IRAQ UPDATE: May 16, 2003


May 17, 2003
IRAQ UPDATE: May 16, 2003

In the past two days, the team has visited a number of schools and church
institutions. At Phanawia A'abumia Mefia school for 13 to 15 year old girls,
in the low income neighbourhood called Sadr City, the principal said that
enrollment is down by two-thirds and there are no wages for the teachers.
She does not send her own children to school because of security concerns.

She said, "The U.S. could have taken Saddam. Why did they have to break
Baghdad? After the Gulf War, Kuwait was up and running quickly. Why not
here? We don't want anything from the U.S. because everything is here in
Iraq. We never hurt the U.S. We cried blood."

In the Zaoona District, the local hospital is open but most of the
equipment was looted. The building was repaired and cleaned by volunteers.
Some supplies have come from international agencies and a local Islamic
party, and doctors are working for no salary. They are seeing 100 patients
per day of whom one-half are children with severe diarrhoea. Signs on the
hospital walls say, "Muslims and Others Working Together", "Sunni and Shia
Hand in Hand", "No, No to Anyone Who Comes to Sit on Our Soil."

At St. Raphael's Catholic Church, Fatjer Vincent is distributing clothing
supplied from Jordan and Europe. He and Muslim clergy are urging people not
to buy looted goods. He admires the patience of U.S. soldiers. A nun
teaching at the Catholic school said that parents stay with their children
all day at the school because of their concern for the children's security.
Father Rami at the Catholic maternity hospital said, "I am happy Saddam is
gone. We need patience. Things will improve." Other Muslim friends of the
team say, "It was better before. At least we had food."

The Middle East Council of Churches is supplying medical goods, protein
biscuits, other food to 50 churches and mosques for distribution. Their
compound has several heavily armed guards watching over it. On Apr. 30, a
European friend from Voices in the Wilderness was beaten and robbed in broad
daylight in downtown Baghdad. When Iraqi witnesses appealed for assistance
from U.S. soldiers nearby, they were told, "We don't intervene."