Archives For Iraq


The Way to New Life

A Review of

Walking Through Fire: Iraqis’ Struggle for Justice and Reconciliation

Peggy Faw Gish

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2014
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ 
Kindle ]

Reviewed by by Joe Davis


I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember but I still have trouble imagining peaceful alternatives to violent situations. Like Jesus’s disciple in the garden when the temple guards seized Jesus for arrest, I instinctively reach for my sword and start fighting back. I know Jesus calls me to love my enemies and turn the other cheek, but what else can I do when someone threatens me or those I love? In Walking Through Fire: Iraqis’ Struggle for Justice and Reconciliation, Peggy Faw Gish applies a healing balm to my wounded imagination and gives me eyes to see the way of Jesus through stories which “demonstrate that the power of nonviolent suffering love… is stronger than the way of violence and force, and can break down barriers and be transformative in violent or threatening situations.” Gish chronicles eight years of her journey alongside Iraqi people as an activist for peace with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). Along with her own reflections, she tells the stories of Iraqis who have endured nearly unbearable suffering, but who cling to hope and are still able to love each other and work together for a peaceful future.

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Greg Barrett - The Gospel of RutbaA Mirror to the World

A Feature Review of

The Gospel of Rutba: War, Peace, and the Good Samaritan Story in Iraq

Greg Barrett

Hardback: Orbis Books, 2012.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Paul Chaplin.

““Why, why, WHY?” Dr. Al-Dulaimi demanded. […] “Sir, I wish I knew,” [Shane] responded in his East Tennessee accent. “But I don’t know either.” […] “You are safe in Rutba,” Dr. Al-Dulaimi told Shane. “You are our brothers and we will take care of you. We take care of everyone – Christian, Muslim, Iraqi, American. It doesn’t matter. We are all human beings. We are all sisters and brothers.”” (50)

It is a great pleasure to have read and be reviewing this book for ERB, particularly since it was at Englewood Christian Church that I had the chance in 2009 to meet Cliff Kindy, and hear the tale from his own mouth which forms the premise for this book, complete with show-and-tell head-wound scars. It is a story that many ERB readers may have read in abbreviated form in books by Shane Claiborne or Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, but it is a story that deserves telling completely, and one of the achievements of the book is to do just that.

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A brief review of

Memories of Eden: A Journey Through Jewish Baghdad.
Violette Shamash.
Hardback: Northwestern University Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Michelle Van Loon (

Most of us are likely familiar with Kristallnacht, the nights of violence unleashed by the Nazi regime in 1938 against Jews in Germany and Austria. But did you know that more Jews lost their lives during the Farhud, the anti-Semitic pogrom that took place in Baghdad in June, 1941?

It was the beginning of the end of a vibrant Jewish community that had existed in what is now modern Iraq for 2,500 years, since the time of the Babylonian captivity described in the Old Testament. Within a decade of the Farhud, almost the entire Jewish community, hundreds of thousands Iraqi citizens once an integral part of the life and culture of the region, had fled the country.

Violette Shamash (1912-2006) created a first-person memoir of a Baghdad most of us can scarcely imagine. Shamash penned her stories of her upper-class Jewish childhood and young adulthood in the years prior to the Farhud. She put pen to paper over a span of about twenty years in order to ensure that these rich memories would be passed on to her children. Her daughter and son-in-law shaped her remembrances into a fascinating read about a vanished way of life.

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A Brief Review of

Saved by Her Enemy:
An Iraqi Woman’s
Journey from the Heart
of War to the
Heartland of America
Rafraf Barrak and Don Teague.
Hardback: Howard Books, 2010.

Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Laretta Benjamin.

This was a wonderful book to read; but in all honesty this was a difficult review to write – only because I find my mind scattering in a million directions – mostly having to do with war – the realities of war, the agendas of war, the effects and consequences of war, the stories and ways of war. Setting aside what you may think of the Iraq war – or even of war at all – this is a great story.  It is a true story and one that serves to help open our eyes to the realities of life for many in our world.  In our relatively safe and secure environment with an abundance of all we need, it’s important for us to get a taste (and probably even a big bite) of what living life means for others.

Thank you to Don Teague and the NBC News team stationed in Iraq who were willing to share this part of their lives with us – relating experiences that must often have been difficult and sometimes incredibly frightening.  And, thanks to Rafraf Barrak for her willingness to openly share her story with those she once considered “her enemy”.  Her honesty, openness and vulnerability brought great risk into her life.

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Why does no one today speak as boldly and as eloquently against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as Dr. King did against the Vietnam War? It’s amazing how relevant his message against American militarism is today — 40+ years later.

