is an explosion. There is rhetoric of "good guys" and "bad guys," but from here it all feels meaningless in the rubble of a home bombed by US fighter jets, a school shattered by a terrorist attack, a kidnapped father, a child accidentally shot by Coalition soldiers. Violence begets violence begets violence. It is all starting to blend together. It is difficult to find hope. But I hear that a sheikh in a violent Baghdad neighbourhood is gathering people to do nonviolent resistance. Another Iraqi human rights worker and friend is building a network of local peace activists. And tomorrow I will visit Noor and Abu Zayneb to cuddle their three-month old treasure, baby Hamsa. She will be hope for now. What can we do in the West? Try to break the pattern of greed and fear. Tell young people they can resist registering for the draft. Listen to a soldier's story and learn what war is really like. Find a peace community and try to build it, step by step. It is a dark time now. We live in constant Advent, waiting, waiting in the darkness. *All names are changed

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