March 18, 2009
Dear Family and Friends,
Spring has come to northern Iraq! Trees are flowering and budding out. The mountains and hills now show a lot of green grass among the rocks and wildflowers are in bloom. The winter wheat is now up about 6 inches and looks like fields of lush green grass. The people here are thankful for a good rainfall this winter.
We just came back from a three day trip through the areas near the Turkish border. We revisited some of the leaders from the Sheladze area villages that we have been working with to start going with them to one or two of the villages. We also revisited some of the other areas where we got a positive reception in December or January when we spoke with them about possibilities of accompaniment work.
We met with some UN officials, and have been invited to come to the “Working Protection Committee” meetings sponsored by the UNHCR, involving various NGO’s doing some kind of “protection” work in northern Iraq. Moving ahead on this work is now waiting for us to get clearance from higher Kurdish officials. Meeting with them has been delayed because of many holidays in the last two weeks and for the next five days (The Kurdish New Year time).
But another possible stumbling block has just appeared, in the form of more financial problems in CPT. Donations have been slower, as in many other non-profit organizations in the past year. Once again, we have been told that there is a chance that CPT may have to terminate a team, not because it doesn’t value it but because they may simply not be able to fund it. This is especially hard for us because it comes at a time when we have built up trust with these village people, who have told us of being let down with other agencies who did not follow through with helping them. We have seen a new sense of hope in their eyes as we have been working with them. In response to the CPT problems, our team has requested at least 6 more months to give our accompaniment plan a little more time, and submitted a considerably slashed operating budget for our team. The Steering Committee meets the end of this week to make budget decisions, so we will have an answer soon.
One of the clouds on the horizon here is the increasing tension between Arab and Kurdish Iraqis. The inability of thousands of Kurdish voters to vote in the Provincial elections and the increase of power in the hands of the Arab Iraqis, has increased animosity and mistrust and has led to the Iraqi Central Government rolling back some of the powers the powers the Kurds have had, such as having Kurdish military oversee mostly Kurdish areas, or issuing visas, etc. Kurds have not yet been allowed to vote for the status of Kirkuk as was guaranteed in the Iraqi Constitution and fear persecution and more stripping of their rights. The Kurds feel that the U.S. is not supporting their needs or interests. Many Kurds say they expect a civil war between Iraqi Kurds and Arabs. We ask ourselves whether there is a role for our team concerning these issues if we are able to continue working here.
As I say all of this, I am also aware that my time here for this trip is almost up. I am scheduled to return home in a week’s time. So others will continue with what is given for us to do here. It is always hard to leave so much still in process and people here who are in my heart, but I am always glad to be home with family and friends I love and the work to be done there as well. I look forward to seeing some of you as I travel or speak while at home.
Thank all of your for your love, prayers, and support,