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 Six

Chapter 11: Responding to Pervasive Violence
Chapter 12: Disappeared

Update Notes:
When our team went into Falluja with members of MPT in March 2005, we were eyewitnesses to the aftermath of the November 2004 U.S. attacks. We found that 60% of the buildings there had been destroyed beyond repair. A girl’s school we had visited a year before was in ruins. We saw vast areas of rubble with families living in 10´ by 14´ tents. One such family invited us in and served us tea as we listened to their story of leaving Falluja with the over 200,000 other refugees before the attack. When we said good-by, the women of the family hugged and kissed each of the women in our group and thanked us. We hadn’t changed their situation, but we cared about their pain.

Iraqis still disappear in the system. Our team continues to accompany them to places of information that they don’t have easy access to, in order to locate family members they believe to be imprisoned. U.S. forces had arrested one young man in March 2005. When we met them in June, the mother and father had gone to Iraqi and U.S. prisons and searched all the information centers they knew, but still hadn’t found him.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What things contributed to the escalation of violence in Falluja in 2003? Can you see how these things relate or lead up to the U.S. attacks in November 2004 or the current situation there?
  2. Think of other places in the world in the past sixty years where our government committed mass killing. How were these justified? Are they different from the mass slaughter under Saddam’s regime near Al Mahaweel?
  3. How does the way we relate to people in a tense crowd create either a dangerous or safe situation?
  4. How is an occupation of another country inherently violent, even without the excessive violence of the occupiers?
  5. What are the justifications given for the excessive use of force by occupying forces? Do you think they are necessary to bring peace and security in a volatile situation?
  6. Do you see different policies or approaches U.S. forces and officials in Iraq could have taken in post-invasion Iraq that would have prevented the escalation of violence there? If so, what?

Session Seven

Chapter 13: Tell Me, Is the War Over?
Chapter 14: Our Own Brush with Danger

Update Notes:
Unfortunately, after two and a half years we continued to assess the situation in Iraq and say, “The war still isn’t over.” But it is not only the violence of American and Iraqi security forces or the armed resistance. Now many Iraqis and Internationals present in Iraq are saying that civil war has already begun on a low level even with U.S. presence. I find this tragic, since I think that it could have been avoided had the U.S. been able to turn the oversight of post-invasion Iraq to an international body of peacekeepers, something still possible in the early months. Instead the U.S. military stayed in a dominating role and over time exacerbated tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

Members of our team have made a conscious choice to take the risks involved with being in Iraq. As a team, we continually evaluate our goals as well as how we can take sensible precautions, yet not let fear paralyze us and keep us from going places and doing what we think is important to do.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Learn more about the effects of depleted uranium (DU) on people and the environment. What is our responsibility as Americans? What can we do about it?
  2. What is the effect of violent attacks on the people nearby?
  3. How do you assess the progress or lack of progress of restoring order and building up Iraqi society during that first year after the invasion? What do you think could have been done differently that would have helped?
  4. How do you understand the attacks on international organizations in Iraq, such as the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross?
  5. What affects did the robbery of CPT’s apartment have on Peggy and other team members and their way of operating in Iraq?
  6. What do you think of the team’s view of what things bring security? What do you believe would give you or our country security in this time of so much fear of terrorism?

Session Eight

Chapter 15: Campaign for Justice
Chapter 16: Collective Punishment

Update Notes:
The CPT team in Iraq still hears about Iraqis receiving brutal treatment in the arrest, interrogation and imprisonment process by U.S. soldiers in the U.S. security system. Even more alarming right now, however is the brutality and torture at the hands of Iraqi army and police. It is commonly believed that U. S. soldiers are involved in training these Special Forces and are present as advisors in the places where much of the torture takes place. This summer we heard the story of three brothers rounded up by the members of one of these brigades, tortured and forced to make false confessions on TV that they were involved in an act of terror.

