Shortly after the bombs started to fall on Baghdad during March 2003, three U.S. peacemakers—Reverend Weldon Nisly of Seattle Mennonite Church, Shane Claiborne of The Simple Way community in Philadelphia (a New Monasticism movement) and Indiana farmer Cliff Kindy—piled into a taxi along with South Korean pacifist Ba Sang-hyun and an Iraqi driver. Several hours west of Baghdad, racing for the Jordanian border with the wreckage all around them, their taxi crashed into a ditch. All were injured, with two of the Americans severely hurt. The nearest hospital, in the Sunni city of Rutba, was only six miles away. But the town and its hospital had been bombed.
What happened next—and before, after and even now nearly 10 years later—is the subject of The Gospel of Rutba: War, Peace and the Good Samaritan Story in Iraq. The book is published by Orbis Books, the book division of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. Veteran journalist Greg Barrett relates the story in parallel time, drawing on interviews, journals and photos while reporting about his own experiences. He returned to Iraq with the group during the chaotic aftermath of the war as they thanked the people who saved their lives.
Along the way, Mr. Barrett draws indelible portraits about the peacemakers, their friends and families. He writes about the soldiers, diplomats and bureaucrats. He also focuses on the Iraqi people, especially the people of Rutba. He offers an intense and unflinching look at what war means on the ground—and also the meaning of peace. The story captures human endurance and the universality of grace.
In the book’s Afterword, Shane Claiborne, one of the rescued peacemakers, an activist and the author of The Irresistible Revolution (Zondervan, 2006), writes: “The world has much to learn from Rutba, both her scars and her hope. . . . Now that the war in Iraq is over, history will tell how we remember it. I’m sure there will be all sorts of books on the war . . . But in the end I hope that history will also remember the story of this little town called Rutba.”