Iraq: Moslems and Christians plan interfaith service at mass grave

 On Friday 15 August, a group of Moslems and Christians plan to hold an interfaith prayer vigil at the site of a mass grave where the bodies of hundreds of people killed by Saddam Hussein were buried in 1991. Following the uprising which took place in southern Iraq after the first Gulf War, Saddam's army entered the town of Al MaHaweel in February and March 1991 and the surrounding area and swept aside everything in its way. Hundreds possibly thousands, of people were killed. Outside the town a bulldozer made a huge hole and the bodies were pushed into this mass grave; some people had been shot dead and others were buried alive. Since the fall of Saddam a number of local people have visited the site and removed the bodies of their loved ones. Last Thursday, the Christian Peacekeeper Team team in Iraq (Peggy Gish, Maureen Jack, Anne Montgomery) visited Al MaHaweel to enquire about the mass grave. They discussed the possibility of a prayer vigil at the site, in which they would seek to involve other internationals and Iraqis. Local leaders welcomed them warmly as the first non-military internationals to visit the town since the fall of Saddam. After discussions with the Governor's office and the leadership of the local Islamic Al Dawaa party (many of whose members were put to death under the previous regime) it was agreed to hold the interfaith vigil at the site of the mass grave. Muslims and Christians will assemble at 10.30am that day at the Al MaHaweel office of the Islamic Al Dawaa party and make their way together to the site of the mass grave for a time of remembering and honouring the dead, as well as a time of commitment to working towards ending such atrocities. A statement from CPT said: "In recent months there has been conflict between countries with different faith traditions. There has been a danger of this being seen by some as a conflict between not only countries but also between two of the great world faiths, Christianity and Islam. Muslims in Iraq have been eager to stress to CPTers the core principles and beliefs that our faiths share. "CPT Iraq sees this interfaith vigil as a public witness of our common humanity and shared belief in a God of peace, and invites CPT groups and supporters around the world to join them on Friday 15 August 2003 in remembering all who have suffered and died as a result of injustice and tyranny, not just in Al MaHaweel, not just in Iraq, but around the world. CPT groups and supporters are invited to organise local interfaith vigils on this day."

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