Wednesday, January 04, 2006

CPT Iraq update & two reflections from Baghdad

Dear friends, sisters, brothers,

Many members of the Peace Witness Action List have written in recent days to ask if there is any word on the CPTers missing in Iraq. Unfortunately, no. Please remain in prayer for them and their captors.
Here are reflections from two CPTers working in Baghdad, written in recent days: Greg Rollins, a Mennonite from British Columbia, and Peggy Faw Gish, a Church of the Brethren member from Ohio.

Yours in solidarity,

Matt Guynn

CPTnet, 2 January 2006
IRAQ REFLECTION: Where such uncertainty reigns
by Greg Rollins

Winter in Iraq and the country is frozen. Not frozen with ice or with fear but with uncertainty. Nothing here moves freely: people's lives, their jobs, traffic, reconstruction, education. Without a good idea of what the future holds many Iraqis are hesitant to move forward with their lives.

Iraqis often talk about the uncertainty. They turn on the faucet and there might not be any water. They can flick on the light switch but there might not be electricity for hours. They want to go to school or to marry or find work but they feel doing so is a wasted effort when they don't know what will happen next. The election promised change and a bright future but Iraqis know it isn't that easy. The violence will not fade and the infrastructure will not improve in a matter of weeks.

The Iraqi people do not feel like they are in charge of their country. They do not feel like their government is in charge either. Even if there is a government made up of Iraqis, people face the power the Multinational Forces. They see and hear the military helicopters that constantly pass overhead. They see the convoys of foreign vehicles or they hear about the battles fought by Multinational Forces and they know who is really in control of the country.

Usually the uncertainty and lack of control in Iraq do not affect CPT directly. There have been times when we have been unable to move forward in our work. Before, those times never lasted long. But now the team in Iraq is frozen like the country. As we work for the release of our four colleagues we are unable to continue with our previous work. We cannot talk with Iraqis held in the prisons here. We cannot listen to Palestinian Iraqis and hear what their lives are like. In the past we helped many human rights groups, now those groups are helping us.

We cannot force the kidnappers to contact us, but we do write letters asking them to and then post the letters on our web site. We cannot call up someone who might know them and say "Just release our guys already!" but we ask our Iraqi friends to send out appeals in the hope that they might know someone who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows--

And we wait. Like the people of Iraq we are waiting for things to thaw, for things to become certain again and for some control over our lives and our work. We are uncertain when this will happen, but we have faith. The Iraqi people are also uncertain about when they will be able to move forward or how, but they are certain that after the winter comes the spring.

CPTnet, 4 January 2005
IRAQ REFLECTION: Walking ahead in the New Year
by Peggy Gish

The New Year began in Baghdad with firecrackers, flares and even some colorful fireworks, but also with bombs and shooting that killed at least twenty people. Celebrations of this day usually symbolize the hope for new beginnings, new possibilities. Iraqis still have that hope, but it's a struggle to maintain it when the changes in their society and government have resulted in greater insecurity and continued violence.

As part of the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq, I find challenges to my hope when I see the daily pain and hardships of the Iraqi people, as well as the unresolved disappearance of our four colleagues.

Kidnappings, killings, and bombings- whether they are done by the resistance or the state--instill fear in the people. This fear leads to feelings of helplessness and paralysis. It drains the hope that their actions can lead to change. People become afraid to speak out and take action against injustice. We see this in Iraqis, and we find it creeping into our consciousness as well. We, as peacemakers, often feel pressure from others to be more realistic in our work, to see that the world's economic, military and governmental structures are so strong and entrenched that they are truly impossible to change.

We are aware that when we work for change, we can be eliminated any time our work is seen as threatening to those wielding power. Our government's and the world's networks of violence appear overpowering, but we must not be seduced into believing that they are invincible. I continue to believe that the power of truth and love is stronger than all these forces. (I do not mean that there won't be struggle and suffering. It is when the dissent is having a powerful effect and the structures of power feel threatened, that the greatest crackdown on it occurs.)

We are encouraged when we walk alongside Iraqi people who daily take risks addressing injustice and corruption, but we must also make wise and critical decisions. We need to discern how to respond, where to focus our energies, whether this is the time to be more publicly confrontational or whether moving forward must wait. Whatever the decisions, we do not want fear to immobilize us.

This New Year is the time for more of us to become part of movements that expose the real sources of terror and the lies behind lofty reasons given for war and occupation. It is the time to live out alternatives to the dehumanization and emptiness of our society, to build communities of love that more justly share the world's resources. It is time to keep walking ahead, although we feel weak as individuals, and to allow God to work powerfully through our combined efforts. It is time to affirm what we know deep inside, that love and truth are more powerful than any evil force.


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