8 October 2011
IRAQ EULOGY: Remembering Sattar Hattem
by Stewart Vriesinga
[Note: Hattem’s death has prompted outpourings of deep
feeling from CPTers who served in Baghdad.]
Allan Slater said it well: in his
quiet way, he embodied so much of what we were trying to be. Sattar was so much more than a translator. I think he shared our vision and shaped and helped
us become what we wanted to be. He was humble, reflective and quiet, and a
very deep listener. When he did speak,
it was always heart-felt and well considered. He opened our eyes to our own cultural blind
spots, and would gently and lovingly explain to us when our actions and
proposed actions might be misconstrued in the local context and be
counter-productive in terms of what we were actually trying to accomplish. And he was a Muslim who clearly understood
and fully supported the essence of what it was we were trying to accomplish.
One such incident that comes to mind happened during a public action. After a scripture reading, I placed the Bible
on the ground. Sattar quickly picked it
up, and later explained to me that in the Muslim/Iraqi context it is haram–a sin–to place a holy book on the
ground. (In the Muslim /Iraqi context,
holy books include the Torah and Christian Bible as well as the Quran)
I understand that he died of heart failure. I am not surprised. There is probably a limit to how much an
open heart can take. Maybe Sattar
simply loved too much.
I will always be grateful for everything he taught us.