Reality in the Middle East

By Cristin Marcy and Jackie Frees
April 24, 2003

Angelina Wagner

Jonathan Hartgrove and Leah Wilson-Hartgrove, students at Eastern University, traveled to the Middle East to experience the pain and suffering in which the civilians are going through in their everyday lives. They wanted express passivism with the Iraqi people.

While bombs are heard in the distance, children are playing soccer in the streets. Men plow their fields. Shops are still open. Life still continues despite war in Iraq-the civilian’s lives do not stop.

Jonathan and Leah Wilson-Hartgrove, both 22 years old, married for 16 months, and Eastern University students, experienced this first hand as a part of a Christian activism group known as the Christian Peacemaker Team, a Chicago-based organization.

The Hartgroves have always been passive and never believed violence or war should be an answer to understanding politics. This is why they felt they had a calling to Iraq.

“We couldn’t be pacifists and do nothing about it,” Jonathan said. “We thought we’d rather be with the suffering in Iraq than sit here silent while they suffer in our names.”

Their journey began on Tuesday, March 18. They started in Amman, Jordan, trying to acquire visas to go into Baghdad. They settled there for six days, turning down the option of becoming a human shield, which would have allowed them to waltz into Baghdad after only waiting one day to acquire a visa.

“As a human shield, we did not want to be at the Iraqi governments call,” Leah said. “We went to be with the people.”

When they finally got into Baghdad on Tuesday, March 25, they encountered the Iraqi people. What they saw and heard the civilians endure was horrific. Cars being blown up. Fences made of barbwire. People injured by shrapnel. Families separated by death and imprisonment. But through it all, all the citizens wanted were answers, because they did not understand why the United States government was doing this.

“The civilians were really welcoming to us,” Leah said. “However, they do not understand why the United States is doing this to them.”

The Hartgroves spent a majority of their time having meetings with their team, which consisted of 10 people with the average age being 60-65. These meetings consisted of worshiping, exchanging of ideas and thoughts, and talking about what happened throughout the day.

Out of all the things they came across, one of the most striking issues was the fact that the Iraqi people they encountered did not want to be liberated through war

“The Iraqi people do not think it is a liberation,” Leah said. “They are very confused-how can this be liberation when children are dying and no one will have any family left after the liberation?”

This concept of Iraqi liberation was one of the many controversial topics the Hartgroves brought back with them when they returned to the United States on Tuesday, April 1. Upon returning, they have spoken to the Eastern campus and community about their trip.

“We spoke to the Eastern campus,” Leah said. “The situation is pretty tense-there are people who do not agree with us. However, we do understand their situation.”

Through it all, Jonathan and Leah try to live their lives through the gospel.

“We’re pacifists,” Jonathan said. “Jesus taught to believe in non-violence. Our faithfulness to him comes before problems of the war.”

Photos were courtesy of Jonathan and Leah Hartgrove. Photo credit to Jonathan Hartgove, Leah Hartgove, Sean O’Sullivan, Scott Kerr and Dave Havard.
Posted to the Web by Angelina Wagner

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Cristin Marcy and Jackie Frees

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