BY LUKE COPPEN
A PROMINI NI Catholic photographer will travel to Iraq next month to fulfill a promise to stand side by side with the country's Christians when war breaks out.
Carlos Reyes-Manzo, founder of the Londonbased Andes Press Agency, said he was prepared to risk his life documenting the sufferings of the people of Iraq.
"The people of Iraq are like us. They are our sisters, our brothers, our fathers, our mothers. That is why I am going," Mr ReyesManzo told The Catholic Herald this week.
The 58-year-old photographer said he had promised local people during a humanitarian visit to Iraq last October that he would return to their country if war broke out.
Mr Reyes-Manzo was there as part of a Caritas Internationalis humanitarian delegation to witness the suffering of the Iraqis. This week, the harrowing photographs he took during that visit go on display at a gallery in central London.
"The last night that I was there in Baghdad, the head of the Caritas Internationalis delegation asked if I would come back if war broke out," Mr ReyesManzo said.
"I said: 'Yes, as long as you invite me.'
"I believe in peace and there are a lot of people who are putting their life at risk.
"It's important to be able to document the suffering of this people."
Mr Reyes-Manzo said his October visit convinced him it was wrong for Britain and America to attack Iraq.
lie said he was afraid that the war would increase tensions between Christians and Muslims in the country, and lead to the deaths of many Chaldean Catholics.
He urged British Catholics opposed to the war to write to the Prime Minister to "tell him that the people of Iraq are like us".
Mr Reyes-Manzo, a husband and father of two children, said that although his family feared for his life, his wife and children understood why he had to go to the war zone.
"Nobody wants to see their father or mother go to a place like that," he said. "But they support me." • Mr Reyes-Manzo, who was born in Chile, was arrested by General Pinochet's forces in 1974 and spent two years in jail.
Over the past three decades since his release, he has worked in many of the world's danger zones, covering the bloody revolutions in Nicaragua and El Salvador, civil wars in Somalia and Bosnia and the conflict in Afghanistan.
"I have a wonderful guardian angel who takes care of me. If I didn't, I would already be dead," he said.
Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development, was expected to attend the launch of Mr Reyes-Manzo's exhibition of photographs on Tuesday evening.
Mr Reyes-Manzo said her visit would send out the message that she was worried about the fate of the Iraqi people.
"I think she's making a point by coming to the exhibition and that shows her concern about the people of Iraq," he said.
The purpose of the exhibition is "to show, in a very humane way, the people of Iraqi, a people who have been demonised for so many years," he explained.
Iraq: The People, a photographic exhibition by Carlos Reyes-Manzo, is at The Gallery, Foyles Bookshop, Charing Cross Road, London until March 4. The exhibition may be viewed between 9.30am and 8pm Monday-Fridays and 12pm-6pm on Sundays.
David Twiston Davies: Page 0