These people staff our field-based violence reduction projects. They commit to full-time or part-time work for three years.
CPT's "staff," this group is generally based in our offices. They also serve on our violence reduction teams in the field.
This body functions as the board of directors and has general oversite of CPT's programs and operations.
CPT is upheld by a sea of support: churches, organizations, individuals, meetings, fellowships, foundations, etc. CPT could not exist without this network of support. Thank you!
We honor CPTers who have passed-on, joining the Great Cloud of Witnesses.....
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-3 NRSV
Parting with Sister Anne Montgomery
Anne Montgomery died yesterday. I remember her words to me and to our young Iraqi friend Eva, sitting in the Al Monzer hotel in Amman, Jordan. This was in 2006, and she’d waited three weeks for a visa to enter Iraq as a peace witness. Anne had crossed into zones of conflict more times than any other activist I’d known. During these weeks with us, she’d been meeting and working with Iraqi refugees, many of them undocumented and struggling to eke out a living in Jordan.
Now the wait was over. The visas were not forthcoming, and Anne had decided she was needed most in the Palestinian West Bank city of Hebron, where the Christian Peacemaker Team — at that point, she had been a “CPT-er” for 11 years — was particularly short staffed and had requested a month of her time. She was going to attempt the crossing from Jordan into Israel by taxi, since Israel could very well have refused her entry, and we were to save a bed for her. But for the moment, we treasured the chance to learn from her in case this was a parting.
It was, and a greater parting has now come, so I take comfort in her words, and rededicate myself to taking direction from them.
I asked Anne about one of her contemporaries, Barbara Deming, who had been active in the movements for civil rights, women’s equality and an end to the Vietnam War. While acknowledging that to succeed peace activists must become “many more than we are now,” Deming had nonetheless insisted that activists must joyfully and determinedly engage in what she termed “the further invention of nonviolence.” So I asked Anne for her recommendations about inventiveness and nonviolence. She said:
I think this has always been a big question because we need to be creative and not always reactive … I felt it in Palestine when the wall was being built there between Israel and the West Bank. We waited too long. It’s important to get there before it happens. To see something coming and not have to repeat the crisis … to try to dissolve the crisis before it happens.
Of course, you can’t always repeat what you’ve done before. When I joined CPT, I’d spent 10 years doing Plowshares work. I thought, “Maybe we should try something new.” What surprised me was that young people kept coming along and joining in the Plowshares actions. They were thinking of their own creative way of doing actions. They took this idea, this spirit, and found out where it fit in the issue that concerned them — their campaign to close a spy station or an airstrip or whichever nuclear or conventional war threat they faced. I think that creativity is very important.
It’s also important not to look for immediate effectiveness, thinking it’s got to work and we’ve got to see the results, or it’s no good. Massive marches against U.S. immigration law have taken place, recently, in many places. These laws cause horrible death and destruction, and the mass marches have really affected the government. The same happened with the Vietnam War. Sometimes it’s very appropriate to have massive marches. But consistency is also needed even in doing small things.
Eva asked Anne what she meant by small things. She responded:
Well, I’m thinking of small groups. I’m thinking of our two friends who just came out of Baghdad. When they [both CPT members] left last week, people were crying because CPT was the one group that had stayed. Consistency is terribly important. If it’s the right thing to do, keep doing it.
In December I walked with a group of 25 people to the furthest gate we could reach near to Guantanamo. It was a tremendous experience that went on for 10 days.
But you can’t just go home and leave it. Now people have met and drawn people from the wider community. Something will happen as a next step. I think it’s important to be able to do something and not give up. You’ve done the right thing. If it changes ourselves and the people we know and the people we work with, then it makes a bit of a difference. I think there is hope on college campuses. I was in Baltimore for several weeks with the peace community, Jonah House. They bring college students in to help with work on the grounds and learn about different aspects of peacemaking. You pray, think and reflect together. You come to these gatherings from some deep place inside yourself. You’re inspired by something. You don’t focus just on prayer, reflecting on a book…you go out and find some action that needs to be done. Some ongoing work that builds peace.
