"We must not make excuses. We, as Iraqis, are complicit with the mass graves and killings in our past. We must begin with ourselves to build a new Iraqi humanity. We must move on to overcome the divide."
– Iraqi Peace Activist
The conversation grew increasingly animated among Iraqis gathered to discuss the formation of a "Muslim Peace Team" (MPT) in Karbala. After an initial five-day nonviolence training facilitated by CPT-Iraq, the group formed a coordinating committee to establish goals and bylaws, and to plan another training for university students and staff.
"In the ‘60s, Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived together peacefully in Karbala," said one participant. "It was after the 1991 uprisings against Saddam Hussein that his regime spread tension among the different groups. Now MPT can help remove the barriers."
Human rights activists invited CPT to conduct the training in Karbala in late January. Team members Peggy Gish, Cliff Kindy, Maxine Nash and Alan Slater introduced tools for planning a public action, dealing with trauma, working with media, and human rights documentation.
In response to stories of nonviolence in history and in CPT's projects, participants buzzed, "How did that work?" "Can we do that here?" The group also explored the firm tradition of nonviolence rooted in the Qu'ran and the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed.
During the training, participants shared stories of suffering and trauma they experienced under Saddam Hussein and a series of wars. The participants said they feel compelled to use their suffering for peacemaking instead of avenging wrongs done to them.
"[We need] to understand more deeply what nonviolence calls us to," reflected one participant. "Nonviolence asks us to deal with the divisions in our own country."Back to the top
In its short history, the CPT team in Iraq has responded to the drumbeat of war, the "shock and awe" bombing of Baghdad, and the ongoing U.S. occupation. Each shift in circumstance has called for peacemakers to shift focus as well.
October 2002: Stop the War – the team and successive delegations sought to:
- support the UN Weapons Inspection Program as an alternative to war;
- expose the injustice and deaths from the US-led economic sanctions;
- put a human face on Iraq, helping people in the U.S. understand that Saddam Hussein was not the only person living in Iraq.
March/April 2003: Shock &s; Awe – CPTers stayed in Baghdad in order to:
- stand alongside Iraqi families;
- provide an alternative voice to the reporters "embedded" with Coalition forces;
- use their bodies to protect critical civilian infrastructure such as water treatment facilities, electrical plants, and hospitals.
April/May 2003: Aftermath of the Bombing – team members traveled and worked to:
- draw attention to the huge and under-reported problem of unexploded ordnance;
- raise an alternative perspective on the invasion based on interviews with Iraqi friends.
June 2003 - September 2004: Ongoing Occupation – responding to persistent reports from families of Iraqi detainees, CPTers initiated efforts to:
- document abuse of detainees by Coalition forces;
- assist Iraqis in gaining access to loved ones in detention;
- launch the Adopt-a-Detainee Campaign asking churches to advocate on behalf of Iraqi detainees;
- support a variety of new and old Iraqi human rights groups which suddenly found themselves with space and freedom to operate.
October - December 2004: Continuing Occupation – a rash of kidnaping foreign aid workers compelled the team to severely curtail its size and visibility. Iraqi partners, while acknowledging the potential danger CPT's presence posed to them, encouraged the team to remain in Baghdad.
January 2005 - Present: Persisting Occupation – though travel remains treacherous and insurgent attacks continue on a daily basis, team members have ventured forth in response to urging from Iraqi human rights workers in Karbala.
CPT's persevering presence and establishment of trusting relationships throughout the shifting sands of circumstance laid the groundwork for today's exciting partnership with Iraqis committed to forming a "Muslim Peace Team."Back to the top
Ninety-year-old Keleje smiled widely as she left the voting station in a school on the edge of Karbala where she voted for the first time in her life.
Ahmed Mohammed Hussein, an elderly man near a polling station in central Karbala, echoed her spirit: "We voted in a democratic atmosphere. We are happy and hope this will give us a better life."
On January 30, CPTers visited three polling centers in Karbala as unofficial observers under the auspices of a local human rights office. The team declined a request by the director of the Iraq Electoral Commission to be official international election observers because of concerns about the U.S. influence on this Iraqi election.
At two centers, CPTers were allowed to go into the voting rooms where they saw stacks of ballots, private voting boxes, instructive posters on the walls, and observed voters placing their ballots into two large plastic boxes.
A ban on personal vehicles on election day meant some people walked up to 10 km to vote. Young and old alike played in the festive atmosphere of the streets. No violence or disruption was reported at any of the polling centers in Karbala.
