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Springs churchgoers protest Iraq sanctions


Hundreds of Colorado Springs churchgoers added their voices Sunday to a growing chorus of protest over the death, disease and hardship that U.S. sanctions are imposing on the people of Iraq.

The sanctions, which were established in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War, have left Iraq's electrical, agricultural and industrial infrastructures ravaged.

Medicine, health treatment and food are in critically short supply. Up to two-thirds of the country's 22 million people are without clean water because treatment and sewage disposal plants are unable to get parts and equipment.

United Nations authorities and a variety of worldwide relief agencies report that more than 600,000 children and a million adults have died over the past nine years from malnutrition and preventable disease caused by the shortages.

Last Sunday, the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission and 15 local churches joined forces in a project to increase the religious community's awareness of the continuing bombing of Iraq.

Participating churches inserted information leaflets in their bulletins that included "myths and facts" about the embargo and statements from religious leaders around the world about the suffering it is causing. Worshipers were given an opportunity following services to sign cards calling for a halt to economic sanctions.

On Monday morning, PPJPC representatives delivered 770 cards to the Colorado Springs office of Sen. Wayne Allard, asking him to honor the human rights of the Iraqis and calling on the Colorado senator to assume moral leadership by setting up a public forum on the sanctions issue.

"We way underestimated our level of support and didn't print enough cards to go around," said commission spokesperson Susan Gordon during the presentation. "There were a lot more people wanting to sign cards than there were cards."

Allard was in Washington, D.C., and unavailable for comment. His press secretary, Sean Conway, said his boss doesn't dispute that innocent women and children are victimized by the sanctions.

"The senator strongly believes that we can best serve the people of Iraq in the long run by continuing sanctions in an effort to oust Hussein," Conway said. "If the sanctions were lifted, Hussein would be able to rebuild the army that attacked Kuwait and threatened its neighbors."

Gordon, who recently visited Iraq, says her group isn't seeking an end to military sanctions, however. "What we're calling for," she explained, "is an end to economic sanctions that have killed almost 5 percent of the Iraqi population. It's immoral to punish innocent people for the acts of a leader over whom they have no control."

Gordon said it was appropriate to launch the educational campaign on Mother's Day, giving Colorado Springs mothers a chance to express their solidarity with the mothers and children of Iraq.

"Mother's Day," she said, "was conceived during the Civil War by Julia Ward Howe as a way for mothers to speak out against violence. She envisioned the day as an opportunity for mothers to say they won't allow their sons to be trained to kill the sons of other mothers."

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