It happens, person-to-person, community-to-community, and then networking begins. We have a network of people now — the Atlantic Life Community — who meet from Maine to Florida, from time to time. Many find their community in these gatherings. You gain a sense that you’re not alone, that you’re helping build a community. We commit ourselves to a disarmament action together at least once a year. There’s not much structure … Instead, we say we are responsible for our way of life, and for far more than one action with no follow-up.
In the 1970s, working in schools run by her religious community, the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Anne contributed to antiwar work mostly by encouraging her students to ask questions as she taught them their English, history and philosophy classes. After three decades of teaching mainly in private schools, she felt intensely aware of the poverty that she called “the other side of New York City,” and asked to begin working in a “street academy” with disadvantaged students.
The street academy had been intended to draw students back to school that were dropouts. “They taught me a lot about where government money was not going,” said Anne. “They didn’t even care about voting because it wasn’t doing them any good. Some of them joined the army just to get off the streets.”
As her activism expanded in scope, Anne continued learning from people who lived in the “mean streets” at home and abroad, in places where people don’t have a stake in the economic benefits of their society. She was punished with lengthy imprisonments for participating in Plowshares actions. She’d spoken with people in the open-air prisons of Central American dictatorships, joining in faith-based actions to help them free themselves. And she’d listened to and learned from the conditions on streets that were being bombed and in neighborhoods — in Sarajevo, Hebron and Baghdad — where sniper shots and mortar explosions were common.
Having personally watched Anne map out routes in large and sometimes hostile cities, covering long distances on foot, I had grown to fiercely admire her ability to chart courses. During that meeting in 2006, I asked her if she could discern any patterns from her decades of peace team work for activists like me to follow.
She said the pattern was first, forming communities, and second, thinking carefully about means and ends: not trying to sustain a difficult life of activism on one’s own, and always insisting that the means you employ determine the ends you arrive at. Anne explained:
It’s not just a matter of blocking doors, shouting, doing a Plowshares action or whatever, but in every aspect it’s nonviolent, and not just resisting but doing it peacefully. One person said you use two hands: with one hand you say no but with the other hand you say come join us, be part of us. And two feet: with one foot you do charity work but the other foot is the foot of justice. You try to see what’s behind the injustice, the hunger, and work to change it.
There’s also the call for people to intervene nonviolently and take the same risk as soldiers. CPT founders, Dan Berrigan and others have issued this call. Many groups do this type of work. They take a risk and say there’s a third way. You’re not limited to making war or giving in. You can resist nonviolently and be in a place to protect people nonviolently.
In every case, there is an oppressor and those who are oppressed. Structural violence must be understood, along with the consequences of combat and attacks with weapons. It’s important to get at that structural violence and tell the truth about it.
In Sarajevo, the U.N. peacekeepers were running around in tanks with bulletproof vests and guns. We didn’t do that. We tried to live alongside people and understand their situation. We were running around in shorts and T-shirts, right along with them, trying to find water.
In Mostar, I remember that some soldiers would sit in their tanks and talk to people. They really did try to have some kind of relationship, but they were still in their tanks. They were not disarmed. Soldiers in Iraq ask us, “What are you doing outside without a gun?” We say, “We’re safer this way.” Some soldiers tell us, “Maybe you’re right!”
I asked how her religious faith affected her efforts for progressive change and nonviolent direct action.
“I admire people like Camus who claim to be atheists,” said Anne, her eyes alight with sincere appreciation for one of her favorite philosophers.
He worked for progress and change and made a tremendous commitment without having what faith gives us by way of strength, hope and nourishment. For me, the sacraments give a sense of the sacredness of earth. The Eucharist is very important to me.
When a group forms based on faith and has the sense of the spirit of God working on the Earth and in people, it gives a great strength. And you don’t worry so much about results. If we believe in planting seeds, and if we act in that spirit, it helps even when you feel like you’re useless.
When people can relate to each other by praying together, you get to know them better. Little irritations aren’t so great because you see what’s important and deep in people. It helps give community and strength and spirit. When something happens like Tom’s death, we turn to faith. [Tom Fox, a Christian Peacemaker Team member, was taken hostage in Iraq and (unlike his three surviving colleagues) killed by his captors in 2006.]
Faith helps when you are in prison. People come. A little group forms. People look for that kind of strength, when they’ve been isolated and abused.
Eva had been wondering, even before our conversation, how Anne overcomes fear, in the face of risks like that Tom Fox had taken. Anne was characteristically matter-of-fact in her answer.