But not all the responses CPTers heard regarding the election were positive. In Baghdad and many other parts of the country, countless Iraqis were afraid to vote. There was no voting in Mosul, the country's third largest city, nor in Fallujah, which U.S. forces bombed to rubble. Many question the legitimacy of the election and whether it will unify the people of Iraq.
One man who had been in prison under Saddam Hussein for fifteen years told team members he and others refused to vote, because after being released, they didn't get any financial help. "And," he continued, "nothing will be changed by it anyway." Another man said that the rosy picture Bush painted had turned bloody. Then he added, "We don't even know the candidates."Back to the top
"We will silently defeat the occupation, not by killing, but by refusing to cooperate economically with America," said Dr. Balkiss of Women's Will, an Iraqi women's organization which works for justice through organized nonviolent action.
CPTers attended a teach-in at Women's Will where a group of 18 women and five men discussed ways to resist the U.S. occupation. The group had previously sought permission to hold a public vigil to express the pain of women on all sides of the current conflict, but U.S. and interim Iraqi authorities denied their request.
"America is trying to make this a free market for itself," continued Dr. Balkiss. "We should have our own sovereignty."
"Any mother can refuse to buy Coca Cola and other U.S. products," insisted Hana Ibrahim, coordinator of Women's Will. She referred to Gandhi's urging the people of India to spin their own thread and weave their own cloth.
One woman shared her experience at a wedding where the family served American soft drinks, but the guests refused to drink until they brought in Iraqi beverages.
Another woman offered that she knew how to make her own shampoo out of natural products.
"If they put a McDonalds in Baghdad, we will boycott it," added another. "Even before the tanks came in, the media war succeeded in promoting American products," Dr. Balkiss said. "Iraqis have been buying the cheaper American products, and this has undermined our economy. The invasion has brought us poverty."
Hana concluded the meeting by urging women to work nonviolently in order to "strengthen peaceful structures." "Small actions, such as putting up posters, and large actions, like demonstrations, all add up and make a difference," she said. "Whatever it takes, we will win."Back to the top
Peggy Gish has travelled with CPT to Iraq four times since 2002.
I walk into the ugliness of war and hate,
still seeing the beauty of Iraqi openness and loving spirit,
now hurt, but not crushed.
I pray that in a time of safety
it will bloom again.
I seek to stand with them.
But not sharing their full lot, I can come and go,
find healing and respite in wooded Appalachian paths,
and return with a new supply of love and hope.
Unable to take away the heavy burden of fear and domination,
what I bring seems more like a slingshot
and a few pebbles against impenetrable power.
Realistic folk may see it foolish,
or at best, reckless
to enter this fire,
knowing its danger
and insurmountable mess my country has made.
Yet I and others go,
because our sisters and brothers are caught in its flames,
so that we might, with them, find the underbelly of the dragon
with tiny truth-filled swords.
The spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting have undergirded many CPT teams, often when situations are particularly tense, or when the need for discernment and direction is great. CPT's Iraq team began a weekly fast during advent which continues each Tuesday until Easter.
Every week the team prepares a Scripture reading, reflections from Iraq, and a specific action to take. Team members gather Tuesday mornings for an hour of focused prayer at 9:00am Eastern Standard Time (1400 GMT), and hold a bread and water fast.
CPT-Iraq invites supporters to join as much of the prayer hour as you can, fast as you feel lead, and take the suggested action between Tuesday and Thursday so that all participants can be working together.
Action steps have included: calling on legislators to shift funding from warfare to infrastructure development in Iraq; urging arms manufacturers to convert their enterprises from death-dealing to life-affirming ones; sending prophetic holiday messages to U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte; and holding public vigils on behalf of Iraqi women who were denied permission to do so in Baghdad.
See the Iraq page for the weekly reflections and to post comments.
Iraq team members December 2004 - February 2005 were: Matt Chandler (Springfield, OR), Tom Fox (Springfield, VA), Peggy Gish (Athens, OH), Cliff Kindy (N. Manchester, IN), Anne Montgomery (New York, NY), Maxine Nash (Waukon, IA), Doug Pritchard (Toronto, ON), Sheila Provencher (South Bend, IN), Greg Rollins (Surrey, BC), Allan Slater (Lakeside, ON). Delegation participants February 19-March 5 were: Maureen Jack (Fife, Scotland, UK), Henry Beutelman, III (Austin, TX), Graham Leonard (Frederick, MD), Michael McMurray (Cleveland Heights, OH), Michele Naar-Obed (Duluth, MN), Trish Schuh (New York, NY), Lynn Shoemaker, (Whitewater, WI), Keith Washington (Jamaica Plain, MA).Back to the top
Following repeated Israeli settler attacks on Palestinian children and their international accompaniers last fall, Israeli soldiers began escorting the children past settlements along the shortest route between their homes in Tuba and their school in At-Tuwani.
