Letter from the Road #7

Path of the Friend

Elias Amidon & Elizabeth Rabia Roberts


The Darkest Time of the Year


This is a letter from both of us, our last from Iraq for the time being. After two months here we have decided to return to the U.S. to help on the home front with efforts to stop our country’s rush to war.

It has not been an easy decision. Even now we question if this is the right step. Are we simply afraid to be caught in the crossfire? Are we using the excuse of our children as a way to avoid sharing in the suffering and mortal risk war will bring?

A small group of six or seven of the team has decided to stay through the duration of the war if it happens. We love and admire these people. There’s Charlie, a 72 year-old Vietnam chaplain who won the Congressional Medal of Honor for carrying 22 wounded soldiers out of heavy combat. He later returned his Medal of Honor, and the pension that goes with it, in protest against American policies in Latin America. He’s a tall, soft-spoken man, who says, “I figure I should just put myself into the breech and see what God wants to do with me. My life and my death are in His hands.” There’s Cynthia, also in her seventies, a retired librarian from upstate New York who quotes from the classics and from children’s stories, and who would never hurt anyone. There’s Kathy, the inspirer of the Peace Team, who wants to share the Iraqis’ vulnerability and prove to them they will not be abandoned in their time of trial. There is Michael, a 33 year-old Irishman, with a smile so bright it dazzles, who simply feels that this is the best place to be to prevent the war. “We haven’t the right to give up on peace,” he reminds us. The other members of the “duration team” feel the same.

For us, two issues were most important in our decision to return to the States at this time. The first is our children. It doesn’t feel right to take that level of risk with our lives without their permission. We may yet ask for it, but up until now we haven’t done so.

Secondly, we have reluctantly become convinced that the most useful front for us is in America now. All of us who oppose this war must rise up and demand: “NOT IN OUR NAME!” Too much is at stake. Now is the time to take the anti-war message to the steps of the White House and the Congress and wherever and however we can. The next six weeks are critical. Once in the States we will turn nearly all of our energy to this work. We will be speaking at churches, universities, rallies, on radio, TV, to congress-people, etc. Since we’ve spent the last two months in Iraq we may get some attention. If you can be of any help in providing contacts or venues for us we would be most grateful. We will consider travelling for appropriate audiences – please email us if you have suggestions (eliasamidon@earthlink.net).

We hope to be of service in whatever ways we can to existing peace actions. The planned march on Washington on January 18 could become a tidal wave of opposition to our country’s militarism. Can you come? Let’s inundate Washington with a million people! And not just for a day, let’s stay! A million of us in the streets! Let’s shut Washington down! It may be the only way to stop the impending war – massive non-violent civil disobedience.

We want to take our country back, to save it from its slide into an ignorant imperialism. A Russian reporter asked a woman on our team here if she was afraid. She said, “Of my own death? A little. But more I fear for my country. I fear what it is becoming and what is happening to its soul.”

We came here to bear witness to the reality of the Iraqi people and to share their vulnerability. We have gained some insight and witnessed much suffering and love. While U.N. inspectors have searched for weapons, we have sought out signs of kindness, love, peace – and we have found them.

The other side of bearing witness is to give testimony to the truth we have directly experienced. This is what going back to the United States allows us: to speak truth to power. To share what we have learned. To help shine a little more light on the darkness of prejudgment that shrouds our government at this time.

There are also plans for a final, large delegation (75-100 people) to come to Iraq for 10 days, January 18-28. This journey will not involve visits to hospitals, schools, agencies, or other cities like previous delegations. Instead, its purpose will be to hold a prayerful, spiritual presence in Baghdad as an appeal against the launch of a war. Contact <info@vitw.org> and ask for Kathy or Jeff for information.

Last night we held a Christmas Eve Vigil at St. Raphael’s, a small neighborhood church. The priest, Father Vincent, said we were most welcome, even when we told him we would probably attract a crowd of international press. We stretched a large banner across the front of the church that said in Arabic and English: LET THERE BE PEACE ON EARTH. Holding candles and singing Christmas carols, we indeed welcomed a crowd of TV people: CNN, BBC, NBC, ABC, Reuters, and French and Russian network TV. Even the Papal Nuncio showed up and led the High Mass. At one point the cameras turned to Rabia who was asked, “Why are you here?”

She answered, “This is the darkest time of the year. It is the time of the year when people come together to pray for the return of the light, and for the birth within us of the spirit of Christ. Here in Iraq, now, there is the added darkness of the threatened war. So we have come to pray for the return of the light, in the world and in our leaders, that the Christ of Peace may indeed be born.”

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