My nature in crisis is to become more directive. I don’t feel that much fear. It doesn’t agitate me terribly. You suddenly come up against a tank with the guns pointed at you and stop. I don’t freeze. I begin to think at that moment.
There are times when I have been afraid, for instance, when I’m alone in a strange city in the dark. I was mugged in Palestine, and there wasn’t much I could do except struggle. The people who mugged me grew afraid and ran off. When soldiers are charging at you, and there’s a sudden decision to be made, I can still think and figure out whether it’s best to sit there or move to the side. It’s in my nature. It’s not courage; it’s the way I react.
My fears are more in the line of hating to argue with people. For example, I don’t like to argue with Jewish settlers. But sometimes if you stick with such an argument, you find out how hurt they are that they lost a son or experienced a trauma. But I hide behind the banners at demonstrations; it comes from being shy.
Dan Berrigan knows he can’t go to prison for a long stretch, but every time our peace group in New York City is sitting in at the Intrepid or a recruitment station, he’s there. Sitting in a jail cell for six hours is tough on him, but he’s there. He reaches out to people through poetry, through teaching, through giving retreats.
We stood against the sanctions, we stood against the war. What do we do now? We must keep thinking out the next stage, even though it didn’t go quite right with the stage before.
Eva told Anne how much she admired her. Anne gave a slight shrug and an endearing smile. “It’s important to be consistent and not to give up.”
Michele Naar-Obed - Duluth CW
It wasn't that long ago that I wrote that I didn't believe in heroes. Heroes, like saints, have been sanitized, whitewashed, sensationalized and put up on some unattainable pedestal where the rest of us are not supposed to go. So I guess it's those kinds of heroes and saints that I can't believe in.
Anne is both a hero and a saint. It was obvious that she lived her life according to the will of God. She lived, breathed and acted out of faith and with the belief that all life is sacred and filled with the Divine. That's how I knew and remember Anne. She never judged you for what you did or didn't do. She only encouraged you to be and do all that you could in accordance with God's will for you., Anne was part of the support team for my first plowshare action. Her wisdom and surety that these actions were God inspired and Spirit led was the best support in the world. One never knows how the beast will react when exposed and confronted so the support that I got from Anne was to lean on God and the Holy Spirit to know how to carry on.
Later on Anne joined Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). I was confused because I couldn't see the connection to the call to do plowshare actions. She came to Jonah House to talk about CPT and to articulate how it would impact both the empire and the beloved community. The best thing it had going for it that I could see at the time was that it (CPT) too, was God inspired and Spirit led and Anne believed in it.
Like plowshare actions, CPT actions and attempts seemed insignificant and meaningless against the monsters of war, greed, corruption, and all the other markings of the beast. But Anne perservered dedicating the next several years of her life to living in war zones, standing and walking forward with the victims and bolstering those victims up into nonviolent warriors. More so, she opened the door for us inheritors of the empire to learm from those victims how to be nonviolent warriors in this new beloved community that is God inspired and Spirit led.
In 2002, after participating in a second plowshare action, I too heard the call to join CPT in part because of Anne's example. I went to Iraq just months before the 2003 attack and invasion. It was a political and military mess of a nation but underneath all that mess were the lives that were still filled with the Light of the Divine that Anne and other CPTers held on to, even to the point of watching the Light extinguish.
Our team, of which Anne was a part, drove down to Basra from Baghdad to visit a hospital where the cancer rate in children had increased by 300% due to the use of depleted uranium weapons in the 1991 Gulf war. Anne had been at this hospital many times. A doctor began to explain probably for the hundreth time what was happening to her patients and she began to lose it. Out of frustration and sorrow she started yelling at us that we weren't doing enough to stop the beast of war. She looked at Anne and said, "You've been here many times and nothing changes. You are not doing enough". I started to say something and Anne motioned for me to be quiet. Later I explained to Anne that I wanted to tell the doctor that people were demonstrating, going to jail and offering their lives and freedom trying to resist war and all its preparations. I wanted to tell the doctor that Anne was one of those people, that she's hammered on nose cones and nuclear submarines. What more did you want her to do, I wanted to say to that doctor. None of that mattered to Anne. She knew the doctor needed to vent and she knew the doctor didn't need to know about all our attempts at resisting war. God knew and that was enough.
