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Sports Programs

Iraqi Athletes Living in Jordan Beat Odds (report & video)

In contradiction to the idea that Iraq is permanently mired in religiously-based violence, a team of Iraqi refugees living in Amman, Jordan, are proving that faith is not an enemy to peace.

A soccer team of Shiite, Sunni, Christian, and Kurdish refugees from Iraq traveled outside the Middle East for the first time to compete at the Interreligious Peace Sports Festival (IPSF) in Asia. More than 1,500 athletes from 60 countries met in Asan, South Korea for the 2007 IPSF competition.

Ali Shahan, the team's coach, is himself a former member of the Iraqi National Soccer Team. Team captain, Dul Faqar, a Shiite, explains, "Our team has players from many different religious backgrounds."

"The true Iraq is not one of sectarian conflict," Faqar says. The team has garnered international notice as pioneers of what could be a post-war, peaceful Iraq.

Team member Ismir, who is a Sunni, explains, "Sport is beyond any religious difference. We go to this competition in Asia together to represent our country and we all hope to return to Iraq one day."

"Just as sports helped break racial and national barriers, it is now helping break religious barriers," explained John Gehring, International Director of IPSF, an event which highlights the proactive role that sports can play in genuine peace-building.

The Iraqis looked forward to representing their own country at this international competition from July 1-11, 2007, in Asan, South Korea.

A video news release on the Iraqi team, as well as information on IPSF can be seen at (video news release button is on the front page), and on youtube at:

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