Dispatches from Iraq #3

The Perspective of Love

The following is a reflection written by Sheila Provencher, 32, who lives and works in Baghdad, Iraq, with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). CPT is an ecumenical organization that works with local people in areas of violence (including the West Bank, Colombia and Iraq) to seek nonviolent solutions to situations of injustice and oppression. Sheila, who holds degrees from Harvard and Notre Dame, joined CPT in Baghdad in December, 2003. (Sheila is pictured center with Huda (left) and Mortheda (right).)

BustedHalo.com features Sheila’s occasional reflections on daily life in Iraq, the Iraqi people and the challenges they face during the American occupation.

Lately I feel tired, so tired. There’s always a part of me that wants to just sleep, sleep and make all of THIS­-the war, my government’s policies and actions, the counter violence of the insurgency, all the greed and sin in the world­-just go AWAY for awhile. I can identify with the apathy of citizens who give in to violence: yes, just make the evil go away, if violence is the quickest way, just do it, press the button, fire the missile, send the young ones off to war. Take any way out.

There is no way out. But there IS a way through. I tasted it the other day, when I was tired and wanted to hide but instead went down the street to visit my Iraqi family, who are going through a troubled time. On the way, a shopkeeper was hollering “Aiya! Aiya!” because Aiya, one of the children, had forgotten the bag of bread she’d just bought. I told him I knew her and would bring her the bread. And then I met her younger sister Huda in the street and got a kiss and gave her the bread, and she gave me a piece of candy. Simple relationships, simple human connections: that’s the way through.

That night, I sat next to seven-year-old Huda as she colored in her notebook on the floor. Her parents are splitting up, and her mother will soon be forced to move to a new place. Sitting with Huda that night, watching her color even in her pain, I knew that I loved her and wanted more than anything to protect her from hurt.

“When Mama is sad, you’re sad too, aren’t you?” I whispered. She nodded and smiled with tears close behind. Little Huda, who does imitations so well (she sometimes dresses up as her uncle, complete with kafiya and unlit cigarette dangling from her lips) and who dances like an Iraqi pop star and also recites the Qur’an and never forgets the table blessing . . . this Little One I want to protect from pain.

And there are so many other little ones, in their own uniqueness, who have not been protected, and will not be, and for whom it is too late. Beyond political analysis, beyond policies, there is this reality I tasted when I sat with Huda that night: all of the Iraqi children who have died in this war, who have lost parents in this war, and all the children of U.S. soldiers who have lost parents in this war, are just as precious as she is to me.

If we made policies and political analysis that put these little ones and their uniqueness as the highest priority­-and recognized that everyone, even the most vilified, like Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, or for some, George Bush, has such a Little One inside them­-how might we build a different way of being and acting in this world?