Christian Peacemaker Teams, a program of Brethren, Quaker and Mennonite Churches, has posted volunteers in Iraq since Oct 25, 2002. More recently, additional delegations have gone to Iraq to educate the public and "get in the way" of potential military attacks. This is a diary by American and Canadian volunteers who are now in Iraq.

Click for a map of where the human shields are situated in Baghdad.

Wednesday, April 2, 2003, 5:30 p.m.

This entry was written by CPT member Scott Kerr in Amman, Jordan.

The team decided to leave Baghdad for a number of factors, including the fact that food was becoming increasingly scarce. Ninety-five percent of street activity has ceased, especially since the allies have begun bombing in the day as well as in the evening.

Scott Kerr
Scott Kerr at
a bombed home
For the most part, the bombing's degree of accuracy is incredible. But what people don't realize is that each bombing blows out all the glass from the windows for two or three blocks around the bomb site. That's what's causing most of the injuries. We had pictures shaking in our room and felt gusts of air when bombs fell blocks away. These gusts can blow out birthday candles even when the bomb falls several miles away.

I wondered whether civilian bombings were intentional--including the bombing of a school we visited. In baseball, we call it 'chin music' when a pitcher throws a baseball at a batter's chin to shake him up. Maybe the bombings in the civilian areas are meant to show that no one's safe.

After a while, air raid sirens became so frequent and unreliable that we stopped listening to them. What made more of an impression was the Muslim call to prayer coming from mosque minarets on most nights just as the bombs started to fall.

There were increasing restrictions placed on the team by the Iraqi government. It was like after 9/11 when our government became more watchful of foreigners. This included being more concerned for our safety. They didn't want someone who had just lost a child in a bombing to take revenge. Additionally, the Iraqi government was concerned that photos our delegation was taking might be used by U.S. intelligence. It has been burning oil around Baghdad to make U.S. satellite photography intended to assess the damage its bombs were inflicting more difficult.

However, at the time we left, we were still mostly experiencing great hospitality and friendship from ordinary Iraqis. We will spend the next few days discerning next steps. We are not ruling out a return to Baghdad, and we still feel a deep concern for the plight of civilians there.

Tuesday, April 1, 2003 9 a.m. EST

This entry was written by CPT staffer Doug Pritchard in Toronto.

Scott Kerr made a very brief phone call from the Jordanian border to Gene Stoltzfus at CPT's Chicago office to say that all of the team in Iraq had now left Baghdad and were at the border. They will travel on to Amman and should arrive there by early afternoon Tuesday. We understand that some members of the Iraq Peace Team, our sister group, are still in Baghdad. We have no information yet as to why the CPT team left. They will likely regroup in Amman and begin planning future work in the region.

Saturday, March 29, 2003, 10:15 p.m. EST

This entry was written by CPT staff member Gene Stoltzfus in Chicago, based on a phone conversation with the team in Jordan.

Seven members of Christian Peacemaker Teams; two members of the Iraq Peace Team, a related group; and three other internationals were expelled by the Iraqi government today. All left Baghdad at 9:30 a.m. local time in three vehicles and arrived at the Jordanian border at approximately 6:00 p.m. local time.

The expelled CPT members include Peggy Gish; Cliff Kindy; Weldon Nisly, 57, of Seattle, Wash.; Betty Scholten, 69, of Mt. Rainier, Md.; Kara Speltz, 65, of Oakland, Calif.; Jonathon and Leah Wilson-Hartgrove, both 22, of Devon, Pa.

One possible reason for the expulsion, according to Kindy, was the intense level of anxiety throughout Baghdad. The government "minder" assigned to their group ordered the expulsion after team members walked from their hotel to a meeting in another hotel, documenting the destruction in the streets along the way. His own house had been hit by bombs the previous night.

Kindy reported that "the road from Baghdad to the border was clear." However, one of their taxis blew a tire on the highway and rolled into a ditch--injuring Kindy, Nisly and an IPT team member They were taken to a nearby children's hospital in southwestern Iraq, but the hospital had been bombed, so they had to be transferred to a clinic.

