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[casi] Iraqis Are Focus of Nuns' Fears,0,331194

Iraqis Focus Of Nuns’ Fears
War worries inspire campaign

By Bart Jones

December 31, 2002
Sister Margaret Galiardi broke the U.S. ban on traveling to Iraq two years
ago and saw the suffering faces of the Iraqi people and dozens of nuns from
her order who live and work in the land of Saddam Hussein.

Now, as the United States appears poised to launch a war against Iraq,
Galiardi and other members of the Amityville Dominican Sisters fear the Iraqi
people they met and their fellow nuns - along with thousands of other Iraqis
and Americans - will be injured or killed.

They are organizing an anti-war campaign, handing out bumper stickers and
buttons that proclaim, "I Have Family in Iraq."

"It's almost impossible that we avoid this war," said Sister Nancy Goult, one
of three Dominican sisters from Long Island who made the journey to Iraq in
February 2000. "But I have to keep dreaming."

The third, Sister Marjorie McGregor, recalls hugging Iraqi mothers as they
stood over their dying babies in hospitals she said were devastated in part
by U.S.-led economic sanctions. Now, McGregor fears more suffering will come
to blameless and ordinary Iraqis.

"We have to work toward peace," she said.

The Dominicans are members of one of the larger orders of nuns in the United
States and on Long Island, with about 8,200 members nationwide including 650
in Queens, Brooklyn and Nassau and Suffolk counties.

It has thousands more overseas, including about 135 in Iraq, where a branch
was established in 1873. The vast majority of Dominican sisters in the
heavily Muslim nation are natives of Iraq.

In 1999, Galiardi and others started organizing delegations made up mainly of
Dominican sisters to visit Iraq to protest the sanctions, which human rights
groups blame partly for the deaths of thousands of children. She and the
other Long Islanders took a 12-hour ride across the desert from Amman,
Jordan, to Baghdad and faced $25,000 fines from the U.S. government, although
none were punished.

Earlier this year, the Dominican order helped bring to the United States two
of their brethren from Iraq, in part, to build bridges between the two
nations. When the two attended a national meeting of Dominican sisters in
October and spoke of their homeland, the order decided to launch the "I Have
Family in Iraq" campaign.

"Really, I am scared," one of the nuns, Sister Luma, who was a biology
teacher in Iraq, said yesterday in a telephone interview from Springfield,
Ill., where she has moved. "When they bombed, they bombed everything."

The Dominicans on Long Island, whose efforts also are being organized by
Sister Margaret Mayce, started receiving their bumper stickers and buttons
three weeks ago. They're handing them out to anyone who wants one.

The sisters contend that the Bush administration has failed to convincingly
make the case that the United States needs to wage war against Iraq. They
assert that while they are not cheerleaders for Hussein, war will result in
thousands of Iraqi and American deaths, further destabilize the Persian Gulf
and Middle East, provoke more terrorist attacks against the United States and
do little to help capture Osama bin Laden.

They believe many Americans agree with them.

"I think a lot of people are very nervous about this war," Galiardi said.
"It's not like we're trying to be rebellious teenagers. ... For us the
primary law is God's law. And God's law says, 'Thou shall not kill.'"

Added Mayce, "I think everybody agrees something has to be done, but
ultimately more harm and more devastation will come from waging war."

The Bush administration argues that Hussein's regime possesses weapons of
mass destruction and must be eliminated before he attacks the United States
and its allies.

Galiardi said she fears war will simply increase the suffering of the Iraqi
people. When the nuns visited the hospitals there, a woman who had given
birth was in danger of dying and needed a blood transfusion. The sisters from
Long Island offered to be donors.

But doctors said they couldn't: The hospital didn't have the plastic bags
needed for a transfusion.

Copyright © 2002, Newsday, Inc.

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