From the bomb shelter on the first floor of the Al Dar Hotel in Baghdad, a Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) delegation heard and felt the first strike in the battle for Iraq. An hour after anti-aircraft fire stopped crackling overhead, the group walked to an orphanage to comfort and feed children.

On March 29 the Iraqi government expelled seven CPT members. Authorities became upset when various CPT members ventured too close to a communications building, had a map of the city, or used a satellite phone. Now eight CPT staff members remain there.

CPT's typical strategy is to enter an area of conflict, observe and report atrocities, and remain physically present with civilians whose lives are in peril. It is cooperating with a secular group, Voices in the Wilderness, in placing people in Iraq as "witnesses for peace." Volunteers do not have gear or medicines to protect against biological or chemical weapons.

The international group, which has 30 full-time members and more than 110 trained volunteers, was founded in 1986 by Mennonites and the Church of the Brethren in Toronto. CPT now includes Quaker, Presbyterian, and Baptist peace groups from the United States and Canada.

Almost daily since October, CPT volunteers and staffers have visited an orphanage run by the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa. After one bombing they visited the Al Monsur Hospital. Later they erected a tent beside the Al Wathba water treatment center.

"Some of us will sleep in [the tent] overnight," said Scott Kerr, an American CPT staff member. "We are already vulnerable by being here, so we hope to protect the water treatment center because it is vital to civilians' survival."

Kerr, 27, said members are willing to risk their lives ...

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Mercy in Baghdad
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May 2003

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