Group Study Guide for

Iraq:

[Cover of Peggy Faw Gish's Iraq]

A Journey of Hope and Peace

by Peggy Faw Gish

This Study Guide is also available for download as a Word document or in PDF Acrobat format.

Sessions One through Five Sessions Six through Ten

Session One

Chapter 1: Going
Chapter 2: Learning

Update Notes:
I write this study guide after returning from my sixth trip to Iraq with CPT, and working there a total of eighteen months since my initial trip in October 2002.

Just as in that pre-war time, we still try to do what we call “truth telling” about the conditions of life for the Iraqi people. Doctors in Baghdad now tell us that they are starting to see an increase in cancers and leukemia in Central Iraq due to the proliferation of DU (depleted uranium) and other toxic materials used in U.S. weaponry during the 2003 invasion.

Much of the suffering of the Iraqi people continues because the U.S. has done little to fulfill their promise to repair the health-related infrastructure, already in disrepair under Saddam Hussein and deteriorating further during the years of economic sanctions. In our visits this summer to Sadr City, a poorer, densely populated area of Baghdad, we saw pools of raw sewage in many streets. There was an epidemic of typhoid and 72% of the 3 million residents had hepatitis A or E, because of impure water. Cracked sewage and water pipes still lay side-by-side, polluting the water. Meanwhile, officials told us that the contract for the current sewage reconstruction project only provided for new pipes in the main streets, not the side streets. We saw no evidence of it being unsafe for construction crews to work in Sadr City, currently one of the safest places in Baghdad.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How did you respond to Bush’s call for invasion of Iraq? Did you speak out individually or collectively? If so, how did that change your outlook?
  2. If you had known about the CPT delegations to Iraq before the war, would you have considered joining one?
  3. How should people of faith respond when other peoples are threatened?
  4. Why do many Christians support our country’s war effort?
  5. What did you learn about the consequences of economic sanctions for Iraqi people from these chapters? Do you think that if U.S. citizens had known these things, it would have affected their support for this war in Iraq?
  6. What do you think about Amahl’s statement to the team (p. 41) that we should stay and work in the U.S.?

Session Two

Chapter 3: Beginning Steps
Chapter 4: Staying On

Update Notes:
Our CPT team in Iraq still rents an apartment in a residential community in Central Baghdad. Relating with our neighbors is not only an important part of our presence there, but also provides us a degree of safety.

Each time I decide to return to Iraq, any fears that I have bump up against my strong sense of calling to go. The love God keeps giving me for the Iraqi people compels me to do this work and helps me conquer my fear. Being and working in Iraq has been a gift, not a sacrifice. I keep feeling the power of God’s love at work as I look into the eyes of those I am told is an enemy, listen to their pain and grief, and find friends.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Has your image of the Iraqi people changed from reading these and earlier chapters? How?
  2. What differences do you see about the situation in Iraq described here and what was being portrayed in U.S. media or by U.S. government at that time?
  3. What particular stories or reflections in the book, inspired or spoke to you? How?
  4. In making decisions, such as whether to stay on in Iraq, where do you see the line between following one’s own sense of call or the wishes of your family and friends?
  5. What do you think about the label “dupe” given to peace activists in Iraq or at home?

Session Three

Chapter 5: Unexpected Death
Chapter 6: Emergency Preparedness

Update Notes:
In our work in Iraq we are continually encouraged by the courageous and creative Iraqis who daily risk their lives working for justice and unity in their society. One group, the Muslim Peacemaker Team (MPT) formed in January 2004 after CPT trained a group of Shia Muslims from Kerbala, in nonviolence. Their first project was to go into Falluja in March with CPTers to tell the truth about the devastation caused by the November 2004 U.S. attacks. In May, MPTers and CPTers went in again for a clean-up project.

