Sunday, March 30, 2003

The Real Heroes

These are, of course, the people we really should pray for: the innocents of Iraq and the volunteer human shields and humanitarian workers in Baghdad to lend a helping hand. As has been reported, my friend and Soulforce colleague Kara Speltz has been in Iraq to work with Christian Peacemaker Teams. She is out of the country now; the Iraqi government demanded that a number of the peace makers leave Iraq. Here is Kara's report from Amman, Jordan:
We're back from Baghdad; five of our team stayed on and four have returned to carry the truth about this war to the American press and people. The trip to and from Baghdad was harrowing to say the least.

On our trip into Iraq, we crossed front lines twice. There were many burned cars, buses and trucks as we traveled. About 150 kilometers from Baghdad, we came upon a truck on fire. We slowed down and saw American troops on the hill above. They had their guns trained on us and motioned for us to stop. We did and waved white flags. Eventually they motioned us in the first car to continue on. The second van was still at the site and we waited for them to start up, but before they could, 4 Iraqi soldiers started running for the van, the Americans motioned for the second van to take off but the Iraqis were nearly up to the van. The van was able to get away, but as we watched from the first van, it looked like the Iraqis might actually catch up to them. We continued on past the Americans and shortly thereafter a station wagon passed us with its back windows shot out. We learned from them that they had not slowed down and the Americans had shot at them. We then came to an Iraqi checkpoint and were worried that some of the soldiers might consider confiscating our vehicle, but they waved us past, after reading the statement we had written in English and Arabic. The statement read:
"I am a member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams. We are against the war and all other forms of violence.

We are going to Baghdad to join other members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams who have been there, living among the Iraqi people since October. We wish to stay with them during this terrible war that is being waged against them.

We are trying to protect the Iraqi people and the institutions of health, welfare, and education that are important to life. We will visit
and support hospitals, water purification plnts, schools and orphanages.

We are with the Iraqi people because we know God loves them and weeps for them."
The looks on the faces of those who read our statement was one of awe and puzzlement. We arrived in Baghdad around 430 and got settled in at the hotel we were staying at. We met at 6 pm to worship together with the other members of the team who were already there. In the midst of the worship, the bombs began. Most were far off, but some felt near.

The bombing continued on and off during the entire time we were there. One of the most devasting things we learned was that the U.S. is using anti-personnel fragmentation weapons in Baghdad!!!!!! We visited a home and picked up several of the "pellets." Jim Douglass who is part of our CPT team, recognized them from his time in Vietnam.

We've met hundreds of Iraqis as we toured the bombing sights. Not one single person was anything but friendly and welcoming to us. It is difficult to sleep at night because of all the bombs. But amazingly, the Iraqis continue life, having birthday celebrations, planting seed, and just generally going on with life.

Because the Americans have destroyed all communications facilities, there now are no phones or emails out of Baghdad. The Iraqis, picked up six of our team members as they walked between the two hotels, but had stopped to see some of the latest damage from the bombing the night before. They were held for 6 hours and we had no idea where they were. Some of us feared they might have been picked up by hostile melitia forces who would hold them hostage. Finally, our "minder," the government official who was responsible for us, located them at a police station and was able to have them released.

The next day the 6 were given orders to leave Iraq. Since this was just a day prior to our planned return, and there was no telling when we might have an opportunity to leave, I asked to go with them. So 5 stayed and 4 of us left.

On our way back from Baghdad to Ammon, one of the cars we were traveling in had a blowout and ended up in a culvert. All 5 of them were injured, but our convoy was unaware until we got about a half hour away. Immediately Iraqi people stopped and transported our injured to the nearest town. This town had just endured severe bombing 4 days previous. The bombs had destroyed the hospital there along with a number of other buildings. But they brought them to the small building that was being used to replace the hospital and treated them with love and kindness, sharing the the few medical supplies they still had. I found myself wondering if the same thing had happened here in the states---if Iraqis had bombed our town, destroying our hospital, would we treat them with the same love and care? Or would we beat them to death in anger?

We are here in Amman, and leave on Tuesday for the states. But last night, as we drifted off to sleep, we could hear a B-52 bomber and each of us feared that the bombs would start dropping. Americans are being systematically lied to about this war, and I'm coming back to help spread the truth about this awful war that we are waging. Love Kara
Prayers and kind thoughts, please, for Kara's and her colleagues' safe return home. We would do well to listen to the stories and eyewitness accounts they will have to tell us -- theirs, unlike the Bushites', are the voices of truth.

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