On January 28, CPT sent a four-person team to Colombia to provide a nonviolent witness throughout the period of Lent in a country that has averaged 35,000 murders a year for the last decade. The Colombian Mennonite Church and Justapaz - a human rights center sponsored by the Mennonite, Mennonite Brethren and other evangelical churches in Colombia - have been exploring ways to bring the historic peace witness of their churches to bear on the indiscriminate violence that continues to claim the lives of thousands of people every year. Team members include Duane Ediger (Dallas, TX), Christine Forand (Waterloo, ON), Cliff Kindy (North Manchester, IN) and Janet Shoemaker (Goshen, IN).
"There are not many places I can talk about this. It has been good to share it with you," said Colombian Mennonite Pastor Islandes Losada in a conversation with members of CPT. For most of the past year Losada has been receiving death threats in various forms. Though he does not know their source, he does not believe it to be the guerrillas this time.
Losada works with a program developed by the Mennonite church in Colombia called Sanctuaries of Peace which seeks spiritual and social recovery for people "affected by the material and spiritual warfare" in Colombia. Through Sanctuaries of Peace, Losada has received people who want to end their participation in an armed group - most typically the guerrillas. He has offered them counsel and spiritual orientation, and in some cases has given them assistance to travel to other places within or outside Colombia. Also, as part of his pastoral work, Losada has attempted to provide alternatives to young people who, because of harsh economic realities, are easily tempted to join an armed group.
Because of this he is viewed with suspicion by different armed players in Colombia. A couple of years ago, he was forced to meet with representatives of a guerrilla group. They left the meeting convinced that his actions were consistent with the Gospel motivations he claimed.
Losada has undertaken his work with Sanctuaries of Peace on a personal level, in order to avoid the church becoming a target of those who take exception to his ministry. He does not speak about this work on Sunday mornings, and has tried to keep the threats - which so far have been directed only at him - from affecting his family.
But in the past few weeks other church members have witnessed incidents targeting Pastor Losada. Although those close to him have had some knowledge of the tensions springing from his work, until meeting with CPT in early February, he had not shared fully about the threats against his life.
Among the most recent threats are a funeral notice tacked to the door of his home and a pair of armed men attempting to intercept him as he approached the church on foot. Even as voices in the church urge him to leave the country, Losada claims to hear God's voice promising protection and accompaniment as he continues his pastoral ministry.
CPT encourages supporters to offer special prayers for Pastor Losada and the many other church workers in Colombia who receive threats for working with those stepping away from armed participation in the war. Letters of support and encouragement may be sent to Pastor Losada at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The agreement reached between Colombia President Andres Pastrana and leaders of the FARC guerrilla movement February 9 commits the Colombian government to do its part to "end paramilitarism." Yet actions by Colombian and U.S. governments have indicated an unwillingness to take seriously efforts to reduce paramilitary violence, which according to the Colombian Commission of Jurists accounted for 78% of human rights abuse in Colombia in 1998-99.
An ominous sense of normalization hung in the air during the month leading up to the Israeli elections on February 6, 2001. For three weeks solid no curfew was imposed on H2 (the Israeli-controlled section of Hebron). Roads in and out of villages were largely cleared of their roadblocks and regular travel was resuming. The frequent nights of gunfire and tank shells seemed almost a distant memory.
The relative calm was short-lived. A week before election day, the nightly rounds of gunfire started up again. Curfew was re-imposed on the Palestinian population in H2. And then things exploded. Gunfire in Hebron, both Palestinian and Israeli, started sometimes as early as noon. Military bulldozers pushed the piles of earth and boulders across Palestinian roads and placed jeeps and armored personnel carriers on bypass roads to stop Palestinian traffic.
Almost daily, there is news of escalating violence - a car bombing in Jerusalem, increased shooting at settlements by Palestinians, Palestinian homes and trees demolished in Gaza, heavy Israeli bombing of Ramallah.
There are no signs that either side will forgo the use of violence to further their goals. In fact, there is more talk by both Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon and the Palestinian Authority of stepping up the use of violence as a show of strength and a message of warning to the other side.
At the same time, the escalation of violence has also resulted in an escalation of organizing towards a different future along a different path - a path of nonviolent resistance to the forces of domination and hatred, a path of reconciliation and co-existence. It is here, in these small meetings, vigils, and demonstrations, where seeds are being planted for a different crop and a different harvest.
In response to relentless attacks by the Israeli military on the town of Bethlehem and the neighboring, predominantly Christian, villages of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, CPT sent two workers to live in Beit Jala from December 1 until the shooting subsided January 12.