"These Iraqis, whose hospital had just been destroyed by U.S. bombs, graciously dressed our wounds and gave us medicine--precious medicine from their very limited supply due to 12 years of sanctions," Kindy said.

Upon reaching the Jordanian border, Nisly was taken by ambulance to Amman where he remains hospitalized with possible broken bones. Kindy received 10 stitches for a head wound and Claiborne suffered a dislocated shoulder.

Kindy reported that the nine members of CPT who remain in Baghdad are continuing their ministry, which includes visiting hospitals, clinics, orphanages, churches and mosques. Since the war's outbreak, the team has paid visits to families in about 10 different neighborhoods whose homes were bombed--ncluding a young man, just married, whose wife was decapitated by a missile strike on their wedding night.

CPT lost direct phone and e-mail communication with the Baghdad team two days ago when U.S. bombs destroyed a major Iraqi communications facility.

According to Kindy, some of the group in Amman plan to remain to provide support for team members who remain in Baghdad--Jim Douglas of Birmingham, Ala., David Havard of Sheffield, England; Scott Kerr of Downers Grove, Ill., Jerry & Sis Levin of Birmingham, Ala., Sean O'Sullivan of Los Angeles; Lisa Martens of Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Stewart Vriesinga of Lucknow, Ontario.

This entry was written by Doug Hostetter, a pastor at Evanston Mennonite Church in Indiana, and Middle East Correspondent for American Friends Service Committee.

A three-vehicle convoy started out Saturday morning heading Amman, Jordan, on the road that runs through the Western Iraqi desert. The group included Iraqi drivers for each vehicle, eight Americans and an Irishman from Christian Peacemakers Teams and Voices in the Wilderness, two Japanese reporters, and a Korean peace activist.

There were downed bridges, destroyed gas stations, and blackened shells of vehicles by the side of the road. American and British planes were bombing near the road, so the drivers spread their vehicles apart and drove as fast as possible to minimize being bombed.

The last of the vehicles was a few hours from the Jordanian border traveling at about 80 miles per hour when a tire blew, causing the diver to lose control. The vehicle landed on its side at the bottom of a 10-foot ditch. They were able to open the doors on the top side of the vehicle and eventually pulled everyone out. Everyone was bruised, badly shaken, but all were conscious. The car was totaled, and the other two cars were well out of sight down the road and no one had a satellite phone.

Because of to the bombing, there were very vehicles on the road. The group was just beginning to panic when a man pulled over and asked if he could help. The driver packed the five passengers into his car and drove to the closest Iraqi town, Rutba, about three miles from the site of the accident. Rutba is a city of about 20,000 people located about 70 miles east of the Jordanian border.

The group was astounded to see that the town, with no apparent military structures, had been devastated by bombing three days earlier. Much of the town was destroyed, including the children's hospital in which two children were killed in the bombing. The group was taken to a 20-foot by 20-foot four-bed clinic.

By the time everyone in the group had been treated, about two hours after they had arrived, the two other cars in the convoy had returned and found them. The group warmly thanked the people of Rutba for their hospitality, and tried unsuccessfully to pay the clinic and doctor for their services. "We treat everyone in our clinic: Muslim, Christian, Iraqi or American. We all are part of the same family you know," the doctor said.

Friday, March 28, 2003, 2 p.m. EST

Phone contact with the team is cut off due to a missile attack on the telephone exchange serving southern Baghdad. But the team was able to establish modem communication via satellite. The following was written by Cathy Breen, 54, a nurse from New York City, who is with a sister group called the Iraq Peace Team.

Heavy bombing woke me out of a deep sleep last night. Earlier I'd been on the telephone with a friend who told me that in her neighborhood a missile had struck the day before, wounding 29 and killing five. Among the dead was a 12-year-old. "Cathy" she said, "please tell them to stop talking about humanitarian aide. Please tell them to shut up!" How ludicrous to speak of humanitarian aide as the country is being bombed.