Driving back to Baghdad, one of the vehicles that I was in blew a tire, flipped many times and slid upside down into the desert sand. The person sitting next to me had his skull crushed and was found yards from the vehicle. The rest of us were injured to varying degrees. We were piled in another vehicle and driven back to Basra to the hospital. I had a broken nose and some contusions. Anne held me and another man that had broken vertabrae. I remember her saying that I would be okay because I was stubborn and had a hard head. She was right.
Many people wanted me to go home after that accident. Anne encouraged me to follow God and the Holy Spirit. I stayed and over these years have spent about 3 years total in Iraq with CPT. Much of that time has been spent in the Kurdish north of Iraq with villagers who are caught in the web of political and military war. I tried to practice what Anne taught me.
Just before Anne's death and within months of her release from prison for her last plowshare action, my husband Greg, Sr. Megan Rice and Michael Walli enacted the "Transform Now" plowshare at the Y-12 uranium storage and enrichment plant in Oakridge Tennessee. It was an action that has deeply touched the empire's nerve of corruption and the beast is lashing out.
I support that action and all the actions that have gone before it and all those that will come after it because they are God inspired and Spirit led. I am trying to practice being the kind of support that Anne taught me. I believe, really believe, that Anne, together with Elmer and Phil, are with it on a different dimension, closer to God and the Holy Spirit. Anne is now part of the communion of Saints and cloud of witnesses who without judgement or ego will help those of us left on earth to carry out God's hope and will for us as God's people.
Thank you Anne for all that you have done and all that you will continue to do from your new "home". I'll miss you in this home and hope that when my time comes, you will invite me to your new place. Do you have coffee and bagels?!
by CPTer Dianne Roe
Art Gish and I served together on Christian Peacemaker Teams’ (CPT) Palestine Project for more than a decade starting in 1996.
Saint Peter must be having quite a time dealing with Art Gish at the gates. Art knows gates and has been known to take them down. I can hear him saying, 'I won't pass through these gates until I know that the rest of these people can pass through.'
Art was a radical Christian who practiced radical love and radical hospitality. When Jesus sent forth the seventy in pairs (Matthew 10:1-11) they carried no purse, no bag, and no extra sandals. That was how Art traveled and that was why he felt so liberated. Israeli soldiers warned him that it was not safe to enter the Old City of Hebron. Art replied, "For you it is not safe because you are carrying a gun. For me it is safe. I have no weapons."
When Art and I traveled together, I was the one with the video camera. Powerful storytelling like Art’s and the video documentation enabled us to shine light on human rights abuses and show the human face of the Palestinian situation. I was hiding behind the camera. But Art didn’t hesitate to engage in the frontline enemy-loving, truth-telling. Art was a hands-on peacemaker with his eyes on the prize and his hands and feet in the dirt. He walked the walk, without an extra pair of sandals, whether in the Hebron hills or the gentler slopes of Athens, Ohio.
This morning I started to throw out onions that had turned soft. Then I remembered Art carrying organic waste from Hebron's Old City to the Jaber farmlands in the Al Beqa’a Valley where it nurtured the soil. I took the spoiled onions and started the Art Gish Memorial Compost Pile.
Art must have been devastated to learn recently that the Israeli army destroyed the irrigation pipes and tomato crop of Palestinians in the Al Beqa’a Valley, where he had brought compost to both the fields and the non-violence movement. But he knew the soldiers could not destroy the relationships formed when Israelis like Amos Gvirtz, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, and Jeff Halper joined to stop the demolitions. Such solidarity consecrates holy ground.
Art’s Hebron Journal was published in 2001. But soon he was bragging about "a much better book," He proudly showed usPeggy Gish's Iraq: a Journey of Hope and Peace . Both Art and Peggy knew what they were risking and they gave each other courage.
There s a CPT compost pile we add to. We don't know what peace our collective garbage will nourish. We do know that crop rotation is a good thing and conflict is holy ground ready to be transformed. Art Gish lived his life seeking to transform conflict and to sanctify the ground.
