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March 2, 2013

Journalist will tell how kindness turned up amid war

Author will describe how Iraqis helped out three Americans hurt in a car crash.

Nine days into America’s “shock and awe” bombing of Iraq, a taxi crashed in the desert, and love appeared.

A Christian love of fellow man, the three injured Americans in that ditch would say.

A Muslim love to the truckload of Iraqis who found them, and to the Iraqi medical team in nearby Rutba that saved their lives three days after U.S. bombs had destroyed the only public hospital around for nearly 200 miles.

Journalist Greg Barrett has dubbed it “The Gospel of Rutba: War, Peace and the Good Samaritan Story in Iraq.”

As the 10th anniversary of the war approaches, Barrett’s book is telling Americans how much they have in common with the Iraqi people.

And Barrett will recount the story today in Kansas City. He is scheduled to speak at 5 p.m. at AIA Kansas City Event Center, 1801 McGee St., as a guest of Peace Christian Church in Overland Park.

“Basically, we’re all under the same blue sky,” Barrett said in an interview Saturday.

Barrett, who had reported in Iraq in 2003 “to put a face on this war,” accompanied those rescued American civilians when they returned to the ditch and to Rutba in 2010 to say thank you.

Even seven years later, Rutba was no safe house for Americans. The group was warned at the Jordanian border that they likely would be kidnapped or killed.

“At that point, frankly, I wanted to turn around,” Barrett said.

Instead, the Americans were “hosted like family,” he said.

The Rutba mayor, acknowledging the danger, lent his security detail.

“It was like (President Barack) Obama and (Vice President Joe) Biden going out for a hamburger everywhere we went,” Barrett said.

And these were Iraqis who had not seen an unarmed American since helping Christian author Shane Claiborne, Christian Peacemaker Teams member Cliff Kindy and volunteer Weldon Nisly seven years earlier.

Understandably, the Iraqis hadn’t expected their visit, especially just to express some gratitude.

“You are acting like very good Muslims, only without the daily prayer,” they said, according to Barrett.

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