I am anxious to get word to you about some of the casualties, as I've been to the trauma hospitals to see for myself. As I write you, the bombs continue and the windows threaten to explode. Should I move somewhere else? There really is no safe place.

Let me tell you about Amar, a 7-year-old boy who has an emergency chest tube to drain blood as he suffered multiple shell injuries. His mother, Hannah, died in the direct hit to their house this morning. Then there is Mueen, 8 years old also the son of a farmer who died in that bombing. Ten-year-old Rusel was wounded in an explosion outside her door. We saw the shrapnel in her chest on the xray, and she, too, has a chest tube. We played with a finger puppet frog for a moment, and I decided to leave it with her. Her father said, "Bush said he'd bring democracy to Iraq. This is not democracy. This is terrorism!"

An elderly woman, Fatima, had fallen during the bombing and fractured her hip. She had already had surgery for the hip, but her ankle too is in a cast and her knee is wounded. Her husband said, "We are not the enemy or against you. We love freedom for every man, for every human in the world. Bush is the enemy against humanity."

Tell me Mr. Bush, What should I do with my anger, with my rage? Can you tell me what to say to the people here when they ask me what you have done? They know I am from America. As I meet their questioning eyes and despairing expressions, I have no words. I can only say "I'm sorry" on behalf of us all. And, please God, stay the hand of my nation.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003, 10 a.m. EST

This entry was written by Doug Pritchard in Toronto, based on a phone conversation with Peggy Gish.

The sandstorm continues. For the previous eight hours it had turned the sky orange. It was very eerie. During the storm it was raining mud because of all the sand in the air. People say this is the worst such storm in seven years. Peggy believes this is an act of God, that God is distressed and is sending a sign.

Peggy Gish
Peggy Gish
Peggy had spent four previous nights at the Water Treatment Plant. Relations within the group at times are difficult because everyone is under severe stress and needing to find ways to deal with it. She was also affected by the petroleum fires which filled the sky with fumes and soot.

Peggy has made a regular habit of working two or three hours every morning at the Sisters of Charity Orphange near the Al-Daar Hotel. The children have severe physical disabilities. She and the Iraqi staff and volunteers help feed the children and play with them on floor mats.

There was a lot of bombing during the day today from heavy B52 bombers.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003, 11:30 a.m. EST

This entry was written by Peggy Gish, 60, an organic farmer and conflict management consultant from Athens, Ohio. Her nonviolent activism extends from the civil rights movement of the 1960s through today. She has been in Iraq since October 2002.

As I write this two bombs exploded in the background. So far everyone in the team is safe. We have been shaken and feel a lot of grief about the continuous bombing of Baghdad. It has mostly been at night, but there is sporadic bombing during the day. In the horizon in most directions we see plumes of black smoke coming up from buildings burning. Yesterday there was a lot of black smoke from burning oil--that was hard on me physically. Today it isn't as bad.

Cars are still on the streets, and we have been able to get around in taxis. Yesterday many of us went to a hospital where wounded people are being taken. We went into the wards to talk with patients and their families and hear from physicians about their injuries. One was a 5-year-old girl with major spinal cord injuries from shelling; another was a 12-year-old boy who had a large cut in his abdomen from shrapnel, and his intestines were coming out. He and 11 other members of his family were injured by shrapnel while in their home two days ago and were hospitalized. Many others were awaiting or just coming out of surgery for removing shrapnel.

Right now we are waiting to be picked up to see the destruction at bombing sites. For the last three nights I have slept in a tent at the Al Wathba water treatment plant, which is next to a large hospital complex. We could not get approval to put the tents on hospital grounds. Most of the bombing has been more distant from our camp, but a couple have sounded about one-fourth or one-half mile from us. There is a shelter building nearby where we can go in if we are in danger.

I have appreciated being at the camp. The more out-of-doors setting with grass, trees, and birds has fed my spirit. People come talk with us, and we have developed relationships with workers and their families. We have visited the hospitals and people in the neighborhood, and we go elsewhere during the day. We are accompanying people and a neighborhood--not just institutions. Tonight I plan to sleep at the Al-Daar Hotel.

