It is like Relief Society -- Iraqi-style

Not many Mormon women don disguises in order to call on those they have been assigned to visit by the church's Relief Society.

They don't risk car bombs, dodge land mines or duck stray bullets either.

But their Iraqi counterparts sometimes do just that, and more, as they emulate the LDS Church's program for women-to-women outreach in individual homes -- all in an effort to bring hope and rebuild families.

"Doing our family visits, especially to widows, was very dangerous," Azhar Abdul Karem Al-Shakly, former minister of state for women affairs, said last week. "Security was bad."

Al-Shakly was in Utah with seven other Iraqi women for workshops on how to better their families, their communities and their future in a country with 2.5 million orphans and 3 million widows. They were guests of the nonprofit organization F.U.T.U.R.E, which stands for Families United Toward Universal Respect.

Launched in May 2006 by Fareed and Joan Betros, F.U.T.U.R.E in Iraq now involves some 400 women, who meet with as many as 2,000 others. Loosely modeled on the LDS Relief Society -- minus its Mormon content -- the Iraqi program has expanded to include elements of various religious traditions. It includes a three-tiered "visiting guide program," in which three women partner to meet with other families, then report to supervisors at local, district and national levels.

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