From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Photo exhibit reflects humanity of Iraqi people

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Mon, 3 Feb 2003 15:06:23 -0600

Feb. 3, 2003	    News media contact: Joretta Purdue7(202)
546-87227Washington	10-21-71BPI{048}

NOTE: Photographs are available with this report.

By Joretta Purdue*

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

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

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

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.

# # #

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

United Methodist News Service
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