Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Brief Reflection

I had my eyes examined today. The doctor is a friend who happens to be Iraqi. Two of his sisters have opened a restaurant/tea room down the road from his office. Judging by appearances, they are doing well despite the current downturn. Their parents, originally from Baghdad, have become pillars of the community, respected, admired, and loved by their many friends. Their children, now adults with their own families, are highly successful, each in his or her way.

At one time, my wife and I happily counted ourselves as part of this remarkable Iraqi family. During the years of U.S.-enforced sanctions against Iraq, I sometimes visited their relatives in Baghdad and brought back photographs, gifts, and weighty boxes of a traditional Iraqi confection called min' simma, which literally means "from the sky" in Arabic. (It's somewhat like torrone, an Italian nougat candy.) But in recent years, we've lost our connection with this family, and that is something my wife and I deeply regret.

On the drive home today, after my eye exam, I found myself thinking about their success and, in the same breath, about the Iraqi diaspora--the thousands of families displaced inside Iraq or living as refugees in neighboring countries as a result of the U.S. invasion and the violence that resulted. And I thought about organizations like Direct Aid Iraq and Collateral Repair Project, two grassroots efforts to assist displaced Iraqi families in Jordan. Each organization has both an American and an Iraqi team working together to connect families with social service providers.

The war in Iraq has created one of the gravest humanitarian crises in the world. The suffering of the Iraqi people continues despite the recent decrease in violence. So what are successful Iraqis in this country doing to ameliorate this suffering and end the occupation? Perhaps a more basic question is: are they obligated to do anything at all? Is it enough that they are doing their best to provide for themselves and their children while making invaluable contributions to their communities? Is anything more required? Then too, what are the rest of us doing to address the needs of the Iraqi people, including those who have come here seeking asylum, those who remain displaced, and the many others in Iraq living under occupation and with the ever-present threat of violence from one source or another?

(Photo: Iraqi refugee family)

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