Local Palestinian Christian groups urged CPT to establish a presence in the Bethlehem area to address the constant shelling and economic strangulation of the three towns by the Israeli military.
Beit Jala, where tradition holds that St. Nicholas was born, was especially vulnerable to attacks from the Israeli settlement of Gilo some two kilometers away. Palestinian gunmen who do not live in Beit Jala fired with light weaponry at Gilo, but Amnesty International called the Israeli counterattacks with tanks and missiles "grossly excessive."
On December 3, team members experienced the shelling first hand as helicopters, tanks and heavy machine guns fired into Bethlehem and Beit Jala from Gilo.
"We were playing cards with neighbors in our apartment when it started," reported Pierre Shantz (Waterloo, ON). "They told us to go with them to another, safer house. As we went outside, bullets ricocheted past us from a nearby street."
On December 5, the area immediately surrounding the CPT house again experienced heavy shelling from about 7pm to 10pm. Shantz was not home at the time, but his bedroom, which faces Gilo, was hit, blowing out the window and spreading rubble all over his belongings. CPTer Anne Montgomery (Brooklyn, NY) took shelter in the bathroom for the duration of the attack. Montgomery was able to report the activity to the U.S. Consulate by phone. Shortly thereafter the shooting stopped.
The CPT apartment and neighboring houses sustained significant damage. CPT's house was hit mostly with small arms fire, but the neighbor's house was hit hard with rockets. "They have two big holes in their door and one shot went through the wall and into the house," Shantz reported.
Since the outbreak of violence last October, the tourism industry in Bethlehem disappeared. Because of the ongoing bombardment, the municipality of Bethlehem called off all Christmas festivities for the year 2000, saying that it was not a time to celebrate.
by Bob Holmes
After several weeks of relative calm, life under Israeli Occupation has re-intensified. Checkpoints and road closures throughout the West Bank turn forty-five minute trips into two-hour ordeals up and down steep trails and rough back roads. Curfew means that people like Osaid cannot make the 10-minute walk to the hospital where he works as a nurse. Instead, he must go by taxi on a forty-five minute route around the outskirts of the city. Many are angry and the anger of some has turned violent.
These events represent an escalating spiral of violence which has produced a new, virulent form of road rage.
On January 9th, Hebron team member Art Gish called from the Beqa'a Valley to report that Israeli bulldozers were at the home of Atta Jaber. The road in front of the home was "closed for operations" according to the military. Given the history of violations by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), "operations" has a sinister ring.
CPTers Pierre Shantz, Bob Holmes, Anita Fast, and Rebecca Johnson met Gish at the foot of the hill leading up to the Jaber home. A new road was under construction which circled the hill within feet of the rear of the house.
When challenged, the IDF commander replied, "This is a compromise. We are building a road to separate Israeli land from Palestinian land. We are giving the Jaber's their home."
Team members insisted that this land was not the Israeli government's to determine how to divide or develop. They expressed disapproval throughout the morning-long operation by standing beside olive trees threatened by construction of the road, and joining some of the twenty or so neighboring Palestinians who briefly sat in front of a bulldozer.
Their concerns fell on ears attuned to following orders. "This is peace," said one soldier nodding, "yes, this is peace."
"It is a curious road to peace when a family's home is demolished twice, their orchard is plowed under, and their land is stolen," suggested CPTers.
Sadly it seems, a fork was taken long ago, and this road being built will lead to more illegal settlements and more understandable outrage.
Members of CPT-Hebron and CPT-Beit Jala November through January were: Art Arbour (Toronto, ON), Jamey Bouwmeester (Elgin, IL), Gary Brooks (Lexington, KY), Judith Bustany (Los Angeles, CA), Rick Carter (Newton, KS), Anita Fast (Vancouver, BC), Andrew Getman (Washington, DC), Art Gish (Athens, OH), Bob Holmes (Toronto, ON), Rebecca Johnson (Parry Sound, ON), Bourke Kennedy (Skaneateles, NY), Kathy Kern (Webster, NY), Natasha Krahn (Waterloo, ON), Rich Meyer (Millersburg, IN), Anne Montgomery (Brooklyn, NY), Dianne Roe (Corning, NY) and Pierre Shantz (Waterloo, ON).
Since January 1 Israel has confiscated huge tracts of land in the Hebron district. Bulldozers have razed orchards and plowed land in preparation to build new settlements. Settlements in the north, south, and east of the district are reportedly expanding at an increased rate.
In the past, your letters to the U.S. State Department in sufficient numbers have resulted in U.S. government representatives putting pressure on the Israeli government to stop such violations. Now is the time to let the Bush administration know that this concern must be dealt with.
