Just back from a fact-finding mission to Iraq, Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International, saw that hope is growing among Iraqis that peace will return some day to the violence-torn country.
Speaking with Catholic News Service in her Washington office Sept. 23, Dennis said the hope lies in teaching the art of nonviolence.
Dennis returned to the U.S. Sept. 17 impressed by the promotion of interfaith understanding and nonviolence education among young people by church leaders such as Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk. Working in cooperation with other religious leaders, the archbishop’s efforts are helping young people learn a new way of living, Dennis said.
“It was just very impressive,” Dennis said. “As always in situations of war, when you get inside the reality, people have amazing capacity to keep working for peace.”
Dennis also said the delegation, which included retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit and Bishop Marc Tenger, president of Pax Christi France, learned that the conflict that continues in Iraq revolves around politics rather than religion.
“The United States, by our invasion, we were told over and over and over again, broke open a situation that is extremely violent, extremely unsettled, and probably doesn’t have an easy solution now that we’re in the mess that we’re in,” she said.
Iraqis face the challenge of rebuilding a country after six years of war and a generation of repression under former leader Saddam Hussein. She said Iraqis expressed their desire to see the U.S. help with rebuilding their country.
“The U.S. invasion of Iraq gives the United States of America an obligation to accompany Iraq in the reconstruction and reconciliation process,” she said.