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MARCH 17, 2003
1:20 PM
CONTACT:  Iraqi Dominican Sisters
Sr. Beth Murphy, 217-787-0481
Iraqi Dominican Sisters Appeal to President Bush, American People
WASHINGTON - March 17 - In a letter addressed to the American people and to President Bush, the Iraqi Dominican Sisters have asked the people of the United States to work for peace, even in this eleventh hour, after the Azores Summit, while news reports project the end of diplomacy.

The letter uses strong language to call for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. "We presume that as Christians you have hearts full of love and compassion," it reads. "You will pity our Iraqi children, our elderly, and our youth that have no hope in a better future and a decent life."

"President Bush defends the rights of animals," the letter continues. "Have we less value than animals? He claims that he is trying to defend human rights in Iraq. He is willing to build a new Iraq. He tried to convince the people in US and the peoples round the world that he will only bomb the army and the weapons in the country. He promises that he is not going to bring any harm to the civilians. Is he throwing flowers on people?"

In fact, the Defense Department is planning a massive strike against Baghdad, dubbed "shock and awe," in which thousands of bombs will be dropped in an effort to shock the Iraqi military into surrender. Those bombs will put many of the Dominican Sisters and their neighbors in direct peril.

"We have two convents: one at the beginning of the army camp and the other at the end," the letter says. "Will the bombing kill the soldiers or the people? We are living in great fright, panic, and extreme worry."

The sisters say they and all of the people of Iraq are also suffering from months of psychological warfare, "since President Bush has started his inhuman threats to initiate another war on our people. The uncertain moments and the hard current times have made us wait for our death in no time." The letter continues, "Everyday we thank God for being alive because we do not know what tomorrow has hidden for us."

The letter implies that the universities closed their doors on March 15 in preparation for war. "Our university students have waved goodbye to each other...and they are prepared for the war. They have no mood for study. We think they are right because they are disappointed and hope for them seems the most hopeless thing.

"The war is not only disastrous and destructive in its direct effects, but also in its lasting effects. The innocent people will not only be the victims of the bombing, but also the prey of contaminated drinking water, polluted environments, depleted uranium, inadequate medical supply, and crippled electric power."

The letter was sent to the Dominican Sisters in Springfield, Ill., who are part of the effort of the Dominican sisters, brothers, priests, laity, and associates in the United States and around the world who have worked since 1998 to bring to the world's attention the humanitarian consequences of the 1991 Gulf War and twelve years of the most comprehensive economic sanctions ever imposed in the history of the United Nations.

"These are the pleas of our sisters," says Sister Mary Jean Traeger, OP, prioress general of the Springfield congregation. "How could we ignore them? I add my voice to the voices of our Iraqi sisters and ask President Bush and the people of the United States to walk away from war and embrace a peaceful solution to this dangerous situation."

There are about 200 native Iraqi Dominican sisters, brothers, and priests, as well as a large community of Dominican laity in Iraq.


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