Letter from Baghdad

 Mabel Brunk from the Christian Peacemaker has written this account. When I wake up at night my mouth feels like sandpaper and my tongue sticks against the roof of my mouth. I reach for the water bottle on my bedside table and drink deeply. When walking the hot unshaded streets while shopping for food, I can buy a drink from a vendor's ice-cooled supply. When sitting in a hot taxi, halted by a traffic snarl, I thank my companion for sharing her water with the driver, our translator and me. In our apartment, flasks of water chill in the refrigerator freezer, providing a cold drink any time of the day. When the electricity goes off, the landlord starts the generator, guaranteeing that our cold water supply is never exhausted. Hospitality is a hallmark of Iraqi people. After the round of greetings, the host or hostess brings guests a glass and pitcher of cold water as an initial thirst quencher. Soon cold soft drinks are served to each guest. Refills are offered frequently. My thirst has been quenched by innumerable glasses of cold water offered by hospitable Iraqi friends. I have learned to serve a cold drink to any visitor coming to our apartment. We take water for granted and in summer we expect drinking water to be cold. Actually, cold water is a privilege, a luxury to many Iraqis with electricity available only about half the time and only the fortunate few able to afford a generator. The book of Proverbs describes people living in a hot, dry country. "Good news from far away refreshes like cold water when you are thirsty." Offer a drink to any thirsty person, even to your enemies, Proverbs counsels. On August 26, thousands of Iraqis joined a motorcade or walked in the hot sun toward the city of Najaf. They were following the revered leader Al Sistani as he entered the city to end the violence. Christian Peacemaker Team members noted that bystanders along the road brought flasks of water and blocks of ice for the thirsty pilgrims. Hospitality is a hallmark of Iraqi Christians. When I join in worship with fellow Christians, worshippers help me find a seat and offer translation. My English blends with their Arabic as we sing the doxology. Together the living water quenches our thirst. 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.

Share this story