Posted by Sadie from D006069.N1.Vanderbilt.Edu (188.8.131.52) on Sunday, March 30, 2003 at 2:25PM :
Peacemakers expelled from Iraq
Update, Christian Peacemaker Team
29 March 2003
Chicago IL - Seven members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), two members of the Iraq Peace Team (IPT), and three other internationals were expelled by the Iraqi government today. All left Baghdad at 9:30am local time in three vehicles and arrived at the Jordanian border at approximately 6:00pm local time.
Those expelled include CPT members Peggy Gish, 60 (Athens, OH); Cliff Kindy, 53 (North Manchester, IN); Weldon Nisly, 57 (Seattle, WA), Betty Scholten, 69 (Mt. Rainier, MD); Kara Speltz, 65 (Oakland, CA); Jonathon and Leah Wilson-Hartgrove, both 22 (Devon, PA) -- all U.S. citizens. IPT members were Shane Claiborne and Michael Birmingham.
When asked in a telephone conversation with CPT's Chicago office at 5:30pm CST about the possible reasons for the expulsion, Kindy described 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 was 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 Claiborne. Those injured were initially taken to a nearby children's hospital in southwestern Iraq, but the hospital had been bombed, so they had to be transferred to a secondary clinic where they received immediate attention from medical staff.
"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 peace ministry which includes visiting hospitals, clinics, orphanages, churches and mosques. Since the outbreak of the war, the team has paid visits to families in about 10 different neighborhoods whose homes were bombed, including 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.
Upon learning of the impending expulsion through a third-party e-mail message Friday night, CPT notified the U.S. State Department to express concern that the peacemakers be allowed safe passage through battle lines. State Department personnel followed the situation and maintained contact with CPT's Chicago office.
According to Kindy, the group in Amman is now resting and will be gathering for worship on Sunday at 10:00am local time. Some plan to remain in Amman to provide additional support for team members who remain in Baghdad -- Jim Douglas (Birmingham, AL), David Havard (Sheffield, England), Scott Kerr (Downers Grove, IL), Jerry & Sis Levin (Birmingham, AL), Sean O'Sullivan (Los Angeles, CA), Lisa Martens (Winnipeg, MB) and Stewart Vriesinga (Lucknow, ON).
CPT is a faith-based initiative supported by Mennonites, Brethren, Quakers and several Christian peace groups. Since 1993, CPT has placed violence-reduction teams in conflict settings in the Middle East, Haiti, Latin America, Europe and North America. Currently thirty-three full-time and 115 part-time peacemakers work with CPT in Iraq, Colombia, the West Bank, and with the Anishnaabe people in northern Ontario.
Voices in the Wilderness has sent delegations to Baghdad since 1996 as part of its international effort to end the economic sanctions against Iraq and initiated IPT in September, 2002.
Members of both CPT and IPT have been maintaining a 24-hour-a-day vigil at a downtown water treatment plant adjacent to a massive hospital complex in order to deter the bombing of civilian infrastructure, as happened during the Gulf War.
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