Archive

April 25th, 2014

COLOMBIA: Holy Week delegation transforms gate of oppression at Las Pavas

On 16 April 2014 our twelve-person delegation traveled by van, motorized canoe, and foot to the community of Las Pavas.

We arrived at a community in mourning for the death of Rogelio Campos Gonzales.  Also known as “Pipio,” he died on 13 April, after suffering a heart attack.  Those living on the farm struggle with the question, “if the gate [that the palm oil company Aportes San Isidro had installed across the one road leading into Las Pavas to access difficult] did not exist, would it have been possible to avoid this tragedy?”

Even during this difficult time for the community, they received us with love and told and sang their stories.  While we listened, it was difficult to contain our emotions.

The gate for the people of Las Pavas represents oppression, death, isolation, discrimination, humiliation, and prison.  One of the purposes of our trip was to participate in a public action to redefine the gate that the security guards use to control movement from a symbol of oppression into a symbol of hope, peace, and freedom.

 

 

April 24th

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Syrian and Iraqi Kurds protest separation ditch


Streamers of blue, green, yellow and brown election pennants crisscrossed over the street and almost blocked out the sun. The symbols of the major parties in Iraqi Kurdistan for the 30 April election dominated the landscape.  However, on Tuesday, 15 April, new flags waved from hand-held flagpoles. Many Syrian Kurds who have fled their country because of the turmoil marched through the streets of Sulaimani.  They were crying out because the government of the region in which they have taken refuge has decided to create a dividing ditch.  The KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party) that governs the area of Iraqi Kurdistan bordering Syria has sent workers, bulldozers, and security guards to facilitate the digging. It claims that the seventeen-kilometers-long, three-meters-deep, and two-meters-wide ditch will prevent terrorists and smugglers from entering the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq.

However, the people of Rojava/Western/Syrian Kurdistan and their Iraqi Kurd supporters see the ditch differently.  One man CPT’s Iraqi Kurdistan team spoke to said, “After WWI Britain drew lines that artificially separated the Kurds into four countries.  Now Kurds are dividing Kurds from Kurds with ditches.”

April 23rd

Prayers for Peacemakers, April 23, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, April 23, 2014

Pray for those attending CPT’s European Convergence this weekend in Aalsmeer, Netherlands and those participating in the solidarity witness with refugees and asylum-seekers at the Border Prison in Schiphol, Netherlands.  Ask that creative new strategies arise out of the gathering that will help CPT-Europe address the life and death issues of immigration at Europe’s borders.


Epixel* for 27 April 2014



Photo taken by CPT-Europe delegation of memorial
to refugees who died trying to reach Greek island
of Lesbos.

 Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
Psalm 16:1


*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to
and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's
RevisedCommon Lectionary readings.

April 22nd

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Speaking truth to power, for the sake of clean water

Last week, the team met with a man who has done his best to address the threats to the water supply here in Iraqi Kurdistan, but now feels that he has reached the end of his rope.  Mohammed—he wishes to stay anonymous because of threats—has degrees in geology and hydrology and has worked with water issues both here and abroad.  Two years ago Mohammed came back after spending several years in a European country, eager to use his knowledge for the benefit of his people.  In different ways, he has tried to educate people and authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan about the importance of clean drinking water and how to ensure pure water for future generations.  




Exxon Mobil oil rig near Sartka, Iraqi Kurdistan.
Its partner, Maersk Oil, implies on its website
  that the company may use
high-volume horizontal fracturing (fracking)
in its Iraqi Kurdistan wells.

Since one major threat to the water is oil drilling and oil refineries, Mohammed has studied these operations in Kurdistan and their effects on the environment.  He is asking the Kurdish authorities to take the responsibility of choosing competent people to decide whether or not to grant concessions to oil companies—something he feels is not happening currently.  One example he mentions is the building of a big oil refinery outside of Sulaimani.  At the location of the refinery, only seven meters below the earth's surface, there is a big underground lake of fresh water.  Such a place should have a protected status, instead of facing contamination by the refinery’s pollution.
 
Last year people with connections to the parties in power warned Mohammed to stop his activities “for his own sake,” but he has continued writing articles and presenting seminars about the threat to the water supply.  Early this year he participated in a television show about pollution from oil operations.  Since then he has received several threats over the phone, men calling from unknown numbers, saying he must stop what he's doing or something might happen to him or to his children.  He is convinced that his phone is tapped, and feels constantly watched.  One evening a couple of months ago two men on a motorbike came up from behind as Mohammed was approaching his house.  One of them hit Mohammed over the nose with a gun, before they quickly disappeared, leaving him bleeding.
 

April 21st

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Clashes erupt on Palestinian Prisoner’s Day

On Thursday, 17 April 2014, approximately 300 people gathered at the Al Manara area in H1 (under nominal Palestinian control) to stand in solidarity with the 5224 Palestinian prisoners now held in Israeli prisons.  All political parties participated in the gathering, and each in turn raised their concerns.  

Speeches included the issue of the promise by Israel, as a part of the peace agreement, to release 104 Palestinian prisoners, and the real concern that Israel is now stalling on that promise, using the prisoners as blackmail.  This nonviolent action ended with a musical quartet, consisting of oud, violin, drum, and a singer offering tribute to the Palestinians still held in prison. 

Clashes erupted around 2:00 p.m. between the Israeli security forces and the Palestinians on the border of H1 and H2 and lasted until about 7:00 p.m.

