United States

CPT INTERNATIONAL: Christian Peacemaker Teams, movement building and the Detroit Peacemaker Congress

Sarah Thompson
CPT Executive Director

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) began with these questions: 

What if pacifist Christians trained as hard for peace as militaries (including militant Christians) trained for war?  What if pacifist Christians (such as the Mennonites, Brethren, and Quakers) were willing to sacrifice as much for peace as a soldier is willing to sacrifice for war?  What could happen? 

Christian Peacemaker Teams is part of the answer to that question. Having begun in 1986, in the crucible of Latin American solidarity movements, CPT has continued to thrive within various social movements as a creative, faith-inspired organization committed to undoing oppressions and to strategic peacemaking interventions in situations of violent conflict.  Joining with you all—people who belong to social movements, have risked a lot, sacrificed much, and experimented with healthier ways of sharing this planet—enlivens our work.  It is one reason we hold a Peacemaker Congress every other year—this year it will take place in Detroit—so that our workers in the field can engage with you, our supporters. and new people interested in movement building. 

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES SOLIDARITY: Aboriginal Justice Team changes its name to Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Team

 

The Christian Peacemaker Aboriginal Justice Team has undergone a transition to a new team name, after much deliberation and discussion. Although the mandate and vision for the team remains the same, the name change represents an effort to maintain currency within Indigenous movements for self-determination, and the team feels Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Team better captures the desired scope of its work. The team has floated this change past some of its Indigenous friends and partners who have welcomed it. 

Still in popular use, the term “aboriginal” refers to First Nations, MĂ©tis, and Inuit peoples. However, as Mohawk scholar Taiaike Alfred and Cherokee professor Jeff Corntassel (2005) indicate, while some Indigenous people have embraced this label, “this identity is purely a state construction that is instrumental to the state’s attempt to gradually subsume Indigenous existences into its own constitutional system and body politic” (p. 598). In 2008, the Union of Ontario Indians and later Grand Council of Treaty #3 representing the Anishnaabek passed resolutions and launched a campaign to eliminate the inappropriate use of the term "aboriginal." To many, “aboriginalism is a legal, political and cultural discourse designed to serve an agenda of silent surrender to an inherently unjust relation at the root of the colonial state itself” (Alfred & Corntassel, p. 599). To the chagrin of many First Nations, in 2011 Canada's Conservative government changed the minister and department title responsible for “Indian Affairs” to “Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development,” embodying this discursive tactic. 

CPT INTERNATIONAL: On Tour with Uncle Sam in Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand

 

 
 CPT Executive Director Sarah Thompson 
speaking in Australia

Different countries do taxes in different ways.  All of February and March I was in Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand.  The taxes are high there, but these countries are famous for their affordable medicine, free university education, and egalitarian policies among settlers (compulsory voting, mandatory school uniforms).  I’ve heard people in the U.S. make fun of places with social programs like these, but in those months I witnessed the immensely positive impact of social policy that puts the common good of all over the private power of a few.

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Consider the impact of your dollars this tax season and make contribution to CPT. How about $29? $1 for every year since CPT's founding.

However, the gap between what is realistically available for settlers of European origin countries in comparison to what is available to recent non-European immigrants and Aboriginal Australians and the Maori of Aotearoa is huge.  The brutal Euro-colonial histories, ongoing dispossessions, and overall disregard for cultural devastation wrought by industrial society to the indigenous of these lands are stories that loom large in the sub-conscious of these nations.  The best work I saw going on in these countries was grassroots, conducted by people deeply aware of the open wounds of racism, Christian hegemony, and extractive economics. Activists involved with mobilizations to support refugees, challenge ecological destruction, and celebrate all families are aware of the paradoxes inherent in these societies.

UNITED STATES REFLECTION: The Ripple Effect-- #StayWokeAdvent

I write this post in response to the recent challenge to

“reflect;

cry out;

meditate;

repent;

accept grace;

pray;

weep;

wrestle;

wake up;

question;

hope (if even just a little);

sit with darkness;

squint at the light;

read;

write;

create;

observe;

listen” 

in an effort to keep watch and not be silent in light of what we have witnessed in #Ferguson, Missouri.  The writer, out of anguish, frustration and anger, asked us who observe #Advent, with anticipation of the arrival of shalom, to “stay alert…to “stay woke”…to your senses, your mind, your body, your feelings, your spirit to where to Spirit is stirring and leaning. Stay woke….to the impact your life has on others…Stay woke…to the injustice that we either contribute to or diminish…Stay woke….to the groanings of the world…Stay woke…to the humble, radical, empire-upsetting ways of Jesus…Stay woke…to the darkness…Stay woke…to the light…and to the sacred and profane in both.” 