This summer, while in Iraq, the team heard about Cindy Sheehan, whose son, Casey, had been killed as a soldier in Iraq, and other military families have been speaking out, questioning the war effort and continued U.S. military presence in Iraq. President Bush responded with new statements justifying U.S. occupation. He called Iraq the central front on the War on Terror and said, “If we do not confront these evil men abroad, we will have to face them one day in our own cities and streets.” We heard Iraqis calling this callous and uncaring, saying, “Why did Bush attract and allow global terrorists to come here? Why must we daily live in terror and insecurity?”

Discussion Questions:

  1. How did the death of George Weber affect the spirit of the peace team or their decision to continue the work in Iraq? How can we and others honor George’s life and death?
  2. How did the quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech or the witness of the Peaceful Tomorrows group speak to the U.S. pre-war threat of invasion of Iraq and its ongoing foreign policies?
  3. What do you think about the role the UN had in the decision-making process concerning invading Iraq? How do you think this will affect the UN’s ongoing reputation and credibility?
  4. What were the most important ways the Iraq Peace Team prepared for the possibility of remaining in Iraq during the invasion?
  5. What motivated Peggy to stay in Iraq, even as the war started?
  6. What of the work of the Iraq Peace Team did you think was the most important or effective?

Session Four

Chapter 7: Bombing
Chapter 8: Kicked Out

Update Notes:
Almost two and a half years after bombing began in Baghdad in March 2003, bombing continues in Iraq. The people live with suicide bombings and street explosions caused by the armed wing of the resistance as well as U.S. bombing of population centers, in the name of “fighting terrorism.” As during the invasion, it is mostly the common Iraqi people who suffer.

Each time I return to Iraq, I sense more heaviness of fear, discouragement, and anger among the Iraqi people. In spite of this, our team continues to receive love and warm hospitality from the Iraqi people. Because it is potentially dangerous to associate with Americans, we only go to Iraqi homes or offices with their invitations. Many Iraqis also choose not to let fear paralyze them from doing what they think is important. A number of Iraqis from various backgrounds continue to serve as an advisory group we consult with as we make decisions about our work or remaining in Iraq. They have told us that they believe CPT’s presence and work in Iraq is still important.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you see the presence of God in disasters or tragedies? If so, how?
  2. How did Peggy and others on the team keep up hope in the midst of the bombing?
  3. Which, if any, of the various symbolic actions taken by the team before or during the bombing, seem meaningful to you?
  4. God did not prevent this war in Iraq and so far has not stopped the ongoing war in Iraq in spite of the prayers of Peggy and other concerned people. How do you understand how God hears and answers such prayers?
  5. What was most amazing about the ways the group, forced to leave, were cared for on the trip? Were there ways that having to leave was a gift?
  6. What was hard for Peggy about going home to the U.S. during the time of the invasion? What was hard for you during that time?

Session Five

Chapter 9: The Aftermath of War
Chapter 10: Different Voices

Update Notes:
Although the majority of Iraqis we talk to are glad that Saddam Hussein is gone, Iraqis now say life is worse than it was under the former leader. Lack of security is the number one complaint. They live in daily fear of kidnapping, imprisonment, explosions, or street crime, as well as the hardships of daily life due to the lack of clean water, medicines, and much electricity, to high unemployment rate and general economic depression.

Most Iraqis are united in wanting to be free of U.S. occupation, but they are divided between those who think the U.S. military should stay long enough to help curb civil war and those who think that continued U.S. military presence would only increase the violence between the Sunnis and Shias. One Shia Kurd in Baghdad told us that “if the Americans stay, they must stop dominating and humiliating us and change the way they are involved.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you see the contrast between what conditions were like for the Iraqi people after the invasion and the U.S. government’s stated goal of bringing freedom?
  2. Would you be thankful for a foreign country bombing and bringing chaos to your home community in order to free you of a ruthless dictator?
  3. What have you found helpful in overcoming your resentment of persons who have been hurtful to you or you see as hurting others?
  4. From Peggy’s account, what affects did the war and its aftermath have on women in Iraq?
  5. Were you surprised by conditions or attitudes of Iraqis after the invasion? If so, how?
  6. How did Iraqi’s past experience under Saddam, or the hurt they or family members received in the war, affect their point of view about the invasion?
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