Mission accomplished: Gray to head to Iraq for peace effort | AspenTimes.com

Mission accomplished: Gray to head to Iraq for peace effort

As prospects for war in Iraq increase, Sue Gray is stepping up her efforts to promote peace.

Gray learned this week that she was accepted to participate in a peace mission to Iraq. She is one of 15 people on what’s called a Christian Peacemaker Team organized by the Chicago-based American Friends Service.

“I was thrilled and a little scared,” the Carbondale resident said after receiving the call. “It’s getting around the time that Bush might start a war.”

She leaves Dec. 26 and returns Jan. 9. Her team will fly to Jordan, then bus into Iraq where they will visit schools and hospitals. Gray wants the rank-and-file Iraqi people to know that Americans don’t hate them even if the U.S. government is preparing to take military action against Saddam Hussein.

While she has received substantial support from the Roaring Fork Valley, friends and family also have concerns about her safety. Gray has pledged to leave if war is imminent during her visit. She won’t stay to make a statement.

However, that’s more for her family’s peace of mind than her own. A U.S. attack is unlikely while United Nations’ arms inspectors are working in Iraq. Gray also believes the U.S. government would give civilians from other countries a chance to get out of Iraq before striking.

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“I’m going to be as safe in Iraq as I would be riding my bike down Highway 82,” she said.

She has raised $2,000 in pledges for her travel expenses. People who made pledges are now being asked to make good. She raised another $100 to spend in Iraq.

Gray initially hoped to raise additional funds to buy medicine and medical supplies but she said American Friends Service reported peace team members have experienced trouble getting such materials into the country. Instead she hopes to collect crayons and other school supplies.

Her special project is to collect art prepared by students in the Roaring Fork Valley for exchange with Iraqi students.

Anyone who wants to contribute funds for school supplies can contact her at thegrays@rof.net or by sending a check to Stepstone Center, P.O. Box 2044, Carbondale, CO 81623.

There will be a party to wish Gray well Thursday, Dec. 19, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the new commons at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale. The public is welcome to attend. She will discuss the peace mission in greater detail and disclose why she believes it is important.

Gray, 45, said U.S. sanctions aimed at toppling Saddam have hit the Iraqi people hard. Most of them are innocent civilians who have nothing to do with the government’s actions.

Not everyone supports Gray’s mission. Following an Aspen Times article last month, Gray was labeled “a traitor, an idiot and things like that” in e-mails she received, she said. Gray engaged her detractors in a dialogue and believes she helped dispel myths and change minds.

She aims to use her experience in Iraq to educate Roaring Fork Valley residents about the conditions there and attitudes of the Iraqi people.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]

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