Christian peacemakers meet Imam of Baghdad

 (Charlie was a member of the most recent International Christian Peacemaker Team delegation to Iraq.) When we arrived at the immense Abu Hanifa Mosque, we were escorted around the outside of the buildings to see the damage done by mortars and missiles when US invaded the neighbourhood last March. Bullet holes and shrapnel from remote propelled grenades. The mosque's main tower has a hole carved by a missile from helicopter gunship. US soldiers also used explosives to enter the room where relics, including the tomb of Abu Hanifa, are stored. To date, the members of the mosque have not received even an apology for the damage. Sheik Al-Adhami is in his early 40's and is the current Imam, or religious leader, for the mosque. He comes from a family that traces its descent from the Prophet Mohammed. In his youth he was imprisoned by Saddam Hussein for many years and can only now speak out freely about that regime and what he hopes to happen in Iraq. "Saddam was a devil," he said. The affable and well-educated Sheik was also critical of the current US occupation. "The offices [of the Coalition Provisional Authority] promise to do something but we have seen no things," said the Sheik. "Iraqi people do not have the peace and security as the US promised before; instead the situation is getting worse." We discussed the house raids that have been occurring in his part of the city and the response, or lack of one, by the CPA. The Sheik called the Iraqi Governing Council "stooges" for the mistakes of the CPA and said that they are not regarded by Iraqi leaders, or ordinary citizens, as legitimate. He said that operation 'Iron Hammer' was exactly the wrong sort of response to attacks and blamed most of the CPA's actions on their "military mind(set)" and l local Iraqi leaders' lack of involvement. Of President Bush he declared, "I thought he sounded just like Saddam Hussein; he's the Saddam Hussein of America who plays the same role to cheat and deceive the American people." As we ended he spoke about the CPT's work in Baghdad. "You are writing history," he said. He said that if people motivated by religion work with one another then solutions can be found that serve all. "We must guide others to peace and security and treat them kindly," he said as we finished our visit. Christian Peacemaker Teams is a program of Christian churches, congregations, and individuals who believe in nonviolent means of conflict resolution and violence reduction. CPT members engage in mediation and conflict transformation, nonviolent action, and observation and reporting of human rights abuses.

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