Communication between Iraqis and Americans since the onset of the Persian Gulf crisis has been limited mostly to accusations and threats between the two governments. The rhetoric of war has contributed to an already-looming gap of understanding between the two cultures.
The Just Connections community, a small group of Mennonites living in a low-income section of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, recently came together in prayer and discussion about the escalating Gulf crisis. "We were pretty uneasy about the feeling that war was going to happen any time, and about the letters in the local daily papers saying, 'Let's nuke 'em,'" community member Daryl Yoder-Bontrager said.
The group's response was a public statement addressed "to the children, women, and men of Iraq." The letter quickly picked up widespread ecumenical support in the Lancaster area, where it was run as a paid ad in two local papers. "Despite what we hear from the media and most pulpits," Carolyn Schrock-Shenk, the drafter of the statement, told Sojourners, "there is a deep sense of concern" about the growing preparations for war in the Middle East. "Ultimately, I hope that our efforts will make people stop and think about alternative ways to solve this crisis." Members of the Lancaster group brought the statement to Washington, DC, in mid-September, where they presented it to Iraqi Ambassador Mohamed al-Mashat, James Zogby of the Arab American Institute, Edmund Hull of the State Department's Northern Gulf Affairs office, and several members of Congress. The group was seeking to have the letter published in Iraq when this article appeared.
-- The Editors
To the children, women, and men of Iraq,