IRAQ: The roots of hope
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
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