I have been experiencing a mixture of fear, anger, but mostly grief about what is happening. There is no good reason for this assault on innocent people. I am impressed by their strength and courage and their graciousness to us.

We don't know from day to day what we will be able to do. Our "minders" have just started wanting to know where everyone is during the day, but we have been able to go to most places we want to go. Our situation could change anytime. We are discussing how we would deal with these possibilities, and also how we would respond to an invasion.

We pray that the countries of the world are still able to stop what is happening here. We need your prayers. We have been carried by God's love.

Monday, March 24, 2003, 12:30 a.m EST

This entry was written by CPT staffer Jane Pritchard in Toronto, based on phone conversations with the team in Baghdad.

The team reported from the Al-Daar Hotel that they had survived another night of heavy bombing from B-52 bombers. It felt like the bombs were bigger or perhaps closer, although they were not close enough to do damage in the immediate neighbourhood. The last bombs fell an hour earlier and some also fell twice during the previous day.

They had heard eight hours earlier from the team camped out at the Al Wathab Water Treatment Plant adjacent to Medical City. No bombs had fallen near this complex.

There is a lot of smoke over the city from both burning buildings and pits of burning oil. The blackness in the sky looks like an approaching storm, and it obscures the sun. Team members visited several wounded civilians at the Yarmouk Hospital downtown. People were injured when a nearby government building was bombed, resulting in wounds from shrapnel and flying glass and head injuries from pressure wave concussion.

On Sunday several team members joined the worship service at St Raphael's Catholic Church. Others met with Margaret Hassan, Director of CARE International. The U.N .food distribution has stopped, and while some private food shops are open, prices are climbing very rapidly as shortages develop. The water supply and telephones have stayed on. The power went out for a few hours during the bombing but is back on.

The team says that Iraqis are not shocked, nor awed, by what they have seen. While the bombs are coming from on high, they say that God is higher. They say that God looked down on the Tower of Babel (south of Baghdad) and found it insignificant. According to the Bible (Gen. 11), the people of Babel had said, "Come let us build a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves." But God destroyed their high tech tower, and frustrated their attempt to invade the abode of God, and then "the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth."

Sunday, March 23, 7:45 a.m. EST

This entry was written by CPT staffer Claire Evans in Chicago, based on phone conversations with the team in Baghdad.

The team reported buildings in the area shake and rattle when the bombs fall. After hearing a report of a downed U.S. pilot, two team members went immediately to the Tigris River to observe or help, but could see nothing. Smoke is now throughout the city. The team expected to leave for worship with a local church. They send warm greetings and appreciation to people around the world who are praying and taking public actions to end this war. They want you to know your actions are appreciated by Iraqis.

Saturday, March 22, 2:30 p.m. EST

This entry was written by CPT staffer Claire Evans.

The team continues to be safe and is energetically pursuing its mission of providing friendship with the Iraqi people and witnessing against the use military force. Tonight four team members are in the tent at the Al Wathab Water Treatment Plant, and Al Monsur Pediatric Hospital. Two remain at the Al Daar Hotel. There was bombing in Baghdad throughout the day, but it was quiet from 7:30 p.m to 9:30 p.m. (Baghdad time).

The streets of Baghdad were quiet although a few shops were open. The team visited a family. Near the hospital, the team saw a 75 children playing soccer. They held a prayer service at 10:00 p.m. and remain calm in their convictions.

Friday, March 21, 1:30 p.m. EST

This entry was written by CPT staffer Claire Evans.

Bombs have been falling for the past hour, according to Lisa Martens and Stewart Vriesinga, who are at the Al-Daar Hotel.

Stewart Vriesinga in Iraq
Stewart Vriesinga
in Iraq
In Baghdad the bombing is more intense tonight than it was the previous night. Shrapnel can be heard rattling in the area. Inside the hotel, severe pressure can be felt when bombs explode. Bombing at tent site, Al Wathba Water Treatment Plant, and Al Monsur Pediatric Hospital is somewhat less intense.