The bombing of Falluja in November 2004 was one more example of collective punishment. Since then, the U.S. has carried out similar attacks in other areas of Iraq, bombing whole neighborhoods or cities to flush out those they call “terrorists.” Now this seems to be routine strategy for the U.S. military there.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What Old Testament and New Testament basis do Christians have for working for justice?
  2. Are there times the use of brutality and torture in the arrest, interrogation, and imprisonment process are justified? If so, when and why?
  3. What struck you when hearing the stories of those detained and their families?
  4. Are there times in war zones, such as Iraq, when you think collective punishment is justified? If so, when? How is collective punishment used in our society?
  5. What were the goals the team had in the Campaign for Justice?
  6. What if these detainees the Iraq team advocated for were involved in the armed resistance? Should the team not have spoken out on their behalf?

Session Nine

Chapter 17: Speaking to Those in Power
Chapter 18: Lenten Fast

Update Notes:
Speaking to those in power has recently included, for the team, talking with officials from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad about various problems we see, as well as bringing cases for investigation to offices at several Iraqi government ministries. It has also involved collaborative efforts to address abuses, such as our meetings with human rights officials of the UN. Currently these officials are seeking information and encouraging our team to write a report about cases of torture within the Iraqi security system, which could lay the groundwork for an international independent committee to come in and do an investigation.

Iraqi organizations continue to organize nonviolent public protests and vigils. Members of our team were present at an International Women’s Day vigil in March. In April, at a massive public rally, a coalition of Shia and Sunni Muslims called for an end to the occupation while also saying “no” to the violence of armed resistance groups that harm Iraqi civilians. In June, we went with a women’s group for a vigil at the Ministry of Human Rights, calling attention to Iraqi detainees and the chaos of the prison system. This summer MPT put posters around the Holy Shrines in Kerbala opposing torture and abuse of Iraqi police.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How could white, North Americans use their privilege for good?
  2. What should be our response to U.S. soldiers as they return home from Iraq?
  3. How often do you hear people labeled the “bad guy”? What is your response to such a category?
  4. Can you think of situations where you or others decided a difficult problem was a spiritual struggle? What steps did you take to deal with it on that level?
  5. What methods or activities that the Iraq team used to confront U.S. officials or to carry out the Lenten Fast do you think were helpful or not in working toward their goals?
  6. How are Christians today called to speak out to those in power in opposing injustice? What ways have you already done this? What further steps might you take?

Session Ten

Chapter 19: Where Do We Go From Here?
Postscript of July 2004

Update Notes:
In spite of the current Sunni/Shia tension, many leaders and laypersons of both groups are working to bridge the divide. On August 31, 2005, after panic, commonly believed to be triggered by a rumor by a Sunni that a suicide bomber was present, set off a stampede resulting in the deaths of around 800 Shia pilgrims. Days later, to show Shia/Sunni unity, Shia groups around Iraq held memorial services for Othman, a Sunni man who drowned after saving several of the Shia pilgrims who fell into the Tigris River from the bridge. A Sunni sheikh from Falluja donated blood to help survivors of the stampede. Other Sunni and Kurdish groups organized to send relief supplies to them.

The Iraqi team’s goals have continued to evolve. In the past year the primary goal has been to nurture the nonviolence movement in Iraq, including MPT and other Iraqi groups. The hope is to assist with training additional groups and forming an Iraqi Peace Network, continue collaborative actions, to continue truth telling, sharing stories not covered by media at home, pursue the reporting on torture in hope of preventing violence, accompanying Iraqis, and supporting the nonviolent resistance in the U.S., U.K., and Canada against the war in Iraq.

The story continues. What our nation chooses to do and what you choose to do in response could result in more suffering and death, or in reconciliation and life.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As you read through the chapters, what lessons did the team learn from their mistakes or dealing with the dilemmas they faced in their work?
  2. How do you understand Jesus’s ministry in comparison to Peggy’s description on p. 292, as well as in contrast to how modern day Christians are practicing their faith?
  3. What have been your struggles in ministry? How have these struggles helped you to mature in faith?
  4. How have you experienced love as being a “harsh and dreadful thing?
  5. How do you see the costs of war for Iraqis and the U.S. or other countries in the Coalition Forces? Has the reality of war been worth the cost?
  6. What ways, if any, did this account of Peggy’s journey, the war and the struggle of the Iraqi people change you? Where does it lead you? What will you do in response?
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