Afghanistan

Prayers for Peacemakers. 11 January 2017

Prayers for Peacemakers. 11 January 2017

Snow. For a lot of people snow is a synonym of a warm home. For others snow is a beautiful landscape in which they can get lost. Other people, those who have not seen or felt the snow, dream about snowflakes on their hands. However, not everyone shares the same perception of snow.

Let us pray for all refugees and people without home in Europe, Middle East, North America and the rest of the world who are suffering because of harsh winter conditions. Let us seek ways in which we can help them. Let us pray for political leaders to accept and understand that it is necessary to implement changes in order to stop the global warming. Let us pray for all those who have a cold heart so that the warmth of friends, family and community allows their hope to return.

Syrian woman walks wit her sons under the snow

Photo credit: Aljazeera.

Mediterranean: On Borders, Cooks, and Farmers

 

Massom* is young–I’d guess about 30, likely a bit younger. He’s one of the refugees who like to interact with the Greek organizers and the ever-changing group of international volunteers, practicing his English and helping out around the camp. This is a self-organized camp for some of the most vulnerable refugees who have arrived at the island of Lesvos, and Massom interacts with others here in ways that, for a variety of valid reasons, not many others are as apt to do. He’s there with a dustpan if he sees you sweeping. He helps to unload the deliveries of produce from area farmers into the room where we organize daily distributions. He’s all about making tea for anyone who wants it, anytime—his excuse to come and go often from the kitchen. He frequently succumbs, with great compassion, to the demands of little Myriam, a curly-headed toddler essentially on her own and dependent on the kindness of fellow residents and volunteers for the attention her mother—who suffers from severe depression—is unable to provide with much regularity. Massom enjoys staying close to the food scene, many times a week serving our communal lunch.

MEDITERRANEAN REFLECTION: The children along the city walls of Chios

 

Syrian refugee children waiting to get the boat to Athens

We are a CPT team of three persons. We are walking along the city walls of the Greek island of Chios, with the border-polluted sea stretching before us. The refugees reside in tents, organised in two lines. Kids are playing. Nothing can make children stop playing. Even under the midday sun; even though the great powers of the world, through their agreements, prevent these families from moving on.  But they play. They run up to the top of garbage hills and then run down, laughing and shouting. “Kids!” my friend says, to show that he is delighted but not surprised.

The twelve-year-old Me walks on small paths up the hill, passing alongside landmines, walking over the skeletons of the Iraqi and Iranian soldiers who died here in 1980s. He jumps out of me. He does not even look back at me. He goes to the kids of Chios and starts playing with them. I look back and wait for him to come back, to jump back into this grown-up self.  He does not seem to care. My teammates tell me that we should move on. So I move on with them and leave the little Me behind.

CPT MEDITERRANEAN BLOG: Deep and violent connections


It’s a profound day today.

The celebration of Juneteenth (when Africans enslaved in the United States learned of their freedom, declared by the Emancipation Proclamation almost two years earlier). 

The one-year anniversary of the massacre of the church at Mother Emanuel AME folks in Charleston, SC.

The one-week anniversary of the Pulse Orlando club shooting. 

It’s also Father’s Day, so blessings to the Dads out there…especially those redefining traditional masculinity and providing open-minded and gentle ways of nurturing children (or ideas!) into wholeness. 

Tomorrow continues the meaningful days (of course every day we’re alive it’s meaningful!) It’s solstice, and the middle of Ramadan. It only comes around in the summer every 33 years.  Given global weirding, this is a hot one! 

It’s also World Refugee Day. Being here, working with refugees…this day now means more to me than ever before.  I knew theoretically the difficulty of being a refugee: the bureaucracy of paperwork and sometimes arbitrariness of official decisions, long lines, inadequate resources, the fast friendships, the cramped camps, the waiting, oh the waiting. 

Our Christian Peacemaker Team is accompanying refugees in Mytilene, Lesbos, Greece. As Executive Director I have a chance to do a two-week team visit. I sat across the table from a man from Afghanistan yesterday. Neither he nor I are from Greece or speak Greek. I don’t speak Dari yet, and he just began the English classes offered to refugees. We don’t know each other’s names and yet we are deeply and violently connected. My village paid for his village to be bombed (through the US-led war in Afghanistan).

We kind of smile at each other to acknowledge a greeting, but neither of us are happy about the situation so we exchange a glance of agreement that there is no use pretending we are. I can hope that through our work he and I can feel that there is another way to connect as well, through nonviolent interaction. But if it ends there it is not enough, in a way. I want to exchange the real smile that comes after a day of joint action to bring change to global functioning. Tomorrow is World Refugee Day and we will do a public witness action that reminds the public that refugees are not invisible, and mourns the loss of over 1,600 people that have died in crossing by boat from Turkey to Greece. We will thank the Lesbians for being so welcoming to those who made it, and together with them brainstorm ways to insure safe passage for all and challenge EU and US and local policies that lead to so many people being frighteningly expelled from their homes. 

UNITED STATES: Former CPT Iraq, Palestine, Vieques team member goes to jail for drone resistance

 On 12 January, the National Day of Action to Stop Killer Drones, grandmother and drone resister Mary Anne Grady Flores learned that she will go back to jail for six months starting Tuesday, 19 January. Grady Flores served as an intern on the Palestine and Iraq teams and was part of Christian Peacemaker Team’s delegation campaign to stop the U.S. Navy bombing of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.