Friday, March 21, 10:54 a.m. EST

This entry is written by CPT Canadian coordinator Doug Pritchard in Toronto, based on phone conversations with volunteers' family and friends.

Scott Kerr and Lisa Martens report there is more life on the streets today, more shops open and street traffic. They visited the team staying at the Al Wathba Water Treatment Plant and Medical City complex and walked around that neighborhood. They had many heartfelt conversations. The Lebanese Embassy is nearby and they spoke with the Ambassador.

They met with doctors at the Al Monsur Pediatric Hospital, who said it was hard to send children home and delay their treatment in order to prepare the hospital for civilian casualties. When Lisa asked them, "What are your dreams?", they replied, "No war. No sanctions. But really, it is your country that needs the dreams."

As Lisa returned to the Al-Daar Hotel, the taxi driver spoke of his wife and baby and the difficulties of maintaining his ancient vehicle. But he refused any payment from Lisa for the trip.

The team is anxious about the coming night. Some of them will be at the Al-Daar Hotel. The last attack only took an hour, but the building shook heavily and it seemed to go on forever. Others will be in tents at the Water Plant. They have access to some underground water pipes for shelter if needed. The team says it is hard getting enough sleep but their spirit is good.

Thursday, March 20, 11:15 a.m. EST

A couple hours after the Wednesday night bombing, Peggy Gish and Betty Scholten visited the Sisters of Charity orphanage nearby. Many of the staff did not arrive for work, so Peggy and Betty helped bathe, dress and feed the children. As they returned through the streets they were greeted warmly by neighborhood women, men, soldiers, and the children playing soccer.

Peggy, Betty and Cliff Kindy relocated from the Al-Daar hotel to set up a new camp in a tent on the grounds of the Al-Wathba Water Treatment plant adjacent to a hospital complex called "Medical City." The complex consists of eight hospitals and covers three city blocks. It is served by the water plant and a nearby power plant and two bridges over the Tigris River. The team plans to stay in the tent and visit the hospitals and neighboring residential areas. The corridors were lined with beds to receive civilian casualities in the future.

Scott Kerr, Lisa Martens and Stewart Vriesinga are remaining for now at the Al-Daar hotel, where they continue to have phone and internet access and freedom to move about. They are being told by Iraqi authorities that this location is more dangerous than hotels where other Westerners are based. There was some anti-aircraft fire around other hotels last night but none around the Al-Daar. But the Al-Daar is adjacent to a building formerly used by the Iraqi Communications Ministry but now abandoned. CPT has contacted the Pentagon and some U.S. Senators with the information that this building is empty.

The team asks for your prayers that they make good decisions about whether to stay there or where to move. Scott Kerr said, "Humanity is being blown away with cruise missiles launched from thousands of miles away. The U.S. Government says we should leave, that this is no place for peacemakers. But this is a good place to be."

Thursday, March 20, 8:25 a.m. EST

This entry is written by Lisa Martens, 25, of Manitoba, Canada. She graduated from Canadian Mennonite Bible University and is a full-time member of CPT. She has been in Iraq since February.

There are seven of us at the Al-Daar Hotel. Father Jerry Zawada from Chicago is with us. At 2 a.m. Baghdad time (6 p.m. Wednesday EST), we heard that planes were already active. We went out of our rooms to the lowest floor at 4 a.m. (8 p.m. Wednesday EST) and had mass led by Father Jerry. We sang and prayed.

Lisa Martens in Iraq
Lisa Martens in Iraq
About 5:30 a.m. (9:30 p.m. Wednesday EST), those team members who did not sleep through it heard aircraft. Then we all heard sirens. Shortly after, there was an hour-plus of sporadic explosions, some "BOOM," and some "rat tat tat." They were not very close to us. One rattled the windows slightly.

A couple of us stood outside in the hotel entrance for a few minutes. Scott Kerr reported seeing some anti-aircraft fire in the distance. The Iraqi staff at the small hotel here are very helpful and comforting. One is Ammar, who went home last night to stay with his wife who is expecting a baby any day. He called this morning today to tell us not to worry.

