Iraqi Women of Three Generations

Challenges, Education, and Hopes for Peace

iraqiwomen200Images and Stories by Sister Martha Ann Kirk, Th.D.
and Sister Patricia Madigan, Ph.D.
With Introduction and Afterword by M.A. Kirk

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Trade paperback, 8½″ x 11″, 112 pages. $17.00
100 color photos; stories from 23 families
ISBN-13: 978-1502570734


Stories of Iraqi women’s resilience, courage, and compassion have wisdom which can encourage understanding and healing across cultures and religions. Six years after the 1988 massacres of more than 180,000 people in Northern Iraq, Turkish Muslims quietly began schools to give children hope and promote peace. The teachers were inspired by Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic scholar who encourages education which  builds diversity, justice, and peace.

Preview: Download the introduction to the book (PDF format)



Sister Martha Ann Kirk, CCVI, (above, right) a professor in the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, has received a number of peacemaking awards for her work building understanding and bridges between religious and cultural groups. She and the Incarnate Word Sisters were declared the 2013 San Antonio Peace Laureate by the peaceCENTER.  Among her publications are  Growing Seeds of Peace and Healing and Hope  (both available from and Women of Bible Lands: A Pilgrimage to Compassion and Wisdom (  which has sites from a dozen countries and the history of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim women associated with them. She frequently leads students on study tours helping to build cross-cultural relations. She was a scholar in-residence at Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem. She holds a Th.D. in Theology and the Arts from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA; an M.A. in Religion from Fordham University; and an M.A. in Art Education from the University of New Mexico. She is a Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word of San Antonio, Texas.

Sister Patricia Madigan, OP, (above, left) is the director of CIMER, the Dominican Centre for Interfaith, Ministry, Education and Research, which engages with communities of people of other faiths, and contributes to mutual understanding and social cohesiveness in Australian society. The centre especially focuses on women’s roles, participation, and contributions. Between 2004 and 2012 she has been an Australian delegate at five inter-governmental conferences of the Asia-Pacific Regional Interfaith Dialogue. Dr. Madigan completed her studies in ecumenical and interfaith dialog at Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem, the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin, and Harvard Divinity School, where she specialized in Christian-Muslim relations. She was awarded her Ph.D. in the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Sydney. She has written Women and Fundamentalism in Islam and Catholicism, Negotiating Modernity in the Globalized World (Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2011) which takes a theological-historical approach to understanding the complex relationships among gender, religion, economics and politics in the global context, with particular reference to Islam and Catholicism. She has worked on research projects with the Australian Human Rights Commission, the  Australian Women’s Coalition (AWC), the Gϋlen Institute, Macquarie University Law School and the National Office for the Participation of Women (OPW) of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference. She is currently serving on the Leadership Team of the Dominican Sisters of Eastern Australia and the Solomon Islands.


“This book provides many life lessons for all members of the human family. It imparts basic wisdom passed down from generations–love your family, be kind to others, do charitable acts, respect people and their differences.  Through   conversations between grandmothers, mothers and daughters, the authors provide powerful teachings about the  heartaches and hardships that families endured during the political turmoil in Iraq as well as the  formidable resiliency in humans to overcome suffering and loss.  As I engaged with the text, I revisited the political events I read about a while back in the newspapers or watched on TV, because I was now putting a human face with the atrocities committed against humanity such as chemical warfare, political repression, terrorism, discrimination and violence. These multi-generational talks shed light on the importance of education, but most importantly, on having teachers who care about social justice. These teachers care about imparting academic knowledge and using it to change the world.  It is also important that students learn to care about the human  condition.
“I was reminded of a speech that  Sargent Shriver,  director of  the Peace Corp made in 1981 at a twentieth anniversary reunion of volunteers:  ‘The cure is care. Caring for others is the practice of peace. Caring becomes as important as curing. Caring produces the cure, not the reverse.  Caring about nuclear war and its victims is the beginning of a cure for our obsession with  war. Peace does not come through strength. Quite the opposite. Strength comes through peace.  The practices of peace strengthen us for every vicissitude. The task is immense!’”  This book is a must read for anyone who wants to learn about social justice and the power of caring through education.”
— Irasema Coronado, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation

“This book is clearly a labor of love—but not in the conventional sense. There’s little doubt that the subject of the book is of great importance to the authors. But this work is a labor of love in a much deeper sense: it is the fruit of the mutual love, respect, and trust shared between two Catholic women religious animated by faith, hope, and a passion for justice, and the three generations of Iraqi women animated by the very same spirit. The voices and stories heard in this book are a rich reward for those who take peace-building and reconciliation seriously enough to turn away—if only for a short time—from mass media coverage of  ‘Muslims and the Middle East,’ and spend some time attending to the truth they contain.”
— Scott C. Alexander, Ph.D.Director of Catholic-Muslim Studies,  Catholic Theological Union, Chicago

“The stories of the three generations of women in this wonderful book are in the realm of sacred stories. They are  stories of extraordinary transformation in the midst of unimaginable hardship. From the vision for education held by women who had been denied this to the determination of women to pursue education, these are stories of ‘remarkable resourcefulness and sheer courage. Woven throughout all of these women’s stories is a persistent vision of hope and peace. In the words of Ela Bhatt, ‘peace is about the ordinariness of life . . . and that is what women do.’ Through their stories, these Iraqi women offer us a bridge into experiences that many of us will never know and teach us through their courage about what it can mean to change what we do with our lives.”
— Gail Gill, Chairperson of the Council for Women, Catholic Diocese of Broken Bay (Sydney, Australia)