For children in the south Hebron hills, the simple act of walking to school remains fraught with daunting unpredictability. On the morning of January 2, an armed Israeli settler blocked the students' path before they could reach their Israeli military escort. He threatened them and sent them running back towards home.
Family members, CPTers, and other internationals, forbidden from walking on the path the children take, monitored the children's progress from a hilltop overlooking the valley trail. Upon witnessing the settler's threatening behavior, they ran down to meet the frightened children and started walking with them towards the waiting army jeep.
The adults stopped some distance from the soldier escorts and the father encouraged the children to continue on through the valley. However, the settler threatened them again so they ran back towards the adults.
At that point, the adults ventured farther into the valley with the children. Three soldiers got out of their jeep and walked towards the group. The father encouraged the reluctant children to go with the soldiers.
While the soldiers escorted the children along the path, more settlers, standing among the trees near the Havot Ma'on outpost, shouted threats at them. Three settlers with a dog also threatened the adults and followed them part of the way back to Tuba.
Settlers commonly use these types of intimidation and actual physical violence to force Palestinians out of a region – a tactic that has already worked against two other villages in the area. In 1997, the frightened residents of nearby Kharruba and Serora abandoned their homes after 15 years of Ma'on settler harassment.
Today however, Palestinians' resolve seems firm as more and more children attend school in At-Tuwani, despite the ongoing violence.Back to the top
In addition to keeping a full-time base in the Old City, CPT-Hebron has maintained a satellite team in At-Tuwani, southern Hebron District, since October 2004.
Palestinian school children are not the only targets of harassment by Israeli settlers in the south Hebron hills. Settlers also pursue local Palestinian shepherds, sometimes injuring and killing their sheep.
Members of Operation Dove (OD), an Italian peace group, called CPTers to the scene of one such incident near At-Tuwani on January 25.
A young Israeli settler had attacked a shepherd who fled, driving his sheep ahead of him. Two women from OD videotaped the settler chasing after the shepherd. When the settler realized his actions were being documented, he turned angrily on the two women. Picking up a large rock and holding it within two centimeters of one woman's forehead, he warned, "When I come back in five minutes, I'll kill you!" He then continued his hot pursuit of the shepherd, who managed to escape with a sprained ankle.
The Italian women reported the death threat to Israeli police. Their response was dismissive: "Did you say there was only one youth?" they asked. "Did he take his gun and point it at you? No? He only held up a stone? Did he strike you with it? No? Well then, you weren't really hurt, were you? He's just a youngster. He probably meant no harm."
CPTers know of Palestinian youth who are beaten and thrown into jail for just throwing a stone at a settler, let alone for uttering a death threat. Such is the dual system of Israeli justice in the occupied West Bank.Back to the top
With new Palestinian leadership and a new coalition government in Israel, the world expects new opportunities for Middle East peace. Among the Palestinians I know, sentiments range from excitement to cynicism.
Some say that newly-elected Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, (commonly known as Abu Mazen) is great. Others think he is merely a tool of the Israelis and the Americans. They say Abu Mazen can get only what Israelis want to give, and they doubt that Israelis are willing to give much. One person said, "[Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon doesn't want peace, he wants to take more Palestinian land."
Many Palestinians believe the role the Americans and Israelis intend for Abu Mazen is that of an enforcer, keeping the Palestinian people under control, so that American and Israeli interests will prevail.
A few people dare to imagine that Abu Mazen could emerge as a leader of the Palestinian movement, bringing focus to a new phase of nonviolent resistance that will gain the support of the international community to end Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. That type of resistance could change everything.Back to the top
Donkeys brayed, children laughed, and jet fighters roared overhead as CPTers, delegation members and other internationals assisted Palestinian farmers in planting over 100 olive saplings near the village of At-Tuwani. The December 1, 2004 action in the southern Hebron District replaced trees that the Israeli military had razed months earlier.
As the tree-planting neared completion, the distant sound of farm machinery caught Fatima's attention. Over the hill, three Israeli settler youth were plowing one of her fields – a first step towards land confiscation. Everyone dashed to the scene where a heated argument ensued between the landowners and settlers. Some Palestinians, along with CPTers and other internationals, were able to defuse any aggression until the settler youth finally took their tractor and left the field.
