On May 29, 2003, a group of American peacemakers left Baghdad for Amman, Jordan. In the middle of the desert, they blew a tire and flipped into the ditch, injuring several of the passengers. Weldon Nisly, a Mennonite pastor from Seattle, was one of those injured. He recalls what happened next: “Some Iraqi men in a car speeding the other direction saw us and stopped to help us while U.S. bombers flew overhead. These Good Samaritans quickly put us in their car and took us to a small clinic in Rutba, where an Iraqi doctor and his medical team treated us.
The Americans were in Iraq with the goal of “getting in the way of war.” Weldon says, “We wanted to help the world see the war through Iraqi eyes.” The medical care given by the people of Rutba, a dusty town in western Iraq, did both: their story of generosity is now the subject of an upcoming book and film, called “The Gospel of Rutba,” and their actions “got in the way” of the discourse of the Iraq War. Theirs is an alternative story involving Iraqis and Americans working for peace.
The Americans who were treated by the people of Rutba—Weldon, Shane Claiborne, Cliff Kindy, and others—were deeply moved. Besides working on a film and book, Shane Claiborne and “The Simple Way” raised money to purchase 12 chlorine generators for Rutba, a town with little access to clean water. In May of this year, Sami Rasouli, Director of the Muslim Peacemaker Teams, traveled to Rutba to deliver the chlorine generators. Sami reports that the people of Rutba were happy and grateful for the gift of friendship.
After driving the seven hours from Najaf, a predominantly Shiite town in Iraq, to Rutba, a Sunni town, Sami was welcomed and hosted by local citizens and Mayor ...