Read the Letters One Refugee Wrote as He Fled From Baghdad to Finland

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My thoughts go to the recent perilous journey of a close Iraqi friend — I will call him Mohammed — and his son, whom I will call Omar. Already the survivor of an assassination attempt, this trusted translator, driver, guide, and confidant received a death threat in early August. He fled under cover of night, taking Omar with him. On that same day, 15 men were kidnapped in his village. He left behind a wife and six other children.

From Baghdad, Mohammed and Omar fled to Kurdistan and into Turkey. Next they boarded a boat from Turkey to a series of Greek islands, where, much to their relief, they were at last able to get on a ferry to Athens.

Mohammed wrote letters throughout his journey. The messages that came were understandably brief. I often did not know what to advise him. But having lived with this dear family, I felt as if I were on the hazardous and exhausting 42-day journey with them.

What follows are excerpts from those letters.

Hate Exposed

Westboro Baptist Church’s absurd notions of humanity are readily evident, in both word and picture, in Joanie Eppinga’s interview of researcher Rebecca Barrett-Fox (“The Face of Hate,” June 2012). If “God Hates America,” as is pictured in the Westboro sign on the cover of the issue, then does this mean that God loves Poland or Lithuania instead? Does God’s allegiance change daily, favoring America on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and then a different country on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays?

Mujerista Legacy

I really appreciated your article about Ada María Isasi-Díaz, “The Mother of Mujerista Theology” (by Rose Marie Berger, July 2012). I had the privilege of taking a summer course with her at the Hispanic Summer Program. Coming from a Latino macho culture, where most of ministry is in the hands of males while the majority of churches are composed of women, it was refreshing to hear her voice claiming women’s equality in ministry, not only at the parish level but also in academia and church leadership.

Deadly 'Defense'

Regarding Jim Rice’s column “Fairness for Whom?” (June 2012): One of Martin Luther King Jr.’s prophecies fits the effects of today’s right-wing political agenda with uncanny accuracy: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”               

Larry Boudreau
San Antonio, Texas

Blame for Blight?

The question that Bill Wylie-Kellermann failed to directly ask and answer in “An Assault on Local Democracy” (June 2012) is, why are some Michigan cities and school districts under the direction of an emergency manager? Certain cities/school districts have an emergency manager not because of their racial makeup, but because their elected officials were either unwilling or unable to make the difficult decisions to ensure the financial viability of the entities they were elected to govern. The City of Detroit was headed for bankruptcy.

Progressive Calvinism

Re: “The Face of Hate” (interview by Joanie Eppinga, June 2012): Thanks for your great work! But your caricature of Calvinism is uninformed and unnecessary. Not only in the interview with Barrett-Fox but also in your editors’ note, you lump together “conservative” and “Calvinism.” You can do better than that! Progressive Calvinism is alive and well, at the forefront of the justice work. You abhor stereotypes, but you perpetuate this one.

Walter Brueggemann
Cincinnati, Ohio

Churches Against Torture?

Thank you for your article “Destroying Our Rights to Save Them” (by Dianna Ortiz, April 2012) about indefinite incarceration. Struggling with all these disturbing developments in the political arena, as our civil liberties are systematically dismantled and the Constitution thrown in the trash, we of faith must look to our spiritual core to find courage and guidance.


Our June 2012 issue described Rebecca Barrett-Fox, interviewed in “The Face of Hate,” as a former editor of The Journal of Hate Studies; in fact, she is its book review editor, while interviewer Joanie Eppinga is its former editor and current assistant editor. We regret the error.