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Peggy feels the fear

The following message from Iraq was submitted by Peggy Gish, a coworker of James Loney, the Saultite who was kidnapped in Baghdad on November 26. Gish [shown] is from Athens, Ohio.

The following message from Iraq was submitted by Peggy Gish, a coworker of James Loney, the Saultite who was kidnapped in Baghdad on November 26.

Gish [shown] is from Athens, Ohio.

She's the longest-serving member of Christian Peacemaker Teams' Iraq Team, and is the author of Iraq: A Journey of Hope and Peace, which documents her experiences with peacemaking.

Also kidnapped along with Loney are fellow Canadian Harmeet Singh Sooden, American Tom Fox and Norman Kember of Great Britain.

******************** Working out of openness and trust

People back home and Iraqis and internationals here are truly worried about our safety and ability to work in Iraq.

This has been especially so, since the kidnapping of our colleagues, Jim Loney, Tom Fox, Harmeet Sooden and Norman Kember.

It's easier to talk about not being controlled by fear than it is to actually do it.

It takes some struggling to be able to give the underlying tension and fear over to God and to really trust God's care for us and our four colleagues.

We need to give each other grace in this.

We ask ourselves daily where to draw the line between continuing the work we feel called to do and caution.

Should we visit Iraqi friends, attend local worship services, or meet with particular organizations we worked with in the past?

Our struggle is to be wisely cautious, but not allow fear to dominate.

We seek a healthy acceptance of the possibilities of hostility being directed toward us, knowing that it has always been dangerous for us to be here.

On the other hand, we want to avoid taking on a general mind-frame of fear that could color our perceptions of what is happening around us.

We might become more suspicious of the Iraqi people on the street.

Is the stern, pained, or anxious look on the faces of men on the street hostility toward us as foreigners, or just reflecting their own fear and anguish?

There are some people who we have judged as not trustworthy or organizations we would be guarded with when sharing information.

That doesn't mean, however, that all groups we had safely visited and worked with in the past are, because of the kidnapping, unsafe for us.

When suspicious thinking takes over our minds and hearts, we become closed to love that others want to give us.

It prevents us from opening up spaces, in difficult or dangerous situations, for God to enter unexpectedly and work to transform us and others.

From a posture of suspicion, it's easier to be persuaded that we have to use weapons and armor and greater military force to protect us.

Working in Iraq, we have experienced times when protective and mistrustful interaction had a strikingly negative effect on people or a situation.

Such protective postures were interpreted as threatening.

Carrying guns or using armor and beginning with a show of force provokes such threat and a likely violent response.

How we respond in a precarious situation on an interpersonal or international level can make the difference between a transformative breakthrough or violence.

It has been encouraging to us when Iraqis, who are continuing to take risks working for justice for their people, relate to us in openness and trust.

My work in Iraq has helped me to see that working out of trust is not only a gift, it is a necessity for building unity and resolving conflicts in the midst of chaos and violence.