Art was frequently referred to as "Jabber" by some Palestinian communities
Dear Peggy, Art's children, and CPT,
We were very sad to hear the news from CPT that "Jabber" was killed in a tractor accident. We asked the CPT team in At-Tuwani to send this letter to you on our behalf to express our condolences and our respect for Jabber.
Jabber spent much time with our families, visiting us and working with us. We appreciated his interest in who we are, our way of life, and the struggles we face. Several of us also had the opportunity to meet Peggy three years ago in the summer when she worked with CPT in At-Tuwani. We respected the commitment of both Jabber and Peggy in working towards bringing justice and peace to the people in Palestine and Iraq.
We will not forget Jabber. Allah yirhamo (May God have mercy on him).
The people of At-Tuwani, Bier al-Eid, Ar Rakis, Muggara, Tuba, Susiya and Jinba
15 February 2011
CHICAGO: Remembering Claire Evans
[Note: CPTer Claire Evans died on the morning of 9 February 2012, five weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She spent her last days with her twin sister, Sue, in Lansing, Michigan.]
Claire Evans was not the most public personality in the wider CPT organization, but she was one of its most influential workers. As the Delegations Coordinator, she was often the first person that people who were interested in exploring involvement with CPT met. Her handling of finances brought her into contact with all of the full-time CPTers who submitted their expenses to her. Her commitment to Undoing Oppressions within CPT changed not only how delegations were conducted, but also how support team and all the teams in the field functioned. CPT Reservist Jerry Stein wrote of her, “She epitomized for me, as I was entering the CPT world, what a member could be and become…”
Before joining CPT in 1998, Claire was a member of four Catholic Worker communities in Norfolk, VA, Duluth and Moorhead, MN and Bloomington, IL. She was also librarian at New Moon Publishing, Bread for the World, the Congressional Quarterly, University of Maryland, and Gallaudet University. During her years with Christian Peacemaker Teams, she served on projects in Chiapas, Mexico, and Palestine, Iraq and with Indigenous peoples in Northern Ontario.
Tributes pouring in have praised her quiet wisdom, her integrity, her competence, her steadfastness, her caring heart, generosity, and hospitality. But variations on the word “passion” occur most often. In recent years, much of that passion was directed toward Undoing Oppressions within CPT, to make the organization a welcoming place for people whom society marginalizes. She scrutinized her own life for unearned privileges, and voraciously read every book she could get on the topic. In the introduction to a reflection about her occupation of land in Chicago that once belonged to the Miami and Potawatomi Nations, she wrote:
In the process of researching and writing the following piece, I more than once thought that my role as a white settler should be asking questions rather than presuming to speak with authority on the topic. How differently would the Miamis and Potawatomis describe the movement of their own people? Have there been any efforts by First Nations people to reclaim land in Chicago? Could I just not find any evidence of it because of the limitations of internet searching? It is not even clear to me whether the Miamis or the French explorers decided to name the area for the wild onion! It is in the spirit of questioning, rather than providing answers, that I submit this small attempt to raise my own and other's consciousness of the land on which we live.
Claire took charge of seeing that important CPT publications and notes were translated into Spanish, and several CPTers who had experienced discrimination both within CPT and in larger society have said they could rely on her to be their ally. Any CPTer with unearned privileges who spent time with Claire could expect at some point a thoughtful challenge to his or her oppressive behaviors.
But her warm soprano speaking voice would soar up an octave more often in amusement and pleasure than in anger or judgment. Adriana Cabrera Velasquez wrote about Claire jumping for joy after getting the autograph of 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate Leyma Gbowee. She reported to Cabrera afterwards, "It is not every day that you get your thing signed by a saint."
If saints can live and walk among us, then too, can members of the Cloud of Witnesses referred to in Hebrews 12. Claire was part of that cloud during her life, bearing witness to the power of Christ’s love, the power of nonviolence, the power of people to repent and lay aside their sins of oppression and domination. And now she has become more completely enveloped in that Cloud.
At the end of several of her fundraising letters, Claire wrote, “Peacemaking is too big an undertaking for any of us to do alone, and I carry you with me on my journey!”
Those of us who worked with Claire thank her for taking us this far and look forward to hearing more about the journey she is on now when we meet her among the rest of the Witnesses in the life to come.
Former Reservist Esther Ho passed away August 20, 2010. She served in the early years of the projects in Hebron, Palestine and Chiapas, Mexico.
