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[casi] Kysia in Baghdad: "This Present Moment"


Apologies for possible duplication, but wanted to share this message from Ramzi
Kysia, who's in Baghdad with Kathy Kelly, the Iraq Peace Team, and 4-million

Ramzi, your friends -- Rasha, Hind, Lubna, Sarab, Thuraya, everybody -- are
beautiful and our prayers are with you all.

With respect and best wishes from Minnesota,
Drew Hamre

This Present Moment
Living in Baghdad on the Eve of War
by Ramzi Kysia
Mar. 14, 2003

"The present moment is the only moment available to us, and it is the door to
all moments." - Thich Nhat Hanh

I am in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team, and we will stay here throughout any
war. We will share the risks of the millions who live here, and do our best to
be a voice for them to the world. Our risks are uncertain. Thousands here will
surely die. But most Iraqis will survive, and so too, I hope, will I.

A banner the government put up a few blocks from where we stay reads simply,
"Baghdad: Where the World Comes for Peace."

It's meant as propaganda, I'm sure, flattering Saddam Hussein. But without
knowing it, it states a simple truth: that the world must be present for peace.
We must be present in Baghdad as in America - in Kashmir or Chechnya, the Great
Lakes, Palestine and Colombia - where there is war, and rumors of war, we must
be present to build peace.

We are present.

My country may arrest me as a traitor, or kill me during saturation bombing, or
shoot me during an invasion. The Iraqis may arrest me as a spy, or cause or use
my death for propaganda. Civil unrest and mob violence may claim me. I may be
maimed. I may be killed.

I am nervous. I am scared. I am hopeful. I am joyous, and I joyously delight in
the wonder that is my life.

I love being alive. I love the splendor of our world, the beauty of our bodies,
and the miracle of our minds. I bless the world for making me, and I bless the
world for taking me. I feed myself on the fellowship we inspirit, in standing
one with another in this, this present moment, each moment unfolding to its own
best time.

Different things move different members of our team, but all of us are here out
of deep concern for the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Iraq. 20 years
of almost constant war, and 12 years of brutal sanctions, have killed hundreds
of thousands of innocents in Iraq.

We are here, today, because most of the world refused to be present, then. What
more right do I as an American have to leave then all the people I've come to
love in Iraq? An accident of birth that gives me a free pass throughout the

All of us are here out of a deep commitment to nonviolence. Peace is not an
abstract value that we should just quietly express a hope for. It takes work. It
takes courage. It takes joy.

Peace takes risks.

War is catastrophe. It is terrorism on a truly, massive scale. It is the
physical, political and spiritual devastation of entire peoples. War is the
imposition of such massive, deadly violence so as to force the political
solutions of one nation upon another. War is the antithesis of democracy and
freedom. War is the most bloody, undemocratic, and violently repressive of all
human institutions.

War is catastrophe. Why choose catastrophe?

Even the threat of war is devastating. On March 11th, when we visited a
maternity hospital run by the Dominican sisters here in Baghdad, we found that
eight, new mothers that day had demanded to have their babies by Caesarean
section - they didn't want to give birth during the war. Six others
spontaneously aborted the same day. Is this spirit of liberation?

Don't ask me where I find the courage to be present in Iraq on the eve of war. 5
million people call Baghdad home. 24 million human beings live in Iraq. Instead,
ask the politicians - on every side - where they find the nerve to put so many
human beings at such terrible risk.

We're here for these people, as we're here for the American people. The violence
George Bush starts in Iraq will not stop in Iraq. The senseless brutality of
this war signals future crimes of still greater inhumanity. If we risk nothing
to prevent this, it will happen. If we would have peace, we must work as hard,
and risk as much, as the warmakers do for destruction.

Pacifism isn't passive. It's a radical challenge to all aspects of worldly
power. Nonviolence can prevent catastrophe. Nonviolence multiplies opportunities
a thousand-fold, until seemingly insignificant events converge to tumble the
tyranny of fears that violence plants within our hearts. Where violence denies
freedom, destroys community, restricts choices - we must be present: cultivating
our love, our active love, for our entire family of humanity.

We are daily visiting with families here in Iraq. We are daily visiting
hospitals here in Iraq, and doing arts and crafts with the children. We are
visiting elementary schools, and high schools. We are fostering community. We
are furthering connections. We are creating space for peace.

We are not "human shields." We are not here simply in opposition to war. We are
a dynamic, living presence - our own, small affirmation of the joy of being
alive. Slowly stumbling, joyous and triumphant, full of all the doubts and
failings all people hold in common - our presence here is a thundering, gentle
call, to Americans as to Iraqis, of the affirmation of life.

We must not concede war to the killers. War is not liberation. It is not peace.
War is devastation and death.

Thuraya, a brilliant, young girl whom I've come to love, recently wrote in her

"We don't know what is going to happen. We might die, and maybe we are living
our last days in life. I hope that everyone who reads my diary remember me and
know that there was an Iraqi girl who had many dreams in her life..."

Dream with us of a world where we do not let violence rule our lives. Work with
us for a world where violence does not rule our lives. Peace is not an abstract
concept. We are a concrete, tangible reality. We the peoples of our common
world, through the relationships we build with each other, and the risks we take
for one another - we are peace.

Our team here doesn't know what is going to happen any more than does Thuraya.
We too may die. But in her name, in this moment, at the intersection of all our
lives, we send you this simple message: We are peace, and we are present.

Ramzi Kysia is a Arab American peace activist and writer. He is currently in
Iraq with the Voices in the Wilderness' ( Iraq Peace Team
(, a project to keep international peaceworkers to Iraq
prior to, during, and after any future U.S. attack, in order to be a voice for
the Iraqi people. The Iraq Peace Team can be reached through

***please forward freely***

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