Michele Naar-Obed / Christian Peace Teams – 2006-03-15 23:40:16
(March 15, 2006) — Since the bombing of the Al-Askari Shrine in Samarra on 22 February 2006, local media and friends have deluged the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) in Iraq with information. Iraqi Islamic television reported that the US military and Iraqi police were seen at the shrine the night before it was bombed. The next morning, two shrine guards were found alive but handcuffed inside. Baghdadiya television aired the same report.
The Minister of Housing and Reconstruction said the job would have taken ten men about twelve hours to set up enough explosives to do this kind of damage. We have not heard this information reported outside Iraq. The US made offers to rebuild the shrine, but the Iraqi Islamic Party asked that repair be delayed until an independent investigation was completed. Samarra citizens have locked down the shrine to preserve evidence.
While Baghdad and surrounding provinces were under strict curfew, CPT received calls from friends who described mosques under attack and gun battles in the streets. Iraqi Islamic TV reported that men dressed in black burned down a village near Dialla.
The next day, the Iraqi military, the Mehdi army and US Apache helicopters attacked the same village. A day later, we heard that Iraqi Islamic TV, which aired footage of the attack, was bombed.
One night, we counted the thuds of mortars dropping on a neighborhood across the river. We’ve listened to gun battles, watched the smoke rise from a car bombing in our neighborhood and sat with our neighbors as they wept in despair. We’ve received reports of sectarian cleansing and mass deportations. The team has searched the prisons for friends taken in raids and gone to the morgue to identify the dead.
But the news isn’t all bad. While the New York Times and other media focus on ethnic hatred, sectarian violence, and civil war, we receive other reports that most of the western media ignore. A team friend calls us daily with stories of Sunni/Shi’a unity, cries for peace, and the deep passion of all Iraqis to live as one family.
In neighborhoods that have been hotbeds of violence, we hear of Sunni and Shi’a working together to repair and rebuild damaged mosques. Shi’a Iraqis have protected Sunni mosques in their neighborhoods. In a Basrah shrine, Sunni and Shi’a have gathered to pray together.
While people in power seem to manipulate events, pitting groups against each other, and military advisors trained in counterinsurgency plot terror campaigns behind closed doors ( See “The Way of the Commandos,” NY Times Magazine, May 2005), heroic acts of love and kindness among the people in this tattered country go on unnoticed.
We continue in our efforts to work with a Sunni, Shi’a and Christian coalition to develop a human rights campaign for all people in Iraq. Human Rights groups continue to form, teenagers continue attend nonviolent conflict resolution classes and hope for the future still remains.
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) seeks to enlist the whole church in organized, nonviolent alternatives to war and places teams of trained, peacemakers in regions of lethal conflict. Originally a violence-reduction initiative of the historic peace churches (Mennonite, Church of the Brethren and Quaker), CPT now enjoys support and membership from a wide range of Christian denominations.
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