Israeli soldiers showed up moments later. They interrogated the Palestinian landowners, but made no effort to apprehend the settler youth. Palestinians made it clear they wanted CPTers nearby during the questioning, so several stayed close despite military orders to move away.
After the soldiers left, everyone gathered to offer a blessing for the newly planted grove. Family members explained that, in Palestine, olive trees represent peace.
"The world heard the cry of your olive trees as they were uprooted," replied delegate Carol Rose. "We have come today from the United States, Sweden, France and Canada to help replant as a symbol of our solidarity."Back to the top
On January 6, an Israeli army jeep ran over nine-year-old Muhammed Hamze Jaber who was playing in the street in front of his house (a road closed to Palestinian traffic). CPTers visited the Jaber family the next day.
"The driver knew he had hit something, so he stopped," reported family members. They gathered quickly and saw that Muhammed was still trapped under the wheels. As they approached the vehicle to free the boy, the soldier thought they were going to attack him. He aimed his gun and threatened to fire.
A settler passing by in a car stopped and shouted at the soldier not to shoot, that the Palestinians were only trying to rescue their child. The soldier then backed the jeep away, but the weight of the vehicle had crushed Muhammed's chest and killed him.
Even in their grief, the boy's relatives expressed gratitude for the settler's intervention and appreciated the opportunity for settlers and Palestinians to see each other's humanity.Back to the top
Prior to joining CPT, Joe Carr worked with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in Gaza. He was present when a U.S.-made Israeli bulldozer plowed ISM volunteer Rachel Corrie to death. On April 11, 2003 Carr witnessed an Israeli sniper shoot British ISM activist Tom Hurndall in the head. Israeli authorities subpoenaed Carr to testify at the trial of the soldier accused of Hurndall's murder. The following excerpt is from a poem Carr wrote after the trial. It is available on Carr's CD, "Plant the Olive Branch: Music and Poetry Inspired by Occupation & Resistance in Palestine;" (contains raw and explicit lyrics);
I came face to face with the man who killed my friend
Eye to eye we stood
And this time there was nothing to hide behind
No guard tower with tinted windows
No fluorescent jackets and megaphones
No Palestinian children
No commander's orders
Who am I, white boy from America
To testify against this poor young Arab* boy?
Who am I?
Eye to eye I faced him
Distaste erased, I wanted to embrace him
We should be drinking and flirting
Not playing with guns and fluorescent jackets
Sinking and hurting and hurting
"After the trial ya wanna go out for a beer?"
Oh yeah, your stuck here.
"Well, maybe next time we're in Gaza we can play on the beach."
See if our humanity is still within reach
Eye to eye we stood
He seemed ashamed and afraid
Now he pays the cost for the tax dollars I paid
And the landmines my government laid
I bought the gun and he pulled the trigger
How does it figure that I'm not on trial?
Perhaps I will be
Perhaps we all will be.
* some Arab Beduins serve in the Israeli Army.
Hebron team members December 2004 - February 2005 were: Kristin Anderson (Willmar, MN), Art Arbour (Toronto, ON), Bill Baldwin (Ottawa, ON), Cal Carpenter (Minneapolis, MN), Joe Carr (Kansas City, MO), Matt Chandler (Springfield, OR), Art Gish (Athens, OH), Bob Gross (N. Manchester, IN), Sally Hunsburger (Washington, DC), Maureen Jack (Fife, Scotland), Diane Janzen (Calgary, AB), Kathy Kapenga (Manama, Bahrain), Mary Lawrence (Lunenburg, MA), Jerry Levin (Birmingham, AL), John Lynes (St. Leonards-On-Sea, E. Sussex, UK), Barbara Martens (Ruthven, ON), Rich Meyer (Millersburg, IN), Dianne Roe (Corning, NY), Kathie Uhler (New York, NY), Maia Williams (Dale City, VA), Diana Zimmerman (Baltimore, MD). Hebron delegation participants February 15-27 were: Justin Alexander (Fifield, Chipping Norton, UK), David Corcoran (Des Plaines, IL), Dave Martin (Lombard, IL), Gary Novak (Port Townsend, WA), and Dan Rohan (Oak Park, IL).Back to the top
On 26 January, CPTers Keith Young and Adaía Bernal took part in a commission to verify the de-mining of a rough road between the township of Micoahumado and several outlying villages. (Micoahumado, a town of about 2000 people with 5000 more living in surrounding villages, lies in the southern part of the department of Bolívar, a seven-hour trip north and a little west of Barrancabermeja.)
