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Writings by Cathy Breen

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  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
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  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
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  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
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  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
  • : Function ereg() is deprecated in /home/vcnvorg/public_html/oldsite/includes/file.inc on line 644.
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Dear Friends

October 27, 2012
Dear Friends,

I used to ask Iraqis in Jordan and Syria what kinds of food they most missed from their country. Ghaimar (a special thick cream extracted from water buffalo milk), often served with honey, was frequently the answer. And the word was spoken with such longing and sweet memories that I would have given anything to transport them back to their mothers’ houses. I just got to see and try Ghaimar for the first time at breakfast.

It is the second day of EID, or celebration. Business as usual comes to a halt. Schools and government offices are closed. It is a special time in the Muslim culture to spend with family and visit from house to house. Bowls of fruit and sweets are passed around and people are free to enjoy one another. People sleep in because they are generally up late visiting. This morning the house was quiet, the three little children still asleep. I picked up a book I brought with me. By the late Irish poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue, it is called Anam Cara, A Book of Celtic Wisdom. In it John writes that our soul knows the geography of our destiny; that our soul alone has the map of our future. Therefore, we can trust this indirect, oblique side of ourselves. If we do, it will take us where we need to go, but more important it will teach us a kindness of rhythm in our journey

A Lesson in Hospitality

Pilgrims streaming into KarbalaPilgrims streaming into Karbala

Najaf, Iraq — “Come to eat” the man cries out. “Come!” he calls invitingly. And they do. In the thousands, in the millions. They come streaming into Karbala from all directions to the sacred shrine of their holy martyrs, Imam Hussein and Abbas.

I have just returned to Najaf after spending some days in Karbala visiting a good friend of ours there and getting to know his dear family. In both my going from and my retuning to Najaf, I was moved by the sight of pilgrims walking on the side of the road to Karbala.

These holy commemorations and pilgrimages were not allowed under Saddam. The regime collapsed on April 9, 2003. Less than two weeks later, on the 20th of April was the 40th commemoration of the death of Imam Hussein. Approximately four million pilgrims traveled to Karbala that year. I was in Baghdad at that time and remember young Shia friends telling us with deep emotion and excitement about taking part in a similar pilgrimage, a treasured tradition so long denied them. One can imagine how disconcerting and foreign such a phenomena was to the U.S. troops who were occupying Karbala and the surrounding country. “How can we control such numbers?” they asked. My host was one of the persons who told them, “Just stay on your bases.” Fortunately they listened , and only patrolled overhead with helicopters. Now Karbala receives between 12 and 14 million during the feast that remembers the death of Imam Hussein.

Dear Friends

October 21, 2012

Dear Friends,

The city-wide electrical grid went down here in Najaf this morning during breakfast. This is not such a big deal as it is daytime and the sun is up. More importantly, the weather is not oppressively hot now and fans and A/C are not an absolute necessity. I can only imagine what it was like in July, August and September when the electricity was off. I was told while in Basra yesterday, that the lack of electricity is a major problem there as well. I left the U. S. a week ago to travel to Iraq for a six-week visit. And the electricity has gone off non-stop since I arrived.

I had mixed emotions as I set out on this trip. Excitement at the thought of seeing old friends, I have not been back to Iraq since late 2003. But also some apprehension as to what I will find after such a long time. It has been nine years, a fact hard for me to believe. Of course we’ve gotten news over the years, through Iraqis in the states and refugees in Jordan and Syria, and contacts we’ve been able to maintain within Iraq. But it is quite another thing to be in the country again…. to try and get a sense of how things are with respect to everyday living, basic needs and security. I am hopeful that I can meet with Iraqis whom we know from Syria but who have had to flee back to Iraq. How are people faring? What are people feeling and thinking?

And so we come back to electricity.

Here are a couple of photos showing the twisted mass of electrical wires from the neighborhood where I am staying.

This sight evokes memories from post-invasion days in Baghdad when the electrical system was down and the deafening noise of generators was everywhere. It is nine years later and people still have no functional electrical grid! These wires are representative of the crippled city-wide backup generator system that kicks in when the city-wide grid goes down. The city electricity costs a family about $5.00 to $10.00 per month, while the local men who run the generators every couple of blocks, I’ll call them “bosses,” get perhaps $50.00 per month from the same family. Unfortunately though, it seems that the hands of the “bosses” are gripped in a tight handshake with the higher-ups of the municipal electrical system. And it is no secret that this is the reality nationwide.

