Christian peaekeepers report from the new Iraq

 CPT workers Anne Montgomery, Maxine Nash, Sheila Provencher and Greg Rollins have sent this report. What are Iraqis saying about the new government? How are things different since the transfer of power? Are there any changes? How is daily life in Baghdad? While we in CPT Iraq cannot speak for all Iraqis, we offer these simple "signs of the times" which reflect the tapestry of both changes and status quo since the June 28 transfer of power. The park across the street from CPT's apartment used to be a desert waste along the banks of the Tigris River. Today it is as green as Ireland, and offers sculpted paths and bright-coloured swingsets. But the park is empty: parents and children are too afraid of militants or wayward mortars to venture beyond the security of their homes. House raids and detentions continue. One soldier CPTers met on the street said, "Yeah, today we're on duty here, last night we were breaking down doors." Cleanup crews of young men and boys fill the street of Baghdad, toting buckets and brooms and waving at passing cars. US humvees and armoured personnel carriers still roll through the streets. Now one also sees soldiers from the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps on training exercises alongside the US troops. College students speak energetically about their future in Iraq. "I want to work for the Ministry of Justice," says one young woman studying law at a college in Baquba. Iraqi Police (IP) patrol the skies in their own helicopters, direct traffic at intersections choked with cars, and organize raids searching for criminals throughout the city. The sewage-strewn streets of Sadr City are quiet. A journalist told CPT that many residents, tired of the violence, had begun to yank the young Mehdi Army militants from the rooftops as the youth tried to shoot at US troops below. Families in our neighbourhood speak wearily of the water and electricity shortages. "I used to have to wait three months to visit my son," said a man standing in the dust outside Abu Ghraib prison. "Now I visit every ten days. The scandal did that for us at least." People discuss everything freely and with strong opinions Saddam, present politics, the future, the past, the US presence and when it should end. A house-shaking explosion in the mid-morning hours breaks the calm of what had been a quiet night unusually free of gunfire. A US sergeant charged with educational projects describes how Iraqi contractors compete for reconstruction jobs, their work inspected at every stage to guard against corruption. Missing in the discussion is the fact that US arms caused much of the damage. From the cracks of a dusty street a sunflower blooms. 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.

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