Day 38

From Feb. 5 – Mar. 16, 2003, I engaged in a 40-day fast, urging then President George W. Bush to consider alternatives to war with Iraq. Each day, I sent the President a letter — with copies to Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice — using the Daily Office Readings (from the President’s Episcopal tradition) as a foundation for my reflections. For the next 10 days, I plan to re-post the letters from Days 31 to 40 of the fast, interspersing them with photos of Iraqis. Whether one supported or opposed the war, the costs are indisputably high. -Daryl (March 7, 2013)

An elderly Iraqi woman from Dashety Telee village, where MCC supported a food security project (REACH photo by Salwar Ibrahim)

An elderly Iraqi woman from Dashety Telee village, where MCC supported a food security project (REACH photo by Salwar Ibrahim)

Human cost of Iraq war:
Iraqi civilian casualties: 121,754
Iraqi security casualties: 10,125
U.S. military casualties: 4,488
Uprooted Iraqis: 5.0 million

Financial cost of Iraq war:
$831.9 billion

 

March 14, 2003

Daily Office Readings
Morning
-Psalm 40, 54
-Deut.10:12-22
-Hebrews 4:11-16
Evening
-Psalm 51
-John 3:22-36

President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Bush:

Today’s Daily Office readings portray a mighty God and our human need for mercy.

The psalms reflect David’s cries for God’s mercy. “Do not, O Lord, withhold your mercy from me; let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe forever,” David appeals (40:11). “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions,” David pleads (51:1). “Save me, O God, by your name, and vindicate me by your might.” (54:1)

In the Old Testament reading, Moses describes God and what God wants from us. “The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.” (Deut. 10:17-18). Because of who God is and what God has done, we are to fear, love and serve God, and walk in God’s ways (vv. 12-13). And God’s people are to show love and mercy to strangers, “for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (v.19)

Ramayr Khallaf, 4, drinks from a tap that brings water directly to his home in the village of Zhalay Darband. "Water is life," said Dana Hassan, director of REACH. "Water helps keep farmers on their land and increases production capacity of future years." (MCC photo by Silas Crews)

Ramayr Khallaf, 4, drinks from a tap that brings water directly to his home in the village of Zhalay Darband. “Water is life,” said Dana Hassan, former director of REACH. “Water helps keep farmers on their land and increases production capacity of future years.” (MCC photo by Silas Crews)

The Epistle reading speaks of God’s mighty word and God’s abundant mercy. God’s word “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 3:12) Before God, “no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account (v.13). But since Jesus is able to sympathize with our weakness, we can “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (v.16)

In the Gospel reading, John the Baptist is joyful, not jealous, when the crowds flock to Jesus instead of himself. “He must increase, but I must decrease,” John affirms (John 3:30). “The one who comes from heaven is above all . . . He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.” (vv.32, 34)

Fatima Majeed Hamarash, 85,  is the mother of Monsour Nasir Khallaf, a member of a Community Based Organization that worked with the REACH staff to develop a project in the village of Zhalay Darband. “It has changed our life,” said Hamarash. She and other villagers now have easier access to an abundant supply of clean water through a central water system.  Wastewater is used to irrigate gardens. (MCC photo by Silas Crews)

Fatima Majeed Hamarash, 85, is the mother of Monsour Nasir Khallaf, a member of a Community Based Organization that worked with the REACH staff to develop a project in the village of Zhalay Darband. “It has changed our life,” said Hamarash. She and other villagers now have easier access to an abundant supply of clean water through a central water system. Wastewater is used to irrigate gardens. (MCC photo by Silas Crews)

Mr. President, because God is mighty, we need not concern ourselves with being mighty. But because God shows mercy to us, we are to show mercy to others. Show mercy, Mr. President, show mercy.

Yesterday, the New York Times reported that as war with Iraq draws close, “relief organizations in the region say they have neither sufficient supplies nor enough money to cope with the millions of injured, displaced and starving people that could result.” And Oxfam America recently released a sobering fact sheet on the implications of a military action in Iraq. Even before a war:

• The UN estimates that 5 million Iraqis do not have access to safe water and sanitation.
• 7 out of 10 infant deaths result from diarrhea or acute respiratory infection inked to polluted water or malnutrition.
• UNICEF reports that one child in every eight in Iraq dies before the age of five and that under-five mortality has more than doubled in the past decade.

Shortage of water made it impossible for Sherzad Aziz Rasel, a farmer and beekeeper in the Barsmaq-Mawat district, to plant crops the past seven years.  He was part of a local committee that assisted REACH with developing a MCC-supported water storage tank. The tank is now filled with water from a natural spring and enables him and about 20 other landowners in his village to irrigate their land. (MCC photo by Silas Crews)

Shortage of water made it impossible for Sherzad Aziz Rasel, a farmer and beekeeper in the Barsmaq-Mawat district, to plant crops the past seven years. He was part of a local committee that assisted REACH with developing a MCC-supported water storage tank. The tank is now filled with water from a natural spring and enables him and about 20 other landowners in his village to irrigate their land. (MCC photo by Silas Crews)

In the event of war, Oxfam says, “Bombing may destroy the water and sanitation systems, sewage treatment and electricity supply leaving 50% of the Iraqi population without access to potable water and causing sewage to back up into the streets, which could lead to cholera and dysentery epidemics.”

Given these grave circumstances, it is hard to imagine that a God “who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing” (Deut. 10:18) would in any way wish to see a war inflicted on the Iraqi people. Show mercy, Mr. President.

My prayer for you today is from the Book of Common Prayer:
O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies:
Lead them and us from prejudice to truth;
deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge;
and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (p.816).

Sincerely,
J. Daryl Byler

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