Letter from Iraq: US forces attack Mosque and Christian centre

 The recent attacks by US forces in Iraq have targeted an ancient Christian city, peace groups in the country claimed last night. Cliff Kindy, from a Christian Peacekeeper team in Tikrit sends this report: Ivy Cyclone II has been the US military response to the attacks by Iraqi resistance forces on helicopters, convoys, and soldiers. Fifteen homes were demolished in thirteen days as US soldiers tried to stem the attacks. When the White House, Pentagon, and Central Command in Tampa were asked in succession if this was collective punishment, they each responded with "No comment." Although Tikrit is the hometown of Sadaam Hussein, it has also been the centre of the Christianity that spread from there north into Iraq centuries ago. Presently the one remaining sign of that earlier history is the cross that is drawn on bread baked in Tikrit. Luke writes in chapter Four that the Devil tells Jesus, "If you worship me, all these kingdoms laid out before us will be yours." It seems a telling passage in a time when ideologues aspire to empire, global and galactic. The November CPT delegation arrived on Saturday. Kathleen and I are the team members working with the delegation. They are a group of five, from both Canada and the US, two of whom have been here in Iraq before. The day before they arrived both the Sheraton and the Palestine Hotels just up the street were hit by rockets carried by donkey cart. Fortunately no one was killed in that attack or the other three sites that were targeted that same day, also from donkey carts. In this day of technology it is often the street sweepers who discover the mines that are laid on the road to attack military convoys. Often streets are closed off, seemingly randomly, but likely in order to clear the mines or as followup to an attack. Resulting traffic patterns are impossible in Baghdad. At the Organization for Human Rights we usually meet with the attorney, Mohammad. Most of their work has dealt with the rights violations under the Baath regime, but the 4000 lawyers that work with them are a strong research source. The Organization reports that, though the Coalition has passed on a list of 2500 detainees, the number is probably closer to 18,000. That could be part of the reason we have so much trouble finding members of families with whom we are working. I visited Al Monsour Paediatric Hospital with the delegation Monday. I spent time in the oncology ward with three year old Misa and her mother. Misa is expected to die soon, maybe during these days when she is home for the Eid celebration with her family. Two days this week of Eid we have been privileged to meet with the main Sunni and Shia Imams in Baghdad. An Eid feast, candy (!), and, especially, an invitation to pray together, were highlights for me. Sattar, our translator, says that the way in which we are with both groups is very important. Our visit to the Abu Hanife Mosque was sad as we saw the minaret that was attacked by Apache helicopter after the war and the RPG and bullet damage to the beautiful artistic interior of the mosque and even to the renowned tomb of Abu Hanife itself as US soldiers entered the mosque. The imam encouraged the Coalition to provide restitution to families before he gets restitution for the mosque damage. Yesterday the team began a leafleting campaign as we passed out human rights fliers. The fliers encourage the soldiers to uphold the rights of Iraqis and to recognize that their own security is bound up in how they treat Iraqis. We also are offering to be supportive as Iraqi human rights groups work at educating their own people of the rights they have - something that has not been very clear under the past regime or the present occupation. Rainy season is moving in. May God's graceful peace also rain down. Christian Peacemaker Teams is a program of Brethren, Quaker and Mennonite Churches supported by the Catholic and other Protestant Churches.

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