The Israeli military dispersed the crowds with tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets, and in some places, live ammunition (which CPTers observed lying on the ground.)  Ambulances entered and exited frequently the H2 area of Hebron, which is out of the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.  

 According to Ha’aretz newspaper, ten Palestinians sustained injuries from the clashes.





April 17th

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Israeli settlers moving into Al-Rajabi house

 

 
 An Israeli human rights activist and observer protesting
the illegal confiscation of the Al Rajabi House. Pale-
stinians  face prolonged prison time, abuse, and torture
during an arrest. International workers face detention
and possible deportation.

On 11 April 2014, Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals convened at the Al-Rajabi building to protest the illegal expansion of Israeli settlements in Hebron near the settlement of Kiryat Arba. Human rights advocates have opposed the takeover of the Palestinian building, because it poses a grave impediment to the sovereignty of the Palestinian community of Hebron and presents obstacles to peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The Palestinian community has been fighting the takeover through Israel’s legal system since 2007.

Early in March of 2007, Jewish settlers broke into the Al-Rajabi building and laid siege to the Palestinian property under the protection of the Israeli military. The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee and the Palestinian petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court and had the Israeli settlers evicted in 2008 until the ownership could be determined, during which time, the investigation revealed the documents of purchase were forged. The forgery was substantiated by the Criminal Investigation Laboratory of the Israeli Police, by the Israeli prosecution and by the Supreme Court.

Despite this proof,  on 11 March 2014, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the Israeli settlers should pay the Palestinian owner of the building the amount specified in the forged sale documents.

April 16th

Prayers for Peacemakers April 16, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers April 16, 2014

Give thanks that Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources has decided not to issue logging permits on Grassy Narrows (Asubpeeschoseewagong) traditional lands this year, and that the EACOM and Weyerhaeuser corporations have decided not to purchase lumber from Grassy Narrows' traditional lands.  Pray that justice will be done next month when the case goes to Canada’s highest court in Ottawa that will focus on whether Ontario has the right to issue permits on traditional lands, which First Nations believe are protected by a treaty agreements.

April 15th

GREECE: The priest and the fisherman—a report from the CPT-Europe's Borderlands delegation

On Thursday morning our boat arrived on the island of Lesbos, where one can see can Turkey on the other side of the straits.




Papa Stratis

We drove up to the village of Kalloni (central Lesbos) to meet with Father Stratis, a Greek Orthodox priest who has been helping refugees for ten years and his assistant, George.  They arrive in the village soaking wet and exhausted, often having walked many hours.  Greek citizens face jail time if they pick up the migrants (similar to U.S. citizens at the border with Mexico).  If they know their way, it is a ten-hour walk from the beach to Kalloni.  If they do not know the way, it may take days.  George told us the water and the walking usually destroys their shoes.  The balcony of Father Stratis’s church is filled with donations of clothes that he and three volunteers sort and process for handing out.

While they have sufficient resources right now for their ministry, their biggest struggle is with morale.  The townspeople often complain that people involved with their ministry are helping refugees when they should be focused on helping Greeks who have been hurt by the economic crisis.  The fascist Golden Dawn movement, while not strong on Lesbos generally, is toxically eating away at the minds of young people, making racism appear acceptable.  George told us some of the young people see the Golden Dawn violence against refugees as cool, like the violence of Hollywood movies.

We were deeply touched by the witness of Father Stratis and George.

Friday afternoon, we visited the memorial place in Thermi with some members of the “Welcome to Europe” Network.  Several migrants lost their lives on the sea just trying to reach the nearest European border they could see from Turkey.  Twenty-one Afghan migrants sank close by just a few days before Christmas of 2013.

April 14th

COLOMBIA: The People’s Land Summit, March’s March, and an Ultimatum

 

CAHUCOPANA, a grass-roots campesino organization that formed to defend the land and human rights of the campesinos in north-east Antioquia, has learnt that sometimes you have to leave your home to defend it. CAHUCOPANA asked CPT’s Colombia team to accompany dozens of buses from the department of Antioquia to join about thirty thousand demonstrators in a march in Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, on 17 March 2014.

The march was planned to conclude and compliment the People’s Land Summit, also held in Bogotá.  The Summit itself, in which CAHUCOPANA also participated, was in response to the national government’s failure to live up to the commitments it had made as part of negotiations to end a nation-wide general strike in August of 2013. After having first met with and consulting their constituencies, leaders of various social movements and organizations got together for a Summit in Bogotá to decide how they could collectively best organize an appropriate response.

Participants included indigenous, Afro-descendant, campesino, artisanal miner federations, students, and others.  Although the government did consult with agro-industry and other huge stakeholders, it failed to honour its commitment to consult with or address the concerns of those who organized and took part in last year’s general strike. The Summit, therefore, came up with its own criteria and blueprint for an inclusive Colombian agrarian policy.  After the Summit, they presented the government with that blueprint and an ultimatum: comply with our demands by the first week of May, or face the consequences of another paralysing nation-wide civil strike.

April 10th

Prayers for Peacemakers, April 10, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, April 10, 2014

Pray for the safety of Sor María Sampayo, a leader of the Organización Femenina Popular (OFP) in Colombia, who received a threatening phone call this week from someone who identified himself as Alirio Torresa, commander of the neo-paramilitary group Los Urabeños.  The members of the OFP are long-time partners of CPT’s Colombia team.


Epixel* for 10 April 2014



Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we
beseech you, give us success! Psalm 118:25

*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing
with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary
readings.