The most amazing thing happened a few days ago. My cousin, Pulitzer Prize nominee Greg Barrett, has been laboring over his new book since 2010 and it was just released. But here’s the surprise – he included the refrain from a reggae-style song by Lazar (my son, now of Tribal Frequencies, who hold the #1 spot locally in ReverbNation’s Alternative category) with a thank you to him and his father/musical partner/my husband in his acknowledgements!
…in the quiet and loneliness of that solitude, I was blessed with the companionship and soulful wisdom of two peace-loving musicians, Joel and Thomas West. Thank you for your music and the wakeup your lyrics provided whenever I felt too tired to keep writing and fighting for a more sane and humane world, for example:
Come on everybody, rise up like Lazarus;
Wake up from the dream that is not reality.
Those who are deceived stay inside the nightmare
That they believe, and they will never be free.
-Lazar, from the album Chants, Woes and Lamentations
Lazar’s in good company, with a Foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu (who also quotes Bono of U2) and Afterward by peace activist Shane Claiborne. Claiborne and fellow peace activist, three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Kathy Kelly, play major roles in The Gospel of Rutba: War, Peace, and the Good Samaritan Story in Iraq, a true story of people from the small desert town of Rutba, Iraq who saved the lives of three American peacemakers when a car wreck nearly killed them on their way out of the country, just days after the Shock and Awe campaign began in 2003 and despite the fact the Rutba General Hospital had been destroyed by bombs just 3 days before.
The people of Rutba never asked for anything in return, and when sending the Americans on their way, their hosts had only one request: Go and tell the world of Rutba. In fulfillment of that pledge, the peacemakers returned to Rutba in 2010 to thank the doctors and all who saved them, and to contribute to an ongoing process of peace, friendship, and reconciliation. Barrett joined them for this reunion, where he began the research that would become this book. Read the first chapter of this inspiring story about courage, compassion and enduring friendships forged against all odds at the book’s website: www.thegospelofrutba.com
In his Afterword, Shane Claiborne (author of The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, and one of the three peacemakers) describes the impact of this experience and its ongoing meaning:
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 Iraq war… But in the end, I hope that history will also remember the story of this little town called Rutba.
Greg is a twenty-year veteran of news correspondence for US wire services and newspapers. Prior to writing The Gospel of Father Joe: Revolutions and Revelations in the Slums of Bangkok, he was a print journalist working everywhere from small-town Loris, S.C. (earning less than $10,000 and squatting rent-free in a Myrtle Beach lifeguard house) to Augusta, GA., Rock Hill, S.C., Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Md., and, Honolulu, Hawaii (a haole reporting on Native Hawaiian Affairs and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his investigation into the Bishop Estate’s mismanagement of Kamehameha Schools).
In 2000, Barrett was a national correspondent in the Gannett News Service/USA Today Washington bureau when he was sent to Thailand to investigate human trafficking. It was in those reports that he met Father Joe Maier and saw his Mercy Centre orphanages and schools. Surprised by the magnanimous Bangkok charity that lit an otherwise dark corner of the world, Barrett returned five years later to find out why the poor, abandoned, abused, HIV-infected children at Father Joe’s charity hopped, skipped, whistled and played at a clip faster than the children in his own relatively affluent cul-de-sac near Washington, D.C. The Gospel of Father Joe became his first nonfiction book.
In 2003, Barrett reported from the streets of prewar Iraq during the buildup to the US-led invasion. Seven years later, he returned to Iraq with Shane Claiborne and several other peacemakers to tell the story of how Iraqi Good Samaritans in the rugged desert town of Rutba, Iraq had helped rescue Shane and two other Americans during the Shock & Awe bombing of March 2003. His latest book, The Gospel of Rutba: War, Peace, and the Good Samaritan Story in Iraq, has been available at Amazon.com since May 23, and is now available in bookstores, too.
I’m so proud of my talented family!
I would like to thank the book’s publisher Robert Ellsberg, son of whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and editor-in chief/publisher of Orbis Books, for taking Greg’s book under his wing and permitting his quote of Lazar’s lyric within its pages.