CPTers walked along the burnt ground where brush had been cleared exposing about 60 holes of different sizes in the road. They listened to the sound of exploding mines being deactivated. They photographed the terrain and spoke with community members who were victims of the landmines. Some lost limbs, others suffered debilitating injuries, some still have shrapnel in their bodies that could not be removed.
Guerillas from the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN - National Liberation Army), who once controlled the area, planted the mines in December, 2002 as a defensive move during an incursion of some 500 paramilitaries. Since then, 8 civilians have been killed or severely injured by the mines. In addition, cattle have been lost, one soldier has been wounded, and an unknown number of paramilitaries have been maimed or killed.
In the midst of such active conflict, community residents initiated a grassroots peace process aimed at establishing their autonomy from all armed groups. CPT has made seven trips to Micoahumado since early 2003 to act as observers during community meetings with various armed actors.
This verification commission – made up of community leaders and their families, journalists, CPT's partner organization "Programa" (Program of Development and Peace – Middle Magdalena Region), and a government human rights ombudsman – found that the ELN had in fact kept its promise to the community to remove the anti-personnel mines and other explosive devices.
"We shared the joy of the people in verifying that the mines are no longer present, and their hope that the removal will allow them to pursue real development and peace with greater safety than before," said Bernal.Back to the top
May these empty holes
once planted with mines
become spaces planted with life.
May the de-mined soccer field
give birth to joy
and community connections.
May the smiles of the children
continue without interruption.
May life flourish every day
in La Caoba, La Guasima,
el Reflejo, and Micoahumado.
May this be a new beginning,
a sprouting of color and community.
Back to the top
I saw swords and ploughshares yesterday on the Opón River. Actually, I saw machine guns and spades.
I wish I could say the machine guns were being turned into spades, but that is not what I saw. I saw guns being cleaned and oiled by men wearing camouflage sitting in the shade. A quarter mile up river, I saw new spades being handed out to farmers sitting in the shade.
I thank God that the men wearing camouflage were calm. I thank God that the farmers who were meeting to discuss agricultural projects have decided to work together constructively. I thank God that the only shots fired by the men wearing camouflage went into the river. I thank God for hearing prayers.
What would you say to a group of armed men who show up at your house and want to use your kitchen to cook their breakfast? What would you do if you arrived at a farmyard and saw a group of armed men inside the house, the owners obviously afraid?
Maybe you would pray. My teammate and I sure did. We each prayed silently as we approached the gun-toting men. We prayed with the owners of the farmyard after the men with guns walked away. We prayed for wisdom. We prayed for courage. We prayed for the men who carried the guns. Later we prayed with the men who had the guns. They were silent, but afterward one of them said thank-you.
Let us all pray that the guns in Colombia somehow get turned into spades!Back to the top
On October 22, 2004, 250 paramilitaries invaded Alto Cañabraval, a town four hours northwest of Barrancabermeja. They came with two supposed guerrilla deserters who began pointing out others they said were former guerrillas.
The paramilitaries beat one of these persons, tied him up, and threatened to kill him. A quick-thinking, Spirit-led person responded on behalf of the accused: "He is no longer a guerrilla, and if you are going to kill him, should we not kill you when the paramilitaries are dismantled?" The paramilitaries were so taken aback that they agreed to let him go.
The invasion happened as farmers from 34 villages gathered in the community with leaders and representatives from churches, human rights groups, the UN and non-governmental development organizations to discuss alternatives to their economic dependency on coca as a cash crop (coca is used to produce cocaine).
A week later two CPTers accompanied a commission of the same organizations along with journalists to document what had happened.
The government forces claim to provide protection for the population of this region from the guerrillas and paramilitaries. The villagers confronted the army saying, "If you are the ones providing security, how is it possible for 250 paramilitary terrorists to invade for two days and you not know anything about it?"
The army major responded, "But nobody told us."
The farmers answered, "If we tell you, we may literally lose our necks."
The farmers find themselves trapped because of the under-the-table but well-documented relationship between the paramilitaries and the Colombian army. If they tell the army about the abusive acts of the paramilitaries, the paramilitaries are likely to come back and do away with them.
The fact that so many prominent leaders from outside the community witnessed the invasion served to expose the Army's blatant shortcomings in providing security and added urgency to the need for disarming the paramilitaries.Back to the top
[The following reflection was written after a tense experience traveling across the expanse of the Opón Lake with helicopters circling and shooting overhead.]