You need, I need and we all need to watch these videos and to be challenged by the faithful boldness of Dr. King.

Shorter clip:

Longer clip:


“Memory’s Broken Time Machine”

A Review of
Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea.
by Dunya Mikhail.

 Reviewed by Matthew Kaul.


Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea.
by Dunya Mikhail.
Translated by Elizabeth Winslow and Dunya Mikhail.

Paperback: New Directions Books, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Literary critic Walter Benjamin, in his essay “The Task of the Translator,” writes that the translator’s task cannot be the simple rote movement between two “sterile, dead languages” (after all, we have Google’s translation bots to complete that task for us today). Rather, the translator is charged with continuing the very life of the original work. Translation, far from being a simple act of clumsy and mindless copying, is itself a creative, poetic act.

Benjamin’s thesis on translation is born out in Mikhail’s fascinating volume Diary of a Wave outside the Sea, a prose-poetic memoir of her life growing up as a poet in war-ravaged Iraq. In her preface to this translated volume, Mikhail writes that “poetry was not on my mind when I wrote this book;” but that her “partner in translation, Elizabeth Winslow, had originally transformed the unbroken, prose-poetry lines of my Arabic into a poetic broken-lined English” (vii). The book in its English incarnation, then, has taken on a form it did not previously possess.

Winslow’s translation of both word and genre works particularly well in the first of the book’s two parts, written during the first Iraq war in Baghdad and first published in Arabic in 1995. In this first part, Mikhail employs an elusive, shifting voice and a constant movement between opposed themes in her attempt to convey the singularity of war’s intrusion on her life. As Pascal noted, the human being is oddly and uncomfortably situated between the infinitely large and the infinitely small, and it is the uniqueness of our situation that provokes poetry. The initial section of Mikhail’s volume deals explicitly with this theme, particularly in a time of war. Mikhail employs a series of Pascalian meditations on the ambiguity of human experience, moving between depictions of unbearable burden and levity, of alienated exile and the sweet comforts of home, and of vivid memory and the ambiguities of forgetting.

Such meditations take as their focus the year 1991, the start of the first Gulf War. Mikhail has been reflecting upon the contingencies of history that separate people from each other, and that provoke them to divide themselves into opposite camps–“we are the good, they are the evil; we have the light, they wallow in darkness”–while at the same time recognizing that such stark oppositions rely upon each other. She writes, “The chemist Paul Derek confirms this, saying that / the electron and its opposite are born together / at the same place and same instant, / and they die together whenever and wherever they meet.” She continues,

I thought of this when the Allied forces dropped
eighty-eight thousand tons of bombs
on the land of the two rivers
and made a spectrum in the air
at the speed of light or fear
leaving an indestructible energy.     (38)
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The Englewood Review will be giving away a book from Doulos Christou Press via every Thursday at 11AM (ET) this summer.

Here are the contest rules:

  1. You must follow us on Twitter @ERBks
  2. At 11AM (ET) each Thursday,  I’ll announce the start of the contest, with a question to which you must reply
  3. The third person to reply to our question will win that week’s book!
    (Note the change in rules this week, to make things more exciting!!!)

The book that we are giving away this week is Shane Claiborne’s Iraq Journal 2003, (pictured above) which tells the story in words and pictures of Shane’s time in Iraq right at the start of the present war.


“Faithful Unto Death

A Review of 118 Days:
Christian Peacemaker Teams
Held Hostage in Iraq
edited by Tricia Gates Brown.

By Chris Smith.

118 Days: Christian Peacemaker Teams
Held Hostage in Iraq.
Tricia Gates Brown, editor.
Paperback. CPT. 2008.
Buy now from: [ CPT $15] [ Amazon ]

118 DAYSFor twenty years now, the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) have been calling the Church to be more intentional in bearing witness to the peace of Christ in some of the worst conflict situations of the modern world.  In recent years, their work has focused primarily on the conflict regions of Iraq, Palestine and Colombia.  Stories of their work have been recorded in books like Shane Claiborne’s Iraq Journal 2003, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s To Baghdad and Beyond and Getting in the Way, a collection of essays edited by Tricia Gates-Brown.  Since October 2002, CPT has been working in Iraq, befriending the Iraqi people, praying for peace and documenting human rights abuses.  On November 26, 2005, two CPT members (Tom Fox and Jim Loney) and two CPT-associated peace advocates (Norman Kember and Harmeet Sooden) were kidnapped in Baghdad, a story that was thrust into the spotlight of world news for many subsequent weeks.  The story of this kidnapping has now been captured in a new book 118 Days: Christian Peacemaker Teams Held Hostage in Iraq.

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