February 5, 2003
Yesterday, our delegation began the journey from Amman, Jordan
to Baghdad in Iraq. As we were waiting at the border to leave one
country and enter another, I began thinking about what borders were
really about. My mind zeroed in on a question by Mabel Brunk, one
of our team members. Mabel said, "I wonder how high borders are?
Do they go above the ozone layer?" Well, if we can believe our astronauts,
they don't reach even that far. Their oft-times sacred experience
of seeing the earth from outer space is that there seem to be no
borders at all. Then I began thinking about what the world would
be like if there were no borders. We wouldn't have to cross them
and wait in long lines and present our passports numerous times
and pay taxes and fees. The merchants on one side of a border would
not have to pay tariffs to sell their merchandise on the other side.
We wouldn't need armies to defend them. We wouldn't have enemies
on the other side. We wouldn't have to bomb people on the other
side to keep them from getting too powerful or because we didn't
like their government. We wouldn't have people surrounded by a border
and then call them part of the "axis of evil". Hmm! Perhaps it sounds
na´ve and simplistic to consider a world without borders, but I
think I'll keep thinking, imagining and hoping.
That being said, our delegation did cross a border yesterday. We
had all arrived in Amman by late Sunday evening, February 2 or early
Monday morning, February 3, from the U.S., Canada, Scotland and
The Netherlands. Our first day in Amman was filled with meetings,
orientation and a bit of exploring around the neighborhood. At 6:30
p.m. several of our delegation went to the Iraqi embassy and found
that only part of our group had been given visas. It was determined
that it was only a technological glitch; one page of names had failed
to be faxed from Baghdad. So, in the morning another group from
the delegation made their way to the embassy and all visas were
Soon we were meeting in our hotel lobby with luggage and huge smiles
on our faces, ready to do what we had come for. Someone there commented
that he'd never seen a group of people so happy to be going to Iraq.
Our bus was waiting and by 10:30 we were settled and ready to move.
The trip began rather quietly as I began to realize just where we
were going and all of the implications that might mean. We stopped
along the highway for delicious kabobs and arrived at the Jordanian
border around 6:30 p.m. And yes, it is true; you do have to show
your passport and visa many times, first at the Jordanian check
point and then as you go into Iraq. The whole process took us almost
three hours, and then we were back on the road with an arrival in
Baghdad around 3 a.m. Tuesday morning. Needless to say, we fell
into our beds rather quickly at our hotel. The morning came all
too fast, but after breakfast, we met for worship and some orientation
with Iraq Peace Teams, a group of which CPT is a part. Then followed
a walking tour of the neighborhood, checking out local stores and
restaurants and just getting a feel for the city.
I began to wonder what it must be like to live here, with the threat
of imminent war and the possibility that bombs might drop any day.
Next we went to the Amariyah Shelter, the place where on February
13, 1991, at 4 a.m. an American bomber dropped two bombs during
the Gulf war and 408 women and children died instantaneously. It
is now being maintained as a museum, a memorial to the horror that
war really is. We were told by our guide, Entisar, that there are
thirty-three other bomb shelters just like this one throughout the
city, but that if another war breaks out, people will be too frightened
to enter them. Where will they go?
The people I saw and talked with today seem a lot like me. Yes,
their skin may be a bit different color, their cultural customs
unlike mine and their language undecipherable to me, but somehow
I was able to look at them and see a sister and a brother with the
same hopes and desires and fears that I have. Just because they
are on the other side of a border, are they the enemy?