To be truly in the valley of the shadow of death and, at the same time, trust in the protection of God – what a sensation!
There we were, in the midst of battles and bullets – three people in a canoe on a wide open lake. I felt so small, insignificant, defenseless, almost stupid. My fear grew intensely.
At the same time Psalm 23 – "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because you are with me..." – came alive in my mind. Even as my heart beat faster and my breathing almost stopped, the sensation of protection swelled.
Though we appeared tiny from the helicopter above us, the greatness of the psalm made me feel large, protected, and incredibly special. That sense helped calm my fears and anxieties, and I felt the Word become very real and alive in my being.
Thousands of Colombians live with similar situations in different parts of the country every day. Yet, people still live on, people return to their homes, people trust in human goodness. And despite everything, people believe in a merciful, caring, humane and just God that delivers protection and help in the moment of difficulty.
One might suppose that I, as a Colombian, would be used to all the violence, conflict, death and threats – that such experiences would no longer be a novelty. But I am not "used to it" and I don't want to "get used to it." All these situations of death and pain are not normal for us as humans. I continue to believe that we are made for good and not for evil.Back to the top
A delegation of 10 Colombians from different regions of the country came together to visit the communities along the Opón River and CPT's partner organizations in Barrancabermeja November 24 - December 1, 2004.
The group included 5 pastors and 3 co-pastors, mostly Mennonite but also two from independent Protestant churches. Community residents welcomed the spiritual encouragement conveyed by the delegates and joined in numerous prayer services during the visit.
Back in the city, delegates commemorated the "International Day Against Violence Against Women" by joining a march sponsored by the Organización Femenina Popular (OFP – Popular Women's Organization). The procession went to local police and army posts where participants sought information regarding the fate and whereabouts of disappeared family members.
Near the end of the delegation, the group learned the news that Javier Segura, a Mennonite pastor, was killed in a package bomb explosion in Bogotá. Segura had planned to join the CPT delegation, but regrettably withdrew due to other commitments.
During a time of prayer and fasting to remember Segura and seek consolation for the loss of his life, group members reflected on the tragic irony that some people had chosen not to participate in the delegation for fear that the Opón area was too dangerous. Yet it was the violence in Bogotá that claimed the life of their colleague.
Colombia team members and delegates December 2004 - February 2005 were: Adaía Bernal (Bogotá, Colombia), Suzanna Collerd (River Forest, IL), Noah Dillard (Tempe, AZ), Jim Fitz (Tiskilwa, IL), Carla Froese (Vancouver, BC), Rebecca Johnson (Toronto, ON), Scott Kerr (Downers Grove, IL), Erin Kindy (Tiskilwa, IL), Tim Nafziger (Goshen, IN), Gerald Paoli (Chicago, IL), Jessica Phillips (Chicago, IL), Kimberly Prince (Carrollton, GA), Sandra Rincón (Madrid, Colombia), Christopher Rollins (Vancouver, BC), Pierre Shantz (Barrancabermeja, Colombia), Matthew Wiens (Winnipeg, MB), Keith Young (Gobles, MI).Back to the top
Orange light danced on our faces as we warmed ourselves by the fire. As a teepee was being constructed around us, the stories came, one after another.
A father told how the Kenora hospital wouldn't believe that his son was sick. "We had to drive two hours to go to the hospital in Winnipeg. They diagnosed him with meningitis. If we hadn't gone, he might have died."
A grandmother told about a grandson who had a rash. "We went to the hospital three times and they never did anything. Finally we decided to go to Winnipeg. They gave us a cream that fixed the problem."
"This is always how it is for us," Judy said. "We never go to the hospital in Kenora."
Kenora is a pulp mill town located in Northwestern Ontario, an hour's drive from Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows) First Nation. It is a regional center where Anishinaabe people from surrounding communities travel to do their shopping, banking and personal business. It's a trip that many Anishinabae apprehend.
One native leader called Kenora "the Mississippi of the North." Aboriginal people are routinely disrespected in retail stores and they have died in police custody. Street people have been attacked and left for dead. "We don't feel safe there," one woman said.
The blockade that brought CPT to Grassy Narrows (erected by the Grassy community to stop the multinational logging company Abitibi from clear-cutting its traditional land) was successful. The logging has largely been stopped, the struggle has moved into a negotiations phase and things are back to "normal."
But, what happens when "normal" is still a crisis, when your everyday world is inhospitable and, at any time in any encounter, the assumption of white superiority can make your life very frustrating – or very dangerous?