Now it's 9:45 a.m. (1:45 a.m. EST), and it's been quiet for a while. A few of us headed out to check on the orphanage nearby where some of us are regular visitors and helpers. Peggy Gish just called to say that as they walked to the orphanage, they saw kids playing soccer, and men out on the street, although there is much less activity on the streets and sidewalks. Peggy reported that some of the kids at the orphanage cried during bombing.

Some of us plan to head to the Al Wathba Water Treatment Plant today to stay there in tents for a few days, with hopes eventually to include nearby hospitals that we have visited, as well as the surrounding neighborhood. Others of us tomorrow will stay at the Al-Daar with its staff. Phones, water and electricity are working.

Be outraged. Make peace.

Wednesday, March 19

The following entry is written by CPT staff member Gene Stoltzfus in Chicago after speaking with the Baghdad team Wednesday afternoon

At midnight Baghdad time (5 p.m. EST), Scott Kerr (age 27, a full-time CPT member who has been in Iraq since February) called from Baghdad. The voice communication was better than I have experienced in weeks. We could understand each other.

Scott Kerr in Iraq
Scott Kerr in Iraq
After substantial negotiations and discussions with Baghdad authorities, the team will set up a tent at Al Wathab Water Treatment Plant during the war. They will also be visiting the Al Mansour Pediatric Hospital.

There is a full moon over Baghdad, but the city is enveloped in a major wind/dust/sand storm. At 4 a.m. Baghdad time (8 p.m. EST)--48 hours after the President's speech Monday evening--the team will be celebrating communion together.

Tuesday, March 18

This entry is written by CPT Canadian coordinator Doug Pritchard in Toronto, based on phone conversations with volunteers' family and friends.

"It is a surreal time in history to be in Baghdad," says Scott Kerr. "But if there's a place in the world where the light of peace can't shine, then the world is in big trouble."

The volunteers reported they are strong and focused. They spent Tuesday making preparations--ensuring everyone has water, water filters/treatment chemicals, and non-perishable food, and going over how to operate the walkie-talkies and satellite phone. They also purchased shovels and an acetylene torch to assist with rescue operations. They spent time doing a refresher course in first aid.

They also went to visit the Sisters of Charity Orphanage. Over the past weeks they have gotten to know children and staff and wanted to reassure folks they plan to stay.

The team also received phone calls from loved ones asking about their plans and sharing encouragement and fears. Each phone call is precious and is another occasion--usually a very emotional one--for reviewing personal commitments, responsibilities, and calling. The team spends a lot of time together each day talking about their lives, their hopes, their fears, and praying together. Worship is important each day.

Monday, March 17

This entry is written by Cliff Kindy, 53, an organic farmer and full-time member of Christian Peacemaker Corps from North Manchester, Ind.

We went to the United Nations headquarters with a sign: Farewell U.N. Please Advise. Who will care for the Children? The U.N. programs, funded by Iraqi oil, have been the infrastructure caring for the population of Iraq. When war breaks that net, the U.S. government's preparations will not be able to carry the tremendous infrastructure in place.

Cliff Kindy in Iraq
Cliff Kindy in Iraq
Spaniards are here in a large group. They traveled to Basra and also initiated a vigil here at the Ameriyah Shelter for internationals to voice a common declaration of peace in the face of our governments' plans for war. One would think that a war for democracy would take into account the will of the world's people.

We have been trying to distinguish ourselves from the Human Shields, but shields would not need to volunteer here if there were not human weapons massed on the border in contradiction to the will of the world's people.

We did a prayer of blessing Friday at the Al Wathba Water Treatment Plant. Later we visited the Maternity Hospital operated by the Dominicans. On each of two days there were about 20 births, six each day Caesarian, as parents were pushing to get babies born before the war. One day there were five miscarriages which the doctor blamed on the stress of war. That same day I saw apricot, quince and orange trees in bloom. Today the petals from the date palm on our street cover the sidewalk.

Walking to get the news I passed the Palestine Hotel, where two little brothers were shoveling food into their mouths from plates on the edge of the sidewalk. They jumped up, wiped their hands on their pants, shook my hand and made preparation for their next meal by begging.

