Friday, January 05, 2007


Here's a reflection from Peggy Gish on the Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq.

Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace

5 January 2006

IRAQ REFLECTION: Christmas and New Years in Suleimaniya

by Peggy Gish

Shoppers swarmed into downtown Suleimaniya over the past two weeks.

Shops displayed artificial Christmas trees and decorations, as well as felt Santa hats with flashing lights. Here Santa in known as "Papa Noel" and is also connected with the New Years Day celebration. Such trappings are for the small local population of Christians, as well as for many Muslims.

Shoppers bought gifts for New Years Day and the Muslim feast days (Eid) on 30 & 31 December that celebrate the Hajj pilgrimages to Mecca.

Many friends here wished us a Merry Christmas. One brought us a card and another, a cake. On Christmas Eve, a Kurdish family living in Florida, but spending time reconnecting with family and friends here, invited us to their home. On Christmas Day, we went to a supper party with European members of an NGO that works with street children.

Earlier that morning we attended Christmas services at one of the two Christian churches in Suleimaniya. Peace was the major theme of the sermon - peace for Iraq and other troubled areas of the world. The priest spoke of the promised one, Emanuel, which means "God with us."

Most of us have a hard time keeping continual awareness of the presence of God. Many have a hard time believing that it has much meaning, considering the escalation of violence and the way that corrupt governments and leaders are able to maintain their power. So many things here (and elsewhere) have not turned out the way I have thought God would have wanted them to. Yet, I have also experienced many times when I knew that God was with me and others, strengthening and caring for us, bringing good news of reconciliation and hope.

As I write, it is approaching midnight on New Year's Eve. Since Christmas Day, we made a trip to Erbil to work on registering as an NGO and meeting with a Kurdish Parliamentarian concerning prison issues. It snowed on the day we moved from the hotel to an apartment. We woke up yesterday, the first day of Eid, to see the news that Saddam Hussein had been executed early that morning. Tonight we talk and write by candlelight since we have only about 1-2 hours of electricity a day here. Our New Year's treat is some Fair Trade chocolate that Doug Pritchard, who just arrived today, brought as a gift for us.

Tonight I think about what the new year may bring. Iraqis, as well as other peoples experiencing the brunt of war, cry out for some new breakthrough for peace. I don't believe that killing Saddam, or more U.S. troops in Iraq, will bring that. But we must hope for new beginnings in our own lives just as we dare to hope that those seeking to exploit the people of Iraq, Sudan, or Colombia can turn around and chart new and just policies.
When we dare to hope, we can dare to act.


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