Local woman’s peace team heads to Iraq | AspenTimes.com

Local woman’s peace team heads to Iraq

A Carbondale woman is scheduled to arrive in Iraq this weekend on a mission designed to show it’s not just wild-eyed, young idealists who promote peace.

Sue Gray, 45, met with 14 other members of a Christian Peacemaker Team in Chicago Thursday. The group was scheduled to arrive in Amman, Jordan, today, then take a bus to Baghdad sometime over the weekend.

Only five of the 15 delegates are under age 50, and the oldest is 77, Gray wrote in an e-mail. Delegates came from throughout the United States and Canada.

The group that organized the trip, the Chicago-based American Friends Service, selected mostly grandparents for the mission “to demonstrate that it is not only young energetic people who volunteer their lives for peace and justice, but older folks, too,” Gray said.

Gray herself is one of the grandparents on the delegation. She applied for the peace trip after she started looking into Middle East issues after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks. She is focusing on promoting peaceful alternatives to military action against Iraq.

“I feel very honored to be an ambassador of peace from America to the Iraqi people, and to be able to stand in solidarity with them as they face the terrible effects of the economic sanctions and the threat of another war,” Gray said.

Her itinerary includes a Dec. 30 visit to the Ameriyah Shelter, where 1,500 civilians were killed allegedly after a bombing by U.S. aircraft during the Gulf War.

On Dec. 31, her peace team will visit a children’s hospital in Baghdad. On New Year’s day, they will visit four families in their homes.

They will leave Baghdad for Basra, in the rural part of southern Iraq, for a variety of tours Jan. 2-4, then return to the Iraqi capital until Jan. 8. Gray and the peace team will fly home on Jan. 9.

Gray wrote that she is anxious to participate in the trip because the focus is humanitarian and educational rather than religious or political. She collected crayons, paper and pencils to distribute in Iraq schools. Schoolchildren from Carbondale also contributed drawings and letters to send to their counterparts in Iraq. Gray hopes to return with the work of Iraqi kids.

She raised about $2,100 from supporters in the Roaring Fork Valley to make the journey. She hopes to send e-mails back to the valley during her trip to report her findings.

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