Archived News Item

Sisters voice concern about Iraq

Twenty-six Sisters of Mercy from the Brisbane congregation have signed a letter to federal politicians voicing their concerns about the impact of the ongoing war in Iraq.


Sister Wendy Flannery, who initiated the idea, said a number of sisters raised concerns about the worsening situation in Iraq at a congregational meeting about six weeks ago.


She said she was involved in drafting a letter which 24 sisters signed within the next four days.


In their letter the sisters registered their deep concern about the effect the war was having on Iraqis, especially women and children.


“(We) wish to register our deep and growing concern at what has been occurring in Iraq – the daily sacrificing of the lives of women, children and men in a war being waged in our name and entered into under the guise of “˜protecting our way of life’ from the threat of terrorism”, the sisters wrote.


“Each day we read and see ever increasing instances of the killing and maiming of human beings, in a country racked with a mounting violence to which we can so easily become desensitised.”


“While the number of coalition soldiers killed is recorded, there is no comparable accounting of the deaths of the people of Iraq.”


The sisters said tens of thousands of Iraqi women had paid a high price for the war and invasion of their country.

“They must raise their families in the face of a lack of medicine, food, clean water, electricity.”


The sisters said the absence of security and increase in the crimes of rape, kidnapping and murder are trapping women in fear in their homes, keeping them away from work or the search for employment and preventing their children from attending school.


“The psychological effect on any population living under such conditions of prolonged destruction and random acts of violence is given scant attention.”


“Iraqi women bear the brunt of managing the trauma caused by war on their own mental health and that of other family members.”


“Moreover, remembering the long-term effects of war on those who fought in Vietnam, we are also concerned at what is happening to those now serving and what this will mean for them and for our society on their return.”


The sisters said they believed ever since the invasion of Iraq the emphasis had never been squarely on the interests and wellbeing of the Iraqi people themselves. Nor had there been any proper recognition of the destabilising effect the war had had on their country.


They said brutal treatment of prisoners and indiscriminate killing of other Iraqis at the hands of various sections of the occupying forces had done nothing to inspire confidence in the coalition and their declared aim of bringing justice and democracy to Iraq. “The present strategies have clearly failed,” they said. “An increasing number of voices from the political, military and humanitarian spheres are declaring the current situation a disaster.”


The sisters urged Australia‘s politicians, including Prime Minister John Howard and the ministers for defence and foreign affairs and their shadow counterparts, Queensland senators and local MPs, to do all they could to force the Government to change direction on its Iraq policy to break the cycle of violence.


“It is a question of life for the Iraqi people – women, children and men – not of victory for the coalition,” they said.


Messages to: Elizabeth O’Keeffe RSM, Congregation Secretary