11 March 2010
FORT FRANCES, ONTARIO: Gene Stoltzfus 1940-2010 – PRESENTE!
Wednesday, 10 March, Christian Peacemaker Team’s founding director Gene Stoltzfus died in Fort Frances, Ontario when his heart stopped while he was bicycling near his home on the first spring-like day of the year. He is survived by his wife Dorothy Friesen and many peacemakers who stand on the broad shoulders of his 70 years of creative action.
Gene was at the heart of those who planted and nurtured the vision for teams of peacemakers partnering with local communities in conflict zones to build justice and lasting peace which has grown into CPT. Gene played a key roles in CPT's founding gathering of Christian activists, theologians and other Church leaders at Techny Towers outside Chicago, IL in 1986.
Two years later Gene became the first staff person of the newly formed organization and continued as CPT's director for the next 16 years. In the early years, Gene and CPT’s Steering Committee experimented with various approaches to activate faith-grounded peacemaking. Through the early 90s, Gene gave leadership to solidifying the vision and practice of sustained teamwork in situations of lethal conflict. During the late 90s and early 2000s, he guided CPT through its growth and maturation as an organization supporting nonviolent action around the world.
After Gene retired from CPT in 2004 he continued his Christian peacemaking through nonviolent action, speaking and organizing in the USA, Canada and around the world. He also spent considerable time in Fort Frances with Dorothy, where he wrote regular blog entries, worked for right relations with First Nations communities, and took up creative artisan endeavors making furniture and jewelry with wood, twigs and other objects from the woods near his home.
You can read a longer biography of Gene at http://www.cpt.org/speakers/gene_stoltzfus
The closing paragraph of Gene’s final post on his blog (http://peaceprobe.wordpress.com/) is an expression of his conviction and hope:
“Every one of us is impacted by a dominant culture which insists that military or police force will make things right. Every day, that culture tells us that dirty tricks, usually done in secret, are required for our survival. After all, it’s argued, someone has to do this dirty work. It’s called a noble work and the Blackwater mercenaries are required for the work. It will take an expanding world-wide but grassroots culture reaching beyond national borders to fashion a body of Christian peacemakers to be an effective power to block the guns and be part of transforming each impending tragedy of war. Little by little there will be change.”
Gene Stoltzfus (1940-2010) was the Director of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) from its founding in 1988 until 2004.
Gene traveled to Iraq immediately before the first Gulf War in 1991 and spent time with the Iraq CPT Team in 2003 to facilitate consultation with Muslim and Christian clerics, Iraqi human rights leaders, families of Iraqi detainees and talking with American administrators and soldiers. The Team's work contributed to the disclosures around Abu Ghraib that gave impetus to the still tentative, worldwide movement for military forces to attend to the rights and protection of civilians.
From mid-December 2001 to mid-January 2002, Gene and current CPT Co-Director, Doug Pritchard, were in Pakistan and Afghanistan listening to the victims of bombing and observing the effects of 23 years of violence -- much of it fed by forces from outside Afghanistan. "Where have you been all these years?" asked an Afghan leader who articulated the voices of others around the globe.
Gene's commitment to peacemaking was rooted in his Christian faith and experience in Vietnam as a conscientious objector with International Voluntary Services during the US military escalation (1963-68). He recalled watching the helicopters personnel unload their cargo of bloodied bodies. This experience set him "on the search to make sense of life and death where the terms of survival, meaning and culture approve and even train for killing." Gene had to ask himself: Was I willing to die for my conviction of enemy loving just as Vietnamese and American soldiers all around me were being asked to give their lives in order to achieve peace and security?
In the early 1970's Stoltzfus directed a domestic Mennonite Voluntary Service program with a view to engaging with the social justice and peacemaking needs of that day and recognized then the enormous importance of local, disciplined, trained community and congregationally based peacemaking efforts. In the late 1970's, he and his wife co-directed the Mennonite Central Committee program in the Philippines during President Marcos' martial law era focusing it on human rights and economic justice; and then they went on to help establish Synapses, a grassroots international peace and justice organization in Chicago to connect the United States and people in the developing world.
