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The challenge of Iraq.

Iraq is a beautiful country with fertile marshes and the potential to be self sufficient in food, but years of war, conflict, and embargoes have left the people struggling to feed themselves. Currently 80% of the food for Iraq is imported, but after years of war the people are eager to rebuild.

PWS&D Director Rick Fee traveled to Iraq in July as part of an ecumenical delegation to observe food aid and rehabilitation programs and explore how Canadian Presbyterians could contribute to rebuilding.

Through a network of Catholic, Orthodox and evangelical churches Manara Ministries has undertaken food distribution programs in Iraq. However they have learned that responding to human need in this complex country is challenging and must be done very carefully.

Christians are a minority in Iraq, and are divided between several traditions. Many have been persecuted and sought refugee in countries like Turkey, Iran, Canada, the US, Europe and Australia.

According to humanitarian standards, to which PWS&D subscribes, food aid should be distributed to anyone in need, regardless of religion, politics or creed. But identifying people in need is difficult in this rapidly changing environment. Manara staff admit that "some Moslems are in greater need than Christians; how to reach them is a problem. For the church to be a witness, sharing is important. Priests are encouraged to give aid to the Moslems as much as they can. But it must be done quietly to avoid the appearance of prostelysation."

Still, the churches are determined, and Manara Ministries has been helping 72 churches including the Armenian Orthodox Church, Syrian Orthodox Church, Assyrian Church, Armenian Catholic Church, Chaldean Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church of Iraq (Presbyterian) distribute food for 5,000 families. They are providing a one month family ration package of beef, oil, cheese and pasta costing approximately $US 33.00 to complement the World Food Program's country-wide program which provides a family with 2 kg of rice, 5 kg of wheat flour, 2 kg of sugar, 1 1/2 kg of oil, two packets of soap, and two packets of powder soap for one month. While the majority of the beneficaries are Christians, quietly, throughout their neighbourhoods, the needs of various families were made known.

Visiting the Mother of Sorrows Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad just as the last recipients were carrying away their parcels, Rick talked to Abd-El-Ahad Sa'eed who lives near the parish on the other side of the Tigris River. She explained that her husband is a nurse in a hospital, where 5% of the workers are Christians. They have three children, two boys and a girl. The eldest is in grade 11.

Sa'eed believes that, "Life is better now since the war. My husband was paid $320 for two months work since the US took over." Concerning interaction with Moslems she said it is difficult, for in the past, one did not know whom to trust. She believed that Moslems would help them, but Christians do not like to ask. They only rely on members of the church. "Christians are always afraid of the Moslems because of their larger numbers."

As the church struggles to be a witness in this time of change and trouble, PWS&D continues to seek ways to support food and rehabilitation programs in Iraq.

Providing Clean Drinking Water to Iraq

While in Iraq, PWS&D Director Rick Fee visited Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), one of the agencies implementing relief work for Action by Churches Together. NCA is working with local community organizations on a variety of projects, including rehabilitating schools, hospitals and water treatment facilities.

PWS&D helped NCA with their Baghdad Water Purification Program, which Rick stopped to see on the banks of the Tigris River. It has been completely rehabilitated by NCA and is now serving 40,000 inhabitants. Following his return to Canada Rick heard that one water treatment plant is Baghdad had been sabotaged and blown up. He was relieved to discover that it was not the one being operated by Norwegian Church Aid.
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Publication:Presbyterian Record
Date:Nov 1, 2003
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