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The Intimacies of War: A Personal Reflection
on a Global Tragedy

Sister Rihab Mousa, OP

Sister Rihab Mousa, OP is a member of the St. Catharine of Sienna Dominicans based in Mosul, Iraq. She has lived with the Dominican Sisters in Springfield since 2002 and is a student at Springfield College in Illinois. The Springfield Dominicans held a prayer service on September 21st.

No one wins at war. I can’t claim to be an expert on all war, but I’m intimately aware of the effects of one war in particular, the one in Iraq. I know the suffering my brother and sister-in-law face every day when they wake up to the empty crib that was to cradle their baby son. Abdullmaseh, a healthy, perfectly formed infant, died four days after he was born in northern Iraq because there was no competent doctor to deliver him, because there was no IV bag for a blood transfusion, because there is war. I know how the tender fabric of family relationships unravels when young men, faced with the no-future that is Iraq, make the choice to leave, and end up being trafficked illegally to another country. I know what it means for families in one of the most oil-wealthy nations of the world to be without electricity, or without the benzene they need to power the generators to cool their houses and their frayed nerves and keep their food from spoiling and their phones from going dead. I know all about survivors’ guilt, that gnawing grind that constantly reminds me I’m safe but my family and 26 million other Iraqis aren’t. I’ve experienced first hand what millions of others from the diaspora of any and every conflict experience when weeks go by with no way to contact family and no way to know whether they are telling you the truth, anyway, when they say they are fine and not to worry.

A few weeks ago I spoke with a member of my community who runs a maternity hospital in Baghdad. Life is so desperate, she said, that women beg for cesarean sections. They long for the temporary respite from reality that could come from the deep numbing sleep of an anesthetic. I get a heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach as I scroll through the photos of the many newly married couples on a website from my hometown. I wonder how many of these couples are also anesthetizing their pain through quick marriages – into what kind of future is not easy to tell.

Recently a friend of mine spoke with Bishop Gabriel Kassab of Basra, who over the past year has watched his tiny Chaldean flock in Iraq’s second city diminish from 1,000 families to 200 as they flee the country for precarious futures in only marginally more stable Middle Eastern nations. “Pray for the peace of God,” he said. “Only God can save us.”

These are my stories, true. I suspect that they reverberate in the lives of how many people, in how many conflicts, on how many continents, who also suffer the intimacies of war. Somehow, I don’t think it matters so much whether the war is in Iraq or on the eastern Mediterranean coast or in Sudan or Afghanistan. Or whether those who are fighting are American or British, Iraqi, Israeli, Lebanese, Sudanese, or Afghani. Those who suffer war wherever it exists suffer the same realities: despair, depression, uncertainty, fear, a loss of confidence in the goodness of humanity, death.

It is frightening to see images of the human cost of conflicts in my home country and anywhere in the world. It is equally frightening to contemplate the irreversible damage these wars do to the planet: oil spills in the Mediterranean, depleted uranium in the soil of Iraq and Yugoslavia, ravaged olive groves or date palm plantations – even Earth suffers.

So on Thursday, Sept. 21, the International Day of Peace and Global Ceasefire, for the sake of Earth and of all Earth’s creatures, we ask nations and terrorists to stop their warring. And we Dominicans around the world, joined in solidarity by our religious profession, invite you to join us in prayer for peace.

If you have only one moment – this moment – to utter your silent plea, it will be enough. Because no one wins a war. So much depends on your, and my, and our, ability to imagine a different way, the way of peace.


...So much depends on your, and my, and our, ability to imagine a different way, the way of peace.

Related Links

More photos of the March in Rome

Full text of letter from the Master General

Letter from International
Co-Promoters of Justice and Peace

United Nations International Day of Peace website

Suggested Prayers and ways to participate

Recent Messages from Dominicans in Iraq

Electronic Iraq

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