Dear Friends and Family,

Greetings in this mid-summer time. It is nice to be able to communicate more frequently now by e-mail, and feel more connected with you.

This past week we have spent time looking at apartments and homes to rent, and today settled on an apartment in the Karrada area, not far from the Al Dar Hotel where I lived much of the winter in Baghdad. So, when we move on Sun. it will be like coming back home for me. It is more of a residential neighborhood, and we already know many families and shopkeepers in the area. It is also considered a safer area, and people are freer in walking along the streets and shops are open in the evenings. Another big advantage is that we will be reducing the rent we pay by two thirds the price, which will help a lot. We will have less electricity (they only have a back up generator for limited times of the day).

We are expecting two more men to come and join the team in the next three weeks, so that will expand possibilities for our work.

Sun. we witnessed the launching of the new Governing Council in Iraq, 25 people handpicked by U.S. authorities, not chosen by the people of Iraq. There are many who find it a first step toward a more democratic, Iraqi controlled government, but we heard a lot of frustration and skepticism about it. It is made up of mostly people who support the presence of the U.S. here, and who will not really challenge the occupation. In the same way, our friend, Yanar, leader of the radical womenís organization I talked about in a recent article, was not invited to a national womenís conference, because her group did not endorse the occupation. The women allowed in were again ìhand pickedî by occupying authorities. And we are told this is supposed to be ìliberation.î People, here, say, ìunder Saddam Hussein we had little freedom of speech and political organization, and now under Bush we have the same!î or ìSaddam, no freedom, Bush, no freedom!î

Yesterday, American authorities were advising internationals to not go outside their homes, expecting there might be more violent acts on the streets. The 17th is the anniversary of Saddam Husseinís coming to power, and they were afraid that Baath party loyalists might use it for more violent resistance. We went out to several places we thought people might gather to protest, but didnít find anything unusual happening, and it turned out to be a fairly ordinary day on the streets.

Tues. we spent another day in Faluja, checking out the report we had heard that U.S. military had left the center of the city to base themselves all around the outskirts. We found out that this was only partially true. More have moved out, and there are less U.S. military at the governorís office, but they still have a definite presence there. At the mosque which had been bombed before our last visit, we found a rebuilt wall around the part of the building that had been destroyed. We visited in the home of a school principal, met another tribal Sheik and met a resident who asked us to help him find his brother who had been arrested a few days ago. We plan to go back next Tues., and for now, are just making day trips, for making contacts and learning about what is happening, and discerning what more we might be able to do. It is one of the areas of Iraq where the anger against the U.S. is increasing.

One gift this past week has been several invitations to visit and have meals in Iraqi peopleís homes. We have gotten to know more families, and they often introduce us to others, or take us to visit churches or other interesting places in their neighborhood. At a home in southern Baghdad on Wed. the owner showed us holes in tanks, a water pump and walls of their house made from fragments from a cluster bomb which exploded there in early April. Today we were in the home of a man we met when we visited Baghdad University about three weeks ago, a friend of one of our translators, Sattar. Maureen, our team member from Scotland received a half-joking marriage proposal from our friendís father, and we had fun with that. Our translator, Sattar, has adopted us as kind of his family, and he helped us find the apartment, and visit some interesting people and place.

Life here continues to be full and challenging. But even in the midst of so many problems, we find so many wonderful people who have been very gracious and welcoming and helpful to us and we are thankful for so many gifts. Love to you all, Peggy

Christian Peacemaker Teams is an initiative of the historic peace churches (Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, and Quakers) with support and membership from a range of Catholic and Protestant denominations.