Gene Stoltzfus grew up in Aurora, then a rural town in Northeast Ohio where his parents gave leadership in a Mennonite Church and his father was the pastor. He graduated in Sociology from Goshen College in Indiana and held an M.A. in South and Southeast Asian Studies from American University (Washington D. C.) and a Master of Divinity from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries in Elkhart, Indiana.
He was married to Dorothy Friesen of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. They lived in Chicago for 25 years until his retirement to Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada. After retiring from CPT, he traveled widely to speaking engagements, blogged regularly at Peace Probe at http://peaceprobe.wordpress.com/ and made twig furniture and jewelry as a contribution to the greening world.
Gene passed away on March 10, 2010.
Gene's speaker information is preserved here for archival purposes:
Gene spoke on the following topics:
1. Does Nonviolence Work in this Century?
How do we structure our lives of faith to give nonviolence the best chance in the years ahead?
The past century was the most violent in our common history however a sub theme was the emerging, rediscovery of nonviolence by Gandhi, King and the rest of us in the east & west, north & south-peace education and mediation efforts now span the globe. While in former times it might have been laughed off or marginalised, the emerging culture of non-violence-or at the least curiosity about its content and effectiveness-create conditions where learning, action, organizing and active peacemaking has a chance. This window of opportunity deserves our critical attention, able reflection and competent preparation. It needs the talents that each of us bring to the table
2. Where is God when Violence Breaks Out?
How can organized peacemaking efforts be taken to the heart of violence or war in the coming decades? People are forced to think hard about the meaning of their lives because war forces decisions. War can create the context where some soldiers begin to think about God while civilian victims question the faithfulness of God. In this context nonviolence can be particularly powerful in word, action, consistent strategy and symbol. Prayer and worship take on fresh meaning as the weakness and vulnerability of human civilization is made visible in killing and violence.
3. Case Study-Peacemakers in the Midst of War: Iraq
In Iraq the Christian Peacemaker Teams learned to invent responses to the overwhelming experience of violation, loss, and violence when the occupation began. CPT's work contributed to the disclosures around Abu Ghraib that gave impetus to the still tentative, worldwide movement for military forces to attend to the rights and protection of civilians.
Often we had to follow our intuition however in the work of human rights we learned from the efforts of international organizations like Amnesty International. Among Iraqi people we learned to listen fast, carefully and intelligently so that our listening was not unduly influenced by the enemies of peace. We learned to keep lines open in all direction in our public and private stance. We learned something about maintaining team life in what was often a perpetual state of emergency. But we also refined a strategy that contributed to some solutions but failed to stop or prevent the larger war. How do we explain these learnings and integrate them into the patterns of our peacemaking?
4. Equipping Peacemaker Teams: Envisioning, Development, Training and Programming Peacemaker Teams
History of CPT: This is the story of the development of Christian Peacemaker Teams over the last 25 years. How did we get to where we are today? Where are our convictions, our learnings, our human resources and the needs of the planet inviting us to go?
Bending Our Lives to Active Peacemaking Beginning in our local communities, how will we begin to organize ourselves for this great experiment? Not all of us will be able to structure our family lives, careers or community obligations to become full-time peacemakers although full-time people are needed now. Full time or part time we are invited to develop skills in listening, negotiations, team work, and disciplined nonviolence. The confidence of our spiritual convictions can be developed through both training and experience and this will equip us to think confidently about long-term strategy. We will be challenged to remember what we are living for and what is worth dying for.
Sustaining the Spirit, the Body and the Mind for Long Term Disciplined Peacemaking Peacemakers are regular people with personal needs, limits, hopes for meaningful worship, and vulnerabilities to wide mood swings, trauma, disappointment and joy. Peacemakers need a local support group for emotional support, help in decision making and to help carry out the work. There is no perfect support system but as peacemakers are trained and then live their way into the work in violent situations, unexpected gifts become available and new resistance uncovered. The great movements for human potential can help in this process of becoming more healthy and wise but it is the peacemaker herself who lives through the risks, the anger, and the hopes and then integrates them meaningfully. Are there hints in our experience that will help in our support systems?
5. Invitation to Global Peacemaking: Peace brought by force is elusive. Nonviolence works. Are we listening to this invitation?