BORDERLANDS REFLECTION: “What did you go out to the desert to see? Luke 7:26

“Our work is done for today,” Joel yelled across the wash as he waved his arms emphatically.  I was puzzled.  We were still a good four miles from our destination, Red Tail water tank.  Joel shouted again.  â€śWe're done!  Come over here!”  As I approached, no further words were needed.  A few feet in front of him lay a sun-bleached human skull, eyeless sockets looking south, resting starkly among the coal black volcanic rocks strewn across this ancient plain.

Yes, our work was done for the day in that mid-afternoon moment of Thanksgiving eve.  I took off my hat and sat in silent prayer.  Joel called 911.

Joel, Director of Operations for Humane Borders, a Tucson-based humanitarian aid organization, and I were conducting the annual assessment of water tanks in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and replacing the weathered blue flags that prominently identify each tank.  The person whose skull we came upon had missed the nearest tank by a few miles.  S/he was the eleventh set of human remains recovered in the Tucson sector of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands since 1 October 2014.

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: Next Chicago CPT training October 2015; Applications due by 1 March 2015

 

 
 

CPT trainees participate
 in public witness at
Israeli consulate in
Chicago during
 Gaza War, July 2014

Due to an exciting opportunity to partner with groups in Detroit, Michigan USA for a Peacemaker Congress in July 2015, Christian Peacemaker Teams has set the dates of 2 October – 2 November 2015 for the next training to in Chicago.  The deadline for applications has moved to 1 March 2015.  This shift will allow more time between issuing invitations and starting training for applicants who may need to secure visas in order to participate.

Stay tuned for more information about the July Peacemaker Congress!

CPT is committed to anti-oppression work both within and outside of CPT, and we seek others interested in this work.  We are seeking applicants to train as part of our Reserve Corps.  At this time, no stipended (half to full time) openings are available in the Corps.  All CPT Reservists are eligible to apply for stipended positions as they become available.  For answers to more specific questions, contact Adriana Cabrera Velasquez, Personnel Coordinator, at personnel@cpt.org <mailto:personnel@cpt.org>. 

UNITED STATES REFLECTION: Voting for peace

Yesterday, I was calling old friends and letting them know I’d be in town to talk about my work with Christian Peacemaker Teams. One friend asked me how I like my new work in comparison with the political organizing I used to do. I didn’t need to stop and think; the answer was easy. Working to gather votes for this issue or that candidate, I had feelings of emptiness and inevitability. Now, I love being able to apply my expertise, energy, and passion to peacemaking, to resistance work that feeds my soul. 

 

 
 Palestine team member stands with children on
street and monitors soldiers' treatment of
13-year-old boy
 

Today, I woke up and reached for my phone. What I saw was a newsfeed flooded with rage, sadness, even despair. I remember those post-election nights and days from my previous career. When the first issue campaign I worked on lost, I cried more than a few bitter tears.  

When I woke up today, though, my emotional state was not connected to election results beyond passing feelings of hope and disappointment.  I woke up with energy and conviction to resist violence, oppression, and injustice for another day. It’s not that it doesn’t matter to me whether it’s politician A or B with their hands in the gears of the U.S. system.  Decisions made in the U.S. impact the bodies and lives of people and communities in the States and around the world.  It’s that now I’ve joined with so many in the active, concrete work of ongoing peacemaking.  And CPT, standing with our partners to transform violence and oppression, was resisting yesterday, is resisting today, and will be resisting tomorrow. 

Peacemakers, activists, resisters of injustice, whatever your feelings about today’s elections results: you can join today in our transformative peacemaking work. Vote for peace today by investing in the work of CPT. Thanks to you, members of CPT stand in solidarity with partners in peaceful transformative resistance every day in Palestine, Iraqi Kurdistan, Colombia, and Canada, no matter the U.S. election results any given November Tuesday.

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CHICAGO, USA: CPTers lament Palestinian deaths; two arrested at Israeli consulate.


On Friday, 18 July, the day after Israel announced its ground invasion of Gaza, about thirty members and supporters of Christian Peacemakerprocession Teams (CPT) converged at the Israeli Consulate in downtown Chicago to lament the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians and denounce Israel’s indefensible violence. 

Vigil participants, representing at least seven countries, carried large photographs of Palestinian children killed in Gaza.  As they walked slowly in mournful procession around the skyscraper that houses the Israeli Consulate, a single voice rang out over a loud speaker, piercing the silence with the name of each Palestinian who had died as a result of Israel’s military operations since 12 June 2014.