Left Justified: What have we done to the people of Iraq?

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118962353421408.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of www.scn.org’, ‘Three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Kathy Kelly, with Iraqi children. Kelly was part of an international group of citizens who stayed in Baghdad to offer a witness to the people of Iraq during the war.‘);

My heroine is returning to Rockford. Kathy Kelly, a Catholic worker and school teacher from downtown Chicago, has enjoyed our company four times before. She has a master’s degree in theology and uses it in finding a moral compass during these times of war.

She’ll speak about her recent trip to visit Iraqi refugees (little known fact: millions of Iraqis have voted with their feet and left their war-torn country for the hills of Jordan, Syria and Iran). Kathy visited friends whom she made while living and working in Iraq.

In 1990, Kathy led an international delegation to Iraq just before the initial bombs rained down. The peace activists were halfway across the desert when the first rockets hit, causing most of the peaceniks to turn around. But Kathy was adamant about getting to Baghdad.

Ms. Kelly stayed in the region coordinating medical relief convoys and peace teams for the next 10 years. For bringing “medicine and toys” to Iraq in open violation of U.S. sanctions, she was threatened with a $163,000 penalty, 12 years in prison, and eventually fined $20,000, a sum which they’ve refused to pay.

No lover of Saddam, she worked for the children of that beleaguered, despot-driven country. Kathy is a true peace activist. Many times she put her body between warring factions. While leading a motley crew through war-torn Yugoslavia, she walked into a raging battle between two armies. The soldiers must have thought they were hallucinating because they stopped shooting.

Kathy Kelly taught in the Chicago school system since 1974, but her opposition to war led her to refuse to pay income taxes. She left her paying job and took part-time work to keep her income below the poverty line.

Kathy will talk about the Iraqis she befriended over the years, what is happening to them, and if there is any hope for peace this Monday, Sept. 17, at 7:30 p.m., at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner St., three blocks north and east of Alpine and State streets. You are welcome. The evening will begin with a poem from Battlefield without Borders, a newly-published book of poetry about war in Iraq, written by David Smith-Ferri. Kathy wrote the foreword.

Kathy’s presentation will explain the consequences for displaced Iraqis in Iran and Jordan; for Americans who suffer neglect because of our bloated military budget; for the planet when we fail to address the major environmental problems. Lastly, she will invite people into a sustained campaign of nonviolent resistance and support for the people our government has harmed.

Most of the Iraqis who fled violence in their country did so during July and August 2007. She will describe ways in which Americans can enter into an ongoing supportive relationship with displaced families in Jordan, Syria and Iran, assisting them with a variety of needs (medical, educational, emergency relief, etc.).

The program is co-sponsored by friends, and in memory of, Betty Johnson, David Liddell, and Kent Walker, who all would have loved seeing her again.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

from the Sept. 12 – 18, 2007, issue

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