I would be happy to go home to plant the garden, but war seems probable. So I'll stay. When society goes mad, Christians should be where the consequences will be the worst.

Friday, March 14

This entry was written by Peggy Gish.

We have been on a roller coaster here thinking that any day war may break out. Then we hear news of millions of people around the world protesting the war, countries ready to veto the U.S. resolution for war. We had a meeting in which some members of the team are pessimistic, while others of us are realistic, but still hopeful and active in resisting the war.

Peggy Gish
Peggy Gish
People ask me if I am afraid. I have to say "yes." I don't want to die. I want to come home to Art and the boys and all my family and friends. But I also am willing to risk dying if my being here can help to prevent thousands of people from dying and suffering war here or elsewhere, in the next countries on Bush's agenda. I believe it is important that thousands of us be willing to die, not because dying is important, but so that we are able to take the risks it takes to so strongly say "no" to war, that governments lose the support for these wars, and there are no people left to fight them.

It is especially important that people of conscience act boldly to declare a gospel of peace.or Christianity loses its soul. I have no doubt I was called here, and that the work is important. I am hoping that soon we will get to the place where the war is canceled or put off into the future, and then I will come home.

In the meantime, we go on with our work, just as the Iraqi people go on as normally as they can. Spring has come and we have had beautiful warm days, flowering bushes and orange blossoms.

Thursday, March 13

This entry was written by Peggy Gish.

Many people here expect war to start in the next five days. Many embassy staff and United Nations agency staff have left the country. One of the families we know well just left to go to Syria.

The team is trying to be ready. We had a vigil at the U.N. this morning and one at a water treatment plant this afternoon. Many of our team (including me) still have hope that it can be averted. We asked to go to Basra to protest at the border, but we were not given permission.

If we are here, we have a proposal that we sleep in tents on a hospital grounds and have walking rounds in that neighborhood which includes the water treatment plant and an electrical plant. There is also a maternity hospital run by Dominican sisters some of us may stay and help at.

The sisters at the orphanage don't want us to stay there at night, but we are welcome to help in the day. Also CARE International may call us for help delivering water and medical supplies.

I hope there is soon a long delay of escalation so I can come home.

Monday, March 10

This entry was written by Peggy Gish.

"Hi Dunia," I called to the girl sitting in an infant chair at the orphanage. Eyes light up and a grin curls around the handicapped child's face. We connected at the sound of her name.

On the mat, Omar, Hassan, Amil, Allah and I gather around a picture book. "Who's that? Amil? There's Omar!" It didn't matter what the figure was. It was the naming of names that was important, that fed the universal hunger to be unique.

The newest arrival at the orphanage is five-month-old Nurah. She needs constant care, since she was born with only stubs for arms and legs. Anyone's first thought is "how sad," though after holding her they are rewarded by smiles. Nurah seems to know her name.

At a home I frequently visit, four-year-old Dhafer, with a dimpled grin, jumps around pretending he is a monkey, delighting in the laughter of the American visitors. Meanwhile, 16-year-old Yasser has just completed a picture to send home with us. On it was written, over the shape of a heart, "My name is Yasser. I love American children."

While walking the streets we often hear people call out, "What's your name? This becomes an open invitation to share why I am here. Usually suspicious expressions relax when we share our desire for peace.

When we face fear and possible injury or loss of life, our soul cries out for one who knows who we are, who will be with us. We, just as the Iraqi people, want someone to care, to call us by name.

Saturday, March 8

I hurried out to Karrada Street to hail a taxi to take across town for a worship service. A beat-up car stopped for us, and we got in. A simple, "shlonik?" ("How are you?") started the conversation. Our driver spoke English. We told him we were from America, that we wanted peace, and that we wanted to be friends. With his eyes glistening, he welcomed us warmly.

He started telling us about poverty here. "The ones that are too ashamed to beg, die." We asked about his family, and learned he had been married three years and did not have children. He and his wife were too afraid now because of possible war.

