IRAQ: The roots of hope

I got this email from Christian Peacemakers, thought I would share. The view from the ground:

1 August 2006

IRAQ: The roots of hope

by Peggy Gish

A call came last week from an Iraqi human rights worker and friend of the team. The previous night, someone attempted to shoot him near his home in southern Iraq. He does not know what group may be behind this attack and the threats on his life he has received in the past months.

A former team translator told us that militia and criminal gangs control many neighborhoods in Baghdad. In his neighborhood, daily gun-battles on the street break out. In another Baghdad neighborhood, the husband of another team friend–also a human rights activist–was killed.

“I couldn’t believe it at first,” yet another human rights worker in Najaf told us after recently returning from several months in the U.S. The situation in Iraq is much worse than I ever imagined. I can no longer say this isn’t civil war.”

Some Iraqis are fleeing their homes, but most cannot leave. They feel helpless to do anything to change the escalating violence and chaos. Just two weeks ago the team’s landlord and his wife told us that even though most of Baghdad was dangerous, the neighborhood we had been living in was safe. Since then, they have called us to say the situation there has become worse. Fewer people are out on the streets doing business or shopping. They have left and now agree with other Iraqi friends and colleagues who have advised our team not to return to Baghdad.

These Iraqis are like our family. We feel a deep love and grieve for them. Not being able to accompany them or to do more to help them is painful. During our morning prayers, we mentioned them by name. We read about and spoke of hope, but we felt this hope was something out of reach, something that instead of buoying us up, was flying in our faces. A team mate named what we were all feeling, “Right now it’s hard to have hope for the future of Iraq.”

But, I thought, the prophet Isaiah addressed this struggle when he spoke of God bringing forth springs of water in the thirsty ground of the desert (Isaiah 35: 6-7) and of God being with us as we pass through the rivers and through fire (Isaiah 43:2.) Just like water in dry lands, hope is a precious commodity in war-torn places.

If we base our hope mainly on our ability to stop this horrible violence, we are lost. Only when our faith is rooted in God’s ability to work in impossible situations, can we rise above despair and allow hope to strengthen us and lead us to action. That is the hope I pray for and want to walk in.

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