The Kenora project, yet in its foundational stages, is an experiment for CPT. We are trained to work in war zones, not "normal" zones where the violence is diffuse and disguised. As a community organizing project focussed on exposing and confronting the violence of "normal" (the consequence of 500 years of colonization that began with the arrival of Christopher Columbus), Kenora is stretching CPT to develop new skills and tools.
Kenora team members December 2004 - February 2005 were: Matt Schaaf (Winnipeg, MB), Stephani Sakanee (Chicago, IL), Jerry Park (Mt. Ranier, MD), John Spragge (Toronto, ON). Delegates February 18-27 were: Deric Monah Adze (Bamenda, N.W.P., Cameroon), Nathan Bender, (Toronto, ON), Maryann Harder (Mountain Lake, MN), Jerry Stein (Amarillo, TX), Karl Stutzman (Goshen, IN)Back to the top
"I have been in Iraq. I have seen what happens when you profit from these bullets!" cried CPT Reservist David Milne of Belleville, Ontario outside Canadian bullet manufacturer SNC-Lavalin's Toronto office. His plea appeared to affect the line of police officers blocking peace activists from entering the building January 17 to conduct a teach-in on war crimes.
SNC-Technologies (SNC-TEC) – a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin – supplies small caliber bullets to the U.S. Army. The U.S. occupation of Iraq will require an estimated 300-500 million bullets per year for the next five years.
Milne, who has traveled with CPT to Iraq three times, was one of six members of CPT-Ontario who joined sixty others in the Martin Luther King Day public witness.
"I interviewed an Iraqi orphan whose mother, father, sister and brother all died one night when Coalition Forces shot their way into his home," Milne recounted. He called on SNC-Lavalin to transform SNC-TEC into a company that does not produce weapons of terror and mass murder.
Participants in the witness staged a mock Iraqi checkpoint massacre and attached photographs of Iraqi casualties to trees on SNC property. Organizers of the action, Homes Not Bombs, said the company has not replied to two letters requesting a meeting.
Canadian military industry exports total about $2 billion a year – mostly to the U.S.Back to the top
Remove Violent Videos
Three training participants conducted a thorough inspection of the video games inside a Chicago Toys "R" Us store on New Year's Day. They removed many of the "M" or "mature"-rated games from the shelves before meeting with the manager to express their complaint.
According to military psychologist David Grossman, many of these games are strikingly similar to the simulated reality programs used by the military to train soldiers to kill.
Participants outside the store read the names of fallen U.S. soldiers from Illinois together with names of some of the thousands of civilians who have died over the last two years in Iraq. As the names were called out, one participant pantomimed a child playing a violent video game, symbolically represented as a coffin.
Training group member Justin Alexander completed the emotional roll call with the names of three personal friends killed in Iraq.
Arrested at Boeing
Police arrested training participants Jan Benvie, Noah Dillard, Amy Knickrehm, and Kimberly Prince as they prayed for an end to war outside Boeing's World Headquarters on the day of President Bush's inauguration (January 20, 2005.)
CPTers at Boeing bear coffins representing casualties of the Bush administration's policies at home and abroad: "Iraqi Moms, Dada and Kids," "Soldiers," and "Affordable Housing, Education, Health Care."
U.S. forces used Boeing's Apache helicopters and unmanned aerial drones heavily in the leveling of Fallujah last November. Boeing was also a significant donor to the Republican Party in the recent election campaign.
"In response to a call from CPT's Iraq team, we wanted to stand prayerfully on behalf of members of the Iraqi human rights organization, Women's Will, who have been denied permission by the U.S. and interim Iraqi authorities to hold a such a vigil in Iraq," said Jan Benvie, one of those arrested.
Around thirty people participated in a prayer litany of resistance and repentance near the entrance to Boeing. Their banner read: "Inauguration of 1; Funeral for 1000s; Pray! Resist!"
After sharing communion in the midst of a heavy snow fall, four members of the group took their prayers toward the doorways on Boeing property to "stand in the gap" (Ezekiel 22:30) and intercede on behalf of the nation for an end to war and weapons
The four remained kneeling in prayer, surrounded by singing supporters, until police arrested them at 9:30am. They were released from jail at 11:00pm and will stand trial for criminal trespass on March 2, 2005.
Eight people completed CPT's month-long Peacemaker Training program in Chicago held December 27, 2004 - January 25, 2005. Four began 3-year terms as full-time Corps members (FT); two joined the Reserve Corps committing to serve 2-12 weeks a year for three years (R); two continue in discernment about joining the Corps/Reserves (D).
