THE ONE PERCENTERS
Cliff Kindy, Electronic Iraq, 16 March 2005
Mohammad told the CPTers (Christian Peacemaker Teams) on their way to Fallujah, "You have a 99% chance that you will be refused entry into Fallujah today." Five CPTers, two persons from Muslim Peacemaker Team, two local human rights activists, and two Iraqi friends were at a factory outside of Fallujah, ready to enter the city. The prospects of entry were dim, as US soldiers had turned back representatives of the Ministry of Religion earlier that same day.
One Iraqi in the visiting group brought wheelchairs and medical supplies to the hospital and the one clinic still operating in Fallujah. The devastating assault on the city by the US last November had started with an attack on the hospital and its clinics, reportedly because those centers were the sources of reports on civilian casualties in the April 2004 attack on Fallujah, reports that turned public opinion against the attack.
The visitors entered without incident, perhaps because they brought medical supplies. The team pushed five wheelchairs from the city center across the Euphrates River Bridge, where only foot traffic is allowed to pass to the hospital. Next they visited the lone clinic left in the city that has a population of over 200,000 people.
The devastated city exposed itself as the visitors drove into different sectors. The main streets were busy with people walking, driving, and shopping. Shops were open, though many are still unusable because of the damage in November. Independent journalists and NGOs have reported that over 65% of the homes in Fallujah are destroyed or so badly damaged as to be unlivable. The team confirmed massive destruction of the homes and businesses in the city. A member of the reconstruction team for the city told the group that US and Iraqi security forces attacked 30 of the 55 mosques in the city and destroyed most of the electrical and water infrastructure.
A meeting with a sheik and imam from a mosque in the city center was revealing. The visitors consisted of Shi'a representatives from Iraq and Christians from the US and UK. At the mosque, the group explored the ways in which non-Sunni outsiders could support the rebuilding of Fallujah. The sheik cautioned the visitors, "Our hearts are open; our borders are closed," referring to the US security orders keeping visitors from the city. He continued, "If you come as Christians to help and show how good Christians are, we don't need your help. If you come as human beings to share our tragedy with the world, you are welcome."
At least four extended families welcomed the visitors to one tent community where families had returned from refugee camps outside the city to be "home." In every direction, as far as one could see, almost every home was leveled by air attacks and bulldozers. Residents said, "When we left, all our homes were standing and there were no resistance fighters in the area." A school across an empty field had suffered the fate of the homes.
A massive rebuilding task faces the people of Fallujah. One could say they have a 99% chance of failure. A CPTer said after leaving the city, "The Fallujans are one percenters."
Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumenical violence-reduction program with roots in the historic peace churches. Teams of trained peace workers live in areas of lethal conflict around the world. CPT has been present in Iraq since October, 2002. To learn more about CPT, please visit http://www.cpt.org. Photos of CPT projects may be viewed at www.cpt.org/gallery