"What about Bush?" he asked. "Isn't he a Christian? How can a Christian do this?" We had to agree that Bush is not acting as a Christian. We can only be ashamed of what he, on behalf of our country, is doing here and around the world.

After the taxi stopped at our destination, we sat talking. I started to pay him. "It is enough to hear your voice," he said as he at first refused our money. "It means so much to the Iraqi people for you to be here!"

After the worship service, we stood around for a half hour afterward talking to members of the congregation, feeling very little difference between us, sharing the same God, the same hope.

My heart was full at the end of the day. For me, the human contacts are the daily reminders of why I am here.

Thursday, March 6

This entry is written by Cliff Kindy.

More than 120 Human Shields have gathered from 34 countries to witness against the escalating war. They are a dedicated, creative lot of peacemakers.

Cliff Kindy in Iraq
Cliff Kindy in Iraq
Media and war advocates have denigrated the term "human shields" by focusing on times governments have forced persons to go to vulnerable sites, often military, as a barrier to an attack. Forgotten in this mindset is the mother who shields her child from an attacker or a friend who offers his life to save another. This present-day experiment is an offspring of the action of the mother and friend.

This experiment in peacemaking was complicated as the volunteers accepted the room and board hospitality of the Iraqi government. Problems escalated as the government tried to put the shields at certain sites. Some chose to leave; others wanted to work out some compromise. The dialogue continues in its stumbling fashion.

Since October, we have been visiting similar sites to remind the U.S. government that they promised not to target them. Deaths by our team would be a grim reminder that war usually targets the places where civilians are the ones that die.

Monday, March 3

This entry is written by Allan Slater, 67, a retired dairy farmer from Ontario.

We went to Amariyah Bomb Shelter in a middle-class neighborhood of Baghdad. Here 405 women and children perished when an American bomb penetrated three meters of reenforced concrete. The people in the upper level were instantly incinerated. In a lower level, people exploded from the shock waves. In one spot we saw the remains of an eye that had been plastered against a wall. The shelter has been preserved as a mass grave and museum. The whole thing was emotionally draining.

prayer vigil in Baghdad
The team gathers for a prayer vigil in Baghdad
But it was a morale boost to meet Selma Abbas and her family. Selma is the sister of Hasam Abbas, one of my friends back home. We enjoyed a pleasant lunch together. I left them with a sense of foreboding that they could be among the casualties of a war. It is so unthinkable.

Everywhere on the street I see soldiers. They are all young and I am sure they know that they face certain death if they face George W. Bush's military might.

We carry paper written in English and Arabic to explain why we are here--to hand out to people we meet. Today as I waited for a shoe shine, I handed a sheet to the customer ahead of me. He thanked me, read the sheetaloud and paid in advance for my shine, but at a lower rate than I would have paid. I offered the shoe shiner more, but he refused. The shoes are shinier than they have ever been.

March 1, 2003

This entry was written by Allan Slater.

My feelings alternate between fear and awe. Fearful of what may happen at any moment, but in awe of this beautiful cosmopolitan city. As we walked along the street here, we saw two new sculptures that have just been created--one of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, another of The Magic Carpet. So, culture thrives and life goes on. The people carry on with a sort "joy of life" that makes me think it is a coping mechanism for the fear they must feel.

Two of us have come back from an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity of Mother Teresa, where young children with mental and physical handicaps live. It was such a loving, peaceful place that I am sure if George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to spent time there, they would start thinking peaceful thoughts.

Just to bring us back to reality, we are all being told we must have "crash kits" with us at all times with enough survival gear for a week.

This afternoon, I went to visit an Iraqi family: five daughters and three sons with a widowed mother--a very bright family. As I left, the thought came to me that Bush's proposed war is just the crusades all over again--the barbarian hordes descending upon one of the ancient and great civilizations of our world.

Dressing up is more important in this culture, so I came with jacket, shirt and tie. The tie was one that I had not worn since my wedding 40 years ago. My marriage has been a great blessing to me. So I gave the mother the tie as a way passing on a blessing to the family and the people of Iraq.

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