Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Perspective on the Ground

A couple of years ago, I lead a team to do some work in a country on the Arabian Peninsula. We held language clinics at an English/Arabic school. At the end each day, we held debates to discuss aspects of Muslim culture and East/West relations.

This opened the door for incredibly engaging conversation. I took the opportunity, both in public and private conversation, to explain why I follow Jesus. This, ultimately, is what I want to do anywhere I go. Believe it or not, in Muslim countries, religion is much more openly discussed than it is here at home in the West.

As the people we met became more comfortable with us, often conversation turned to the U.S. military action in Iraq. The people I discussed this topic with understood why we went after the Taliban and Al Queda in Afghanistan. One man I spoke with, a high school teacher that allowed me to address his students, told me, "America is like a tiger. Osama bin Laden has foolishly pushed out its claws."

Another man I met on another trip, Mahdi, and Iraqi, befriended me. He is one of the most respectful, engaging, and courteous men I've met in all my travels. He is from Falluja. He began to tell me of the suffering and pain his family and friends are experiencing at the hands of our government and I was silenced. I didn't know what to say. I didn't justify; I didn't debate; I just listened.

Mahdi has kept in touch with one of our team members ever since the trip. He has since returned home to Iraq. What follows are his observations. He draws conclusions based on his own experience and world-view. While I don't come to the same conclusions, I've not walked in his shoes. But here's a chance for us to take a few steps with him in them.

Hi Luann:

How are you? How is your life, work and everything? I hope you are fine and doing well.

I would like to write you before this time but I have been busy so much with my travel to Iraq during the last 2 months. I arrived Iraq 2 weeks ago and I'm between my family now, I'm so happy, I can't describe to you my feelings here in our house, my father and my mother and three little sisters. I have 7 sisters 4 of them are married and live far from my city. They will come soon to see me. They miss me so much and me too.

My 2 brothers living and working in Dubai. They will come at the end of this month.

Actually, when my feet touched the land of Baghdad airport I felt that the Iraq is not the Iraq; everything has changed. And everything is damaged, destroyed and misshaped. Even the weather becomes very hot and always dusty because of the thousands of tons of the bombs and the chemicals weapons that were thrown on Iraq during the war.

Streets are blocked with hundreds of concrete walls to isolate the cities and also inside the cities to isolate areas from each other.

In my city if I want to go to visit my uncles who live 10 minuets drive  from our house, I have to pass 3 check points to verify my ID and search me.

The temperature degree is 45 to 50 [113-122 Fahrenheit], imagine, and no electricity. We receive the electricity power only 5 hours per day. And now we are in Ramadan month which is the fasting month. We keep fasting from 4 AM to 6 PM, we don’t drink and we don’t eat.

My city, "Falluja" located on the biggest river in Iraq, however, we don't have clean water and many cholera situations raise nowadays.

Iraq is believed to have some of the world’s largest oil reserves, and now we have to queue 10 hours on the gas station to get fuel our cars.

Most of Iraqi doctors left Iraq because of the war and the miserable life, so the hospitals empty from the doctors and the people are suffering so much.

The problems in Iraq are endless. Actually the life in Iraq is not only difficult but its unbearable. I'm sorry if I give you headache about my country and our daily problems, but at the same time I would like to explain to the good American people what is going on in Iraq and what your government have done here, because we hear that your government hide many things in Iraq from you.

In spite of all these difficulties and problems, people here have a great faith and they pray everyday to Allah to stop this war and suffering and make our life easier.

Many people here say that Allah will punish America because they kill many innocent people and children and they destroy very beautiful life and country.

All the Iraqi people here curse W. Bush and his administration every day. Many people lost their family members, relatives or friends.They are very angry and pray to Allah to revenge from Bush. So the middle eastern people prefer Obama to be the president of the united state because John McCain is criminal like Bush and they believe that if McCain becomes the president of United States, the world will witness a new big war may be with Iran or any other country. Those kind of people like Bush or McCain don’t care about the American or Iraqi people even if half of you or us died. They just care about their own benefits and their own businesses. The war for them is a picnic and the bloods of people equal nothing.

You have asked me in your last message about Obama whether he is Muslim or not, actually what we know here that Obama's father is Muslim and his mother is Christian and obviously he followed his mother's religion. I don’t think that he hides his religion or deny his faith. Many Muslim live in the west and marry by Christian women, when they have kids, their kids may follow their father's religion or mother's religion, its not a big deal. But in US, it’s a political game before the elections.

I think Obama is much better than McCain because he calls for peace and he wants to pull out your forces from Iraq and end the occupation and the war in Iraq.

It's up to you my friend to decide your destiny.

I'm sorry to reply late, but I really was so busy with my family and relatives and friends here. I missed your messages, news and your words.

I was so happy when I opened my email to find your message.

I would like to write more to you and I have much talk to tell you but I have to leave now coz my friends invite me today to go around the city and to have our dinner with them.

I hope that I meet you once again somewhere to talk about so many things, I like your opinions, and we have many common thoughts.

May Allah Guide us to the right way and shower us with his mercy.

My best wishes

Mahdi Alani


Anonymous said...

Very insightful letter. That Luann girl must be very cool to have such an interesting friend and such a great team leader.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this.