Left to Right - Front Row: Hee Eun Park (Seoul, South Korea) - D; Amy Knickrehm (Chicago, IL) - FT; Paul-Philip "Paco" Michelson (Huntington, IN) - R; Justin Alexander (Chipping Norton, England) - D; Back Row: Jan Benvie (Fife, Scotland) - R; Jessica "Luna" Villota (New York, NY) - FT; Kimberly Prince (Carrollton, GA) - FT; Noah Dillard (Tempe, AZ) - FT.
Hee Eun Park's participation in the training points to a strengthening link between CPT and World Christian Frontiers (WCF) in Korea. CPT Reservist Jerry Stein participated in WCF's peace camp in Indonesia last summer and CPT hopes to send two people to join WCF's Afghanistan peace camp this July.
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Conscientious Objection to Military Taxation: The Peace and Justice Support Network of Mennonite Church USA has posted resources for those considering war tax resistance at www.peace.mennolink.org/articles/wartaxletters.html.
One way to take a stand against war is to support the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill. The website includes sample letters to include with your tax returns.
Canadians can visit the Conscience Canada web-site at www.members.shaw.ca/consciencecanada/ for details on diverting taxes from the military budget to peace tax funds in Canada.
Attention Readers, Libraries and Archives: Beginning with this issue of Signs of the Times, we designate the first publication of each year as "Spring" rather than "Winter." Our last issue was dated "Fall 2004; Vol. XIV, No. 4." This issue is "Spring 2005; Vol. XV, No. 1."
New Canada Office: CPT Canada has moved! The new mailing address is P.O. Box 294, Station P; 704 Spadina Ave.; Toronto, ON M5S 2S8. The new Fax number is 416-423-7140. The phone number remains the same.
Christian Peacemaker Congress VIII
Co-sponsored by CPT and Plowshares Peace Studies Collaborative
September 8-11, 2005; Indianapolis, IN
A gathering to cultivate the courage to engage violence with nonviolence...
Featured speakers include author and CPTer Peggy Gish on Iraq.
Practical Workshops • Community Building • Strategic Analysis • Dynamic WorshipBack to the top
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In "Dialogue" we normally highlight exchanges from our web site and e-mail networks regarding CPT's vision and peacemaking ministry. In this issue, we'd like to initiate a dialogue about our communications ministry. As a reader of CPT's quarterly newsletter, Signs of the Times, we invite your feedback. Please take a few minutes to fill out the on-line survey found at www.cpt.org. Thanks for your input.
Signs of the Times is produced four times a year. Batches of 10 or more are available to institutions, congregations, and local groups for distribution. Any part of Signs of the Times may be used without permission. Please send CPT a copy of the reprint. Your contributions finance CPT ministries including the distribution of 17,000 copies of Signs of the Times.
The work of CPT is guided by a 15-person STEERING COMMITTEE: Tony Brown, Walter Franz, Elizabeth Garcia, David Jehnsen, Cliff Kindy, Susan Mark Landis, Maxine Nash, Lee McKenna duCharme, Orlando Redekopp, Ben Richmond, Jacqui Rozier, Hedy Sawadsky, John Stoner, Rich Ufford-Chase, Brian Young.
CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKER CORPS: Scott Albrecht, Kristin Anderson, Adaía Bernal, Chris Brown, Cal Carpenter, Joe Carr, Matt Chandler, Kryss Chupp, Suzanna Collerd, Noah Dillard, Claire Evans, Tom Fox, Mark Frey, Elizabeth García, Peggy Gish, Tracy Hughes, Diane Janzen, Kathleen Kern, Scott Kerr, Cliff Kindy, Erin Kindy, Joel Klassen, Amy Knickrehm, Kim Lamberty, Jerry Levin, John Lynes, Rich Meyer, Maxine Nash, Jessica Phillips, Kimberly Price, Doug Pritchard, Sheila Provencher, Sara Reschly, Sandra Rincón, Dianne Roe, Greg Rollins, Carol Rose, Matt Schaaf, Pierre Shantz, Kathie Uhler, Luna Villota, Stewart Vriesinga, Maia Williams, Keith Young, Diana Zimmerman.
ADDITIONAL SUPPORT TEAM MEMBERS: Bob Holmes, Rebecca Johnson, Jim Loney
RESERVE CORPS: 140 women and men from the U.S., Canada, Bahrain, Israel/Palestine, Philippines, England, Scotland, and New Zealand.Back to the top