The invitation to collaborate for peacemaking comes from Afghanistan to Burma and Zimbabwe; local congregations and tiny interchurch initiatives; urban centres and remote native settings; and denominations, universities and crisis settings. The call often comes with urgency when the crisis has already arrived and there is little time to call out people, train people to intervene and fashion a disciplined nonviolent response. The expected and routine response to crisis is that official armed units of police or military will respond to make things come out right. But the peace that is brought by force is elusive. The power of love and nonviolence works. Christians and all people of faith can play a leading role. The alternative in this century is for civilization, is for our world to rely on increasingly dangerous and out of control instruments of force and violence. Are we listening to this invitation? What can we do about it?
CPT Co-Directors' statement at memorial service for Gene Stoltzfus
Goshen, Indiana, USA
April 11, 2010
Gene Stoltzfus nurtured and shaped Christian Peacemaker Teams from the beginning. He was there at Techny Towers, CPT's founding gathering, almost 25 years ago. By the way, we're going to have an anniversary gathering in this area next fall--stay tuned. Did you know the key role that Gene played, assuring that that meeting was leavened with active, engaged, gutsy peacemakers?
As director for the first 16 years of CPT's organizational life, Gene's vision, ideas, and organizational initiatives laid a strong foundation for our present work. His style, faith, humor, strengths, shortcomings and quirks are also embedded in CPT. During Gene's tenure as director, CPT went from:
- a dream and a dialog about more active peacemaking,
- to hosting the occasional short trainings and actions,
- to sustaining and supporting full-time field teams with hundreds of trained, active CPTers working in partnership with local peacemakers in conflict zones across the globe.
Gene's hand remains so very evident:
- in CPT's training and deployment of longer-term, diverse, disciplined and empowered teams,
- in team and office meals and shared check ins,
- in CPT's creative direct action to reduce violence and highlight injustice,
- in patterns of prayer and mutual support sending each other out truly blessed,
- in CPT's attentiveness to exposing privilege and undoing oppression, and
- in CPT's deep roots of connection throughout the Church, which is in-turn transformed into a hotbed of peacemaking.
Gene brought tremendous energy, courage and commitment to the work of Christian peacemaking. Thank you. Thank you to all of you who were part of raising up and supporting Gene--peacemaker, organizer, leader.
Thank you to those who shaped his clear thinking and decisiveness… whether he practiced it challenging you and your part in holding the system in place, or you were the one who challenged him for his.
Dorothy, we honour you, and extend to you our deep, deep gratitude and heartfelt care. You were also part of the organizing of CPT from the beginning. Though you stepped back from public roles in CPT during the years of Gene's directorship, we recognize that your ongoing support, and your gracious strong wisdom, are also woven through CPT in ways that are very hard to differentiate from Gene's, because they were given largely through your strong strong support of Gene as he thought through and implemented this peacemaking initiative. You and Gene crafted your life together as a committed loving couple in a way that uniquely and intentionally freed each other up for active peacemaking. Thank you, Dorothy. Be infused with the healing Light of Love in this transition.
Gene saw a military culture worldwide and asked how the church could create a counter-culture. Gene saw in us, and helped us become, competent, capable peacemakers; sharing, nurturing, and learning from many similar groups around the world. Gene held out for us a vision of a world free from war and the justifying of war. Gene successfully passed on that vision to a new generation of CPTers.
To honour Gene today, on behalf of CPT, we repeat the challenge that I'm sure you have heard before from Gene: “What are you doing to carry forward this vision of a world without war or oppression? Are you speaking the truth today? This is God calling.”
I am not sure that "Rest in Peace" really fits for Gene. Perhaps he is already organizing the Celestial Peacemaker Teams. Thank-you Gene. We miss you.
CPT invites family, friends, and supporters from around the world to share messages and stories in memory of Gene. Post your comment at the very bottom of the page.
Tom joined CPT in 2004 and worked with the Iraq and Palestine projects. He was known for his deep commitment to nonviolence and his belief in the power of love to overcome violence. Tom went to Iraq to work for justice and dignity for Iraqis. He was abducted in Baghdad on November 26, 2005, with three other CPTers, and his body was found March 10, 2006.
The Administrative Team -- what most organizations call staff -- provides administrative and program support for teams in the field.
CPT's Steering Committee functions as the board of directors and has general oversite of CPT's programs and operations. It is composed of: