Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Want to really fight terrorism?

Want to effectively fight terrorism? Do you think anyone that knows this little girl will ever become a suicide bomber?

A metaphor for the future

Christian group finds way to aid Iraqi girl with serious burns

04:47 PM CDT on Saturday, July 3, 2004

By RENA PEDERSON / The Dallas Morning News

It started when a distraught Iraqi dentist approached Dale Carnes, a member of the Blackwell private security company who was on patrol in April at an American compound near Baghdad.

The Iraqi man was desperate to get help for his 3-year-old daughter, Sara, who had third-degree burns over much of her body from a fire in her home. The burns were so severe that she was probably going to be seriously disfigured.

Mr. Carnes knew that the father was risking his life just by making contact with the U.S. personnel in Hillah, about 60 kilometers from Baghdad. "This man is literally willing to die to help his daughter," Mr. Carnes e-mailed his co-workers. "Truly there is no greater love than that."

Polish doctors in the international coalition evaluated the girl, saying she needed immediate surgery to decrease the heavy scarring. But no place in the region was capable of such a delicate procedure.

When calls reached Samaritan's Purse, a nonprofit evangelical Christian organization that provides aid to victims of war and poverty in more than 100 countries, the group agreed to help. Shriner's Hospital in Galveston, considered the best in the world at treating such burns, said it would treat the girl for free.

But how to get her out of Iraq at a time when every Iraqi was considered a possible threat by immigration officials? Calls and e-mails zipped back and forth from Texas to Washington to Baghdad. Could Sara fly out through Germany on a military plane? Nope. She would first have to travel all the way to Amman, Jordan, a dangerous day's drive, and wait in line like everyone else requesting a visa.

More weeks went by. More calls and e-mails ricocheted around the State Department and through the highest levels of the White House.

While the rest of the world was fixated on bombings and international summits with important men in suits, a determined little group of Americans kept insisting that the most powerful nation in the world must help a 40-pound girl.

"For the members of my team, Sara has kind of become a metaphor for the future of Iraq," Mr. Carnes wrote.

He said that the first week he was in Iraq, a translator told him that the best way to end the fighting and bring peace to the country was to start earning the trust and respect of the common Iraqi people. He felt compelled to do what he could.

The same translator later told him that the entire neighborhood around the Hillah compound was talking about how the Americans were pulling out the stops to help one Iraqi girl.

Last week, their efforts paid off. Sara Al-Humadi arrived in Galveston with her mother, Dr. Zainab M. Jafar, who is also a dentist. Wednesday morning young Sara had the first of a series of surgeries to repair her deeply scarred body. She may need to remain in Galveston for several months. That means she will celebrate her fourth birthday July 29 in the United States.

A Baptist church in Galveston recruited two families to host Sara, her mother and a translator. The church youth minister said Wednesday that when the call came in, "We said yes right away. And so they asked me, 'you realize these are Muslims, right?' and I said yes. And just to make sure there were no misunderstandings, they said, 'You realize these are Iraqis, right?' And I said, yes. This is about a child who needs help. It's about love."

Sara's story is also a testament to the frustration many Americans have felt as they watched the high-stakes struggle for the future of Iraq and wondered how they could help.

It's easier to come to the aid of one hurting child than to rebuild a ravaged country and subdue violent opposition. But it's a better vision for a future relationship than those painful prison photographs.


At 9:47 PM, Blogger jrl20 said...

Congratulations to Samaritan's Purse. At least somebody's got the right idea!


Post a Comment

<< Home