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Third Thursday webinar presents ‘The view from Iraqi Kurdistan’

Susan Smith reports on the work of Christian Peacemaker Teams in northern Iraq

by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service

Susan Smith (center) with the Christian Peacemaker Team May 2017 delegation to Kurdistan, Iraq. (Photo provided)

LOUISVILLE – The Presbyterian Mission Agency’s office of Interfaith Relations invites you to join Rick Ufford-Chase this Thursday, June 15, at noon Eastern Daylight Time, for a Facebook Live event as he interviews Susan Smith, a Muslim resident in the Community of Living Traditions at Stony Point Center, about her recent trip to Iraqi Kurdistan with Christian Peacemaker Teams.

Ufford-Chase says that although we rarely think of the aftermath of the war in Iraq or the ongoing hardships experienced by those who live there, even fewer of us understood the desperate situation that Kurdish people were in prior to the conflict. Smith and Ufford-Chase will discuss this topic as well as the critically important work of Christian Peacemaker Teams in situations of violent conflict and significant human rights abuses.

Smith spent two weeks in May 2017 with an international delegation traveling throughout the region and meeting CPT’s local partners.

“One of our visits was to an IDP (internally displaced persons) camp with a mixed population of Yazidis and a lot of Sunni Arab males fleeing,” she said. “What we heard had come about was an ethnic cleansing of Sunni Arab males for two reasons. First, as a retaliation after the horrific regime of Saddam Hussein and because people don’t know who is and who isn’t ISIS.”

Smith said the most alarming human rights violations the team observed were inflicted upon victims of border bombing and shelling by Turkey and Iran, as well as those experiencing confiscation and contamination of their property by oil and gas companies including ExxonMobil and Dana Gas.

Smith will speak on what the delegation learned about the modern history and genocide of the Kurds and the legacy of colonization, war, internecine violence and corruption challenging Iraq in general and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in particular. The team also visited the city of Halabja — the site of a chemical attack by the Hussein regime in 1988 — remote mountain villages without public utilities, a Yazidi shrine, the Alternatives to Violence Project, historic and religious sites dating back 3,000 years.

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Susan Smith with an Iraqi woman. (Photo provided)

Susan Smith is a multi-faith resident with the Community of Living Traditions at Stony Point Center and community liaison with the Muslim Peace Fellowship. She has a background in conflict resolution and has worked for the United Nations and UN community in a number of capacities pertaining to the Middle East and Africa.

Susan is a founding member of Lower Hudson Valley Call Refugee Crisis Call to Action Coalition, and has experience providing humanitarian relief to refugees in the Western Sahara, Palestine, Jordan, Turkey and Greece. She is the author of Biblical Children’s Stories As Told In The Qur’an published by Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an Press in 2015. She holds a master’s diploma in Middle East studies from the American University in Cairo and a master’s degree in educational counseling and development from Long Island University.


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