News Archives

Photo exhibit reflects humanity of Iraqi people

2/3/2003

NOTE: Photographs are available with this report.

By Joretta Purdue*

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An Iraqi boy greets visitors at Kaliph Ali, a Muslim shrine in south central Iraq. A delegation of religious leaders visited Iraq Dec. 29-Jan. 3 to assess the effects of more than a decade of sanctions against Iraq and to connect with Christians in that country. A UMNS photo by Ray Buchanan / Stop Hunger Now. Photo number 03-36, Accompanies UMNS #048, 2/3/03


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An Iraqi mother holds her child while waiting for treatment at the Al Baladi Children s Hospital in Baghdad, Iraq. A delegation of religious leaders visited Iraq Dec. 29-Jan. 3 to assess the effects of more than a decade of sanctions against Iraq and to connect with Christians in that country. . A UMNS photo by Ray Buchanan / Stop Hunger Now. Photo number 03-35, Accompanies UMNS #048, 2/3/03


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Pilgrims visit the holy shrine of Hal-Husain in Kerbala, Iraq. A delegation of religious leaders visited Iraq Dec. 29-Jan. 3 to assess the effects of more than a decade of sanctions against Iraq and to connect with Christians in that country. A UMNS photo by Ray Buchanan / Stop Hunger Now. Photo number 03-37, Accompanies UMNS #048, 2/3/03


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Iraqi schoolchildren greet visitors to their elementary school in Baghdad, Iraq. A delegation of religious leaders visited Iraq Dec. 29-Jan. 3 to assess the effects of more than a decade of sanctions against Iraq and to connect with Christians in that country. A UMNS photo by Ray Buchanan / Stop Hunger Now. Photo number 03-39, Accompanies UMNS #048, 2/3/03


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The Rev. Ray Buchanan, United Methodist clergy and founder and director of Stop Hunger Now, poses with some of his photographs that are featured in a traveling exhibit, The Faces of Iraq, at the United Methodist Building in Washington. Buchanan provided photos from a recent National Council of Churches-sponsored visit to Iraq. A UMNS photo by Joretta Purdue. Photo number 03-42, Accompanies UMNS #048, 2/3/03 The exhibit is the work of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center, an organization dedicated to improving humanitarian conditions in Iraq.


LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Students work on their lessons at an elementary school in Baghdad, Iraq. A delegation of religious leaders visited Iraq Dec. 29-Jan. 3 to assess the effects of more than a decade of sanctions against Iraq and to connect with Christians in that country. A UMNS photo by Ray Buchanan / Stop Hunger Now. Photo number 03-38, Accompanies UMNS #048, 2/3/03


LINK: Click to open full size version of image
An Iraqi mother brings her son to his elementary school in Baghdad. A delegation of religious leaders visited Iraq Dec. 29-Jan. 3 to assess the effects of more than a decade of sanctions against Iraq and to connect with Christians in that country. A UMNS photo by Ray Buchanan / Stop Hunger Now. Photo number 03-41, Accompanies UMNS #048, 2/3/03


LINK: Click to open full size version of image
An Iraqi girl greets visitors to her elementary school in Baghdad, Iraq. A delegation of religious leaders visited Iraq Dec. 29-Jan. 3 to assess the effects of more than a decade of sanctions against Iraq and to connect with Christians in that country. . A UMNS photo by Ray Buchanan / Stop Hunger Now. Photo number 03-40, Accompanies UMNS #048, 2/3/03
WASHINGTON (UMNS) - Haunting faces - some happy, some profoundly sad - make up a new photo exhibit in the lobby of the United Methodist Building.

Two people who provided photos from a recent National Council of Churches-sponsored visit to Iraq participated in the exhibit's Jan. 30 opening. They and other participants in recent trips to Iraq shared their experiences and impressions at a reception hosted by the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.

The traveling exhibit, "The Faces of Iraq," will be on display temporarily before moving on to other East Coast locations. The exhibit is the work of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center, an organization dedicated to improving humanitarian conditions in Iraq.

Photographs from the NCC-led trip Dec. 29-Jan. 3 were provided by the Rev. Ray Buchanan, United Methodist clergy and founder and director of Stop Hunger Now, and Robin Hoecker, legislative assistant with the Washington Office for Advocacy of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. Their pictures will be displayed through the end of March.

Buchanan said the trip to Iraq was one of the most profound experiences of his life.

"People there are no different than anywhere else in the world," he said. His pictures show "we are all one family." Stopping the war is the most important task now, he said, because "we don't need to be killing members of our family."

Hoecker, at 22, was the youngest of the 13 people on that trip. When the visit was in the planning stages, she had argued that young people should be involved in such a trip.

"People my age will be fighting the war," she observed. Some of her friends in the military have already been deployed to the Middle East. Her generation will have to deal with the animosity that she expects such a war to engender. Ten or 20 years in the future, her contemporaries will be in Congress and other positions where they are dealing with the financial and other consequences of the war, she added.

One of the photos on display shows a young child in a hospital bed, with the NCC's Rev. Robert Edgar, a United Methodist clergyman who led the recent delegation, nearby.

"Children are dying there" because of contamination and destruction caused during the Gulf War, Hoecker said. "It's a slow process. They wither away in front of their families."

Intermixed with photos in the exhibit are quotes from the participants who went on the trips. One quote is from Hoecker, who says, "I suddenly feel as if I have purchased a ticket to go meet an innocent man before he is to be hung, or to watch the slow drowning of a small child."

Jim Winkler, staff head of the Board of Church and Society, was also on the Dec. 29-Jan. 3 trip to Iraq. The trip's purpose, he said, was "to see and to meet with and be with the people of Iraq" and "to come back and tell about it as these photos do."

"The people of Iraq are not our enemy," he stressed. "The exhibition shows pictures of the beautiful people of Iraq, and they are people like you and me."

Speakers from other denominations at the reception included Jean Stokan from Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement, who declared, "Policy in this city (Washington) is about fear, fear, fear, and building on that fear."

Her husband, Scott Wright, had returned the day before from an Iraq trip sponsored by Voices in the Wilderness. He had taken several of their 4-year-old's dolls to children there. When he saw a hospitalized child clutching a doll from his daughter, he was struck by how much she and her mother resembled his daughter and his wife.

Many of the children in the pediatric hospital he visited are children from Basra, who have a high incidence of leukemia that can be traced to the weapons the United States used in the area in 1991, he said. He is not looking back at what happened but trying to do something as an American citizen to prevent another war before it happens, he explained.

At the end of the reception, Winkler lit a small candle as "a light of hope" and pledged to keep it lit until the Iraqi situation is peacefully resolved.

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*Purdue is United Methodist News Service's Washington news director.

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