Grady Flores had been out on appeal of a lower court convicting her of violating an order of protection. Col. Evans of the Hancock Air National Guard Base 174th Attack Wing (in Syracuse, NY), sought the order to “protect” him from nonviolent anti-drone activists.  The court charged her with violating the order because she took pictures of eight Catholics protesting the US drone assassination program at Hancock on Ash Wednesday, 13 February 2013.  Onondaga County Court Judge Miller upheld the lower court conviction. Of note is that a court acquitted all eight Catholic drone resisters because they went to uphold law, not break it.

The court and the Base have used orders of protection, typically given in domestic violence situations, in an attempt to deter protest and suppress free speech. Judge Miller also upheld a lower court ruling on the Hancock 17, seventeen nonviolent drone resisters who received orders of protection, jail time, and fines.

CPT trainees demand independent investigation into Afghan hospital bombing

“The U.S. cannot investigate itself.”

“While you’re shopping, bombs are dropping.”

These were some the core messages Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) conveyed through signs and chants on 9 October 2015 when it marched through the streets of Chicago, demanding an independent investigation into the hospital bombing in Kunduz, Afghanistan by the United States armed forces. On 3 October, the U.S. military carried out a bombing raid on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, resulting in twenty-two deaths, including ten hospital staff and twelve patients.  Doctors Without Borders is requesting an independent investigation into the bombing from the International Humanitarian Fact-finding Commission (IHFFC).

Members of CPT gathered on Friday outside of the British Consulate in downtown Chicago dressed in blood-spattered hospital attire and carrying a black coffin to symbolize the deaths at the hospital in Kunduz.   Alicia R from London delivered a letter to the British Consulate urging the British government to request an investigation by the IHFFC.  Only a member country can request such an investigation.

As the march started, chants of “while you’re shopping, bombs are dropping” and “bombing hospitals is a war crime,” echoed through the streets.  At several intersections, members of the group dramatized the bombing by falling in the middle of the street as another marcher hit them with a sign shaped as a bomb that had the letters, “USA,” on it.

The procession stopped at the Canadian Consulate where two Canadian citizen trainees had a meeting to urge the Canadian government to also request an investigation by the IHFFC. During the meeting, other members held vigil outside. They sang and handed out information about the bombing to passers-by.

The march concluded at the US Federal Building where Kody Hersh from Philadelphia, PA and Douglas Johnson Hatlem from Chicago, IL knelt in front of the main doors preventing access as they prayed. Federal security locked the doors and rerouted pedestrian traffic, while CPT members and other supporters held a prayer vigil in memory of the innocent lives lost in Kunduz, Afghanistan. 

As of Sunday 11 October, no member country has yet requested an investigation from the IHFFC and Doctors Without Borders continues to speak out against the hospital bombing.


.http://www.msf.org/article/msf-kunduz-attack-ihffc-awaits-us-afghanistan-consent-proceed-independent-investigation

MIGRATION REFLECTION: Not since World War II… so many people looking for HOME

 

Afghan refugees on Lesvos

I have been home three weeks and am now able to re-enter Winnipeg society. I no longer have to cocoon in my house, unable to face the huge grocery stores and my friends who ask me how I am.  Already I can go hours without even thinking of  the people I sat with in Iraqi Kurdistan. I am forgetting the heat and the sweat and the burning hot wind. I am forgetting the tears and pain of mothers sitting on the sidewalk begging with their eyes, families in unfinished houses asking for a refrigerator so their water can be cool enough to drink and people living in flappy tents that fall down in the blustery winds.   I am forgetting the father looking at his 21-year-old son who is thinking of paying money to a smuggler to try to get to a life worth living. I am forgetting the words, "What else can he do?"

But there are still hours when I remember. When I read news of seventy people dying in a smuggler's truck because no one would open the doors.  When I hear from my colleagues working on the island of Lesvos of ordinary people risking the life and breath of their children to get onto inflated boats trying to find a society who will embrace them and say welcome. 

CPT INTERNATIONAL REFLECTION: Treasure in Ferguson, Colombia, Palestine, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Turtle Island

Since a St. Louis, Missouri prosecutor and Grand Jury have determined that Police Officer Darren Wilson killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown did not merit a trial, I have been busy tweeting #Ferguson on the Christian Peacemaker Team Twitter account.  Those tweets have been getting a lot of retweets.  We have no people working in Ferguson and I have asked myself why I am inundating the account. 

I think it has to do with the disposability of human life, with the contempt shown to Michael Brown when the authorities left his body in the street for four and a half hours and did not bother interviewing key witnesses to the shooting for weeks (until there was a public outcry.)  That contempt connected directly with our work in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine, with indigenous communities in North America, and with migrants in Europe.  In all these cases, people in power have deemed the people we work with disposable. 

CPT INTERNATIONAL: Liturgy at the Twin Towers, 16 December 2001

16 December 2001

I Listening to God
 We open with a time of silence and listening to God (5 minutes or more).

II Lament for lives lost
 We call to mind the lives lost here.

[Gene Stoltzfus]
O Lord, we stand and gaze at these ruins still smoking,
the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre.
That day as any other, they came to this place
young men and women brimming with life
children of parents and parents of children
throwing their energy into their work.

The halls and boardrooms, the elevators,
were filled with their voices
their laughing, dreaming, debating, deciding.
They did not expect what came upon them
suddenly
out of a clear blue September sky.

[Doug Pritchard]
(Jer. 4:19-20)
Oh, my anguish, my anguish!
I writhe in pain.
Oh, the agony of my heart!
My heart pounds within me,
I cannot keep silent.
For I have heard the sound of the trumpet;
I have heard the battle cry.
Disaster follows disaster;
the whole land lies in ruins.
In an instant my tents are destroyed,
my shelter in a moment.