CPT asks supporters to send letters and faxes calling on the Bush administration to use its influence to halt all land confiscations by Israel in the Occupied Territories.
Talking Points for Letters:
Addresses:President George W. Bush
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington DC 20500
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell
2201 C St. NW
Washington DC 20520
(State Dept. switchboard: 202-647-4000)
Fax: 202-736 4461
For more information see our web page: http://cpt.org/urgent.php
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David is a stockbroker living in Santa Barbara, CA who joined CPT's delegation to the Middle East, November 14-27, 2000. Other delegates were Ami Angell (Portland, OR), Stan Bohn (Newton, KS), Helene Hoover (Elkhart, IN), Catherine McLean (Strathroy, ON), Ryan Penner (Winnipeg, MB) and James Roynon (Archbold, OH). Visit CPT's web site for David's full report: http://www.cpt.org/hebron/hebrontrip.php
The last night we were in Hebron there was a tremendous firefight right over our apartment. That same night the settlers started a fire at the entrance to our apartment building. During my stay they kept telling us, "You in the red [CPT] hats, you're next!"
Having returned from my trip to Hebron and the West Bank, people ask me "What was it like?" It is a terrible thing to live under occupation. Your every move is monitored and controlled by someone who is hostile to you. They check your papers and your plates. Your life and livelihood are always at risk for no other reason than that you are Palestinian, especially under curfew.
Now that I'm home I wonder every day how the people are doing in Hebron. I count the days until I can go back.
As hundreds of Mayan Indians processed out of the Basilica in two tight lines, an older white woman approached the Tzotzil woman in front of me and said how much hope we could all put in the wonderful new president, Vicente Fox. After she left, a Tzeltal man turned to me with a grimace on his face and said, "We're not putting our faith in Fox. Our faith is in God."
These two people were among 250 who had just completed a two-month, 1000-mile (1400 kilometer) trek from the war-torn state of Chiapas to Mexico's capital to pray for peace at the national shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and to present their demands to the authorities. CPTers Lynn Stoltzfus (Harrisonburg, VA) and William Payne (Toronto, ON) joined them for the last couple of days of walking.
The walkers' leaflets called for the dismantling of the military and paramilitary forces in their communities, the safe return of refugees to their homes, freedom for political prisoners and the enactment of a law recognizing the autonomy of Indigenous peoples. They publicly committed to use nonviolent methods to work for a peaceful transition to democracy, praying especially for a change of heart on the part of authorities.
These days are being called a time of transition: a new president, a new governor in Chiapas, the Zapatistas expressing openness to the possibility of dialogue. President Fox has made some positive steps. The military and immigration roadblocks are down in some areas and some troops have been withdrawn. At the same time though, he is talking about supporting big business in its efforts to set up factories in Chiapas. This is seen by many as the next step in low-intensity warfare.
All night on December 11, the Chiapan pilgrims vigiled in the Guadalupe Basilica, praying for justice and peace. On December 12, they fasted in front of the Angel of Independence, situated in the midst of the federal government buildings of Mexico City. On December 13, they again put their cries before God in a final liturgy at the Basilica before boarding buses for the journey back to Chiapas. God willing, their voices will be heard by the powers that be.
On January 8, 2001 CPTers William Payne (Toronto, ON), Carl Meyer (Goshen, IN) and Erin Kindy (N. Manchester, IN) concluded three days of prayer and fasting at the gates of a large military base in the Chiapan jungle in the abandoned village of Guadalupe Tepeyac.
When the military entered Guadalupe Tepeyac six years ago, its inhabitants fled and continue to live as refugees in towns throughout the municipality. CPTers engaged in public prayer and fasting to draw attention to the plight of the displaced and urged the federal government of Mexico to withdraw its troops and return the land to its rightful owners.
Payne, Kindy and Meyer set up a tent facing the main gate of the military base and displayed two banners: "The World is Shamed by Displacement" and "Fast for Demilitarization." The three gathered for candlelit prayers every four hours - sometimes offering their prayers within the walls of abandoned houses overgrown by the jungle. At eight o'clock each evening the team lit 80 candles and placed them along the road to recall prayerfully the 80 families displaced from Guadelupe Tepeyac.
During the first full day of fasting a soldier from the base asked God hear their prayers as readily from their homes halfway across the world. Meyer replied that an important part of the fast was to be present in the place of injustice and that in Isaiah 58, the "fast that delights God" is described as breaking the bonds of oppression.
At the end of the 3-day witness, as Meyer, Kindy and Payne left the area they were followed for four and a half hours