This is one of the many different generator sites which charges families excessive fees for backup electricity.

Well, let me leave you with this to be continued journal of sorts. I have much more to write, but want to get some word off to you so you know that I’ve landed and am in good hands, warm and loving hands. I hope and trust that you too are well.

Cathy Breen

Sanctuary from Syria — what will it take?

August 28, 2012
www.warisacrime.org

Each time I travel to Syria to follow the plight of Iraqi refugees there, I also visit with Palestinians from Iraq. During my last trip to Syria, in December 2011, I was sitting with one of these families in their humble apartment in Damascus. “Tell me again,” I asked, “where are your family members living?”

They Haven’t Heard the News

Amman, Jordan
November 4, 2011

What a handsome young man. He came three months ago from Baghdad. He said he had to. He left his wife, his mother and six little children behind. When I asked about his children, he became silent and I realized after some moments that he was crying. I too was silent, hesitating to continue. So young, I thought. All he has ever known is war.

Cathy Breen writes from Amman Jordon

Amman, Jordan

April 29, 2010

Dear Friends,

My time in the Middle East is coming to an end and I would like to write you one last time. I was very sorry to leave Syria yesterday, but my return flight to the U.S. is out of Jordan. I had hoped to travel by land from Damascus to Amman, but the road was closed due to confrontations in southern Syria near the border. So I found myself in the early morning hours yesterday at the Damascus airport waiting to board a plane heading for Amman. How I wished I was arriving instead of leaving.

Good Friday in an anxious Damascus

Damascus, Syria

April 23, 2011

Dear Friends,

So much has been going on here that I don’t know where to begin to write you.

Yesterday was Good Friday for those of us in the Christian tradition. It is one of the most solemn feast days in our church calendar. I believe there are about 2 million Christians in Syria, and ancient churches in the old city seem as abundant and as the beautifully striking mosques. All of the street processions reenacting Jesus’ passion, and normally celebrated here in Damascus, were cancelled due to demonstrations.

Dear Friends

Damascus, Syria
April 10, 2011
Dear Friends,

Two nights ago while visiting an Iraqi friend in his apartment, I asked if we could turn on the TV news. I wanted to take advantage of the gracious woman who was translating for us to get a sense of what is going on here in Syria. I will call her Fatima. We had not met before, and at my urging she had just shared some of her own story with me. Now as photos of chaotic scenes flashed before us (of smoke, of people running, of the dead and wounded), Fatima exclaimed, trying to laugh as she spoke, “We ran away from Palestine to Jordan. We ran away from Iraq to Syria. War seems to follow us!” The two friends told me nervously that there had been some disturbances at the other end of the neighborhood earlier in the day. They, of course, had stayed close to their homes.

Holding Out for a Laugh

Damascus, Syria
April 9, 2011

Dear Friends,

I want to laugh today. As the mystic Indian poet Kabir sang, “A whole body laugh, feeling God’s poke in the ribs.”

There is no lack of things that make me sad just thinking of them. An Iraqi man separated from his family for almost two years. The wife and four children left for the U.S. in June of 2009, but the father was denied on “credibility.” For what reason? I challenge anyone to try and get the Dept. of Homeland Security to release this information to the family. His little son in Michigan, now 4 ½ years, has long since forgotten his dad’s voice over the telephone. The family in the U.S. is trying another route to reunite the family, but the wait seems eternal. I hope to see the father tonight.

Dear Friends

April 4, 2011
By Cathy Breen
Dear Friends,

I arrived in Damascus a few days ago. There weren’t many cars crossing the border, so it was a relatively quick trip, and inexpensive (about 4 hrs. and $12.00). Friends living in Damascus had found me a room to rent in a house in the old city. There were four other boarders, all of them studying Arabic. Two of them are German women, in their 50s, who, sadly, will be leaving in a few days. One young fellow from the states left early today for Amman. On the occasions when I spoke with him he appeared quite nervous. He told me late last night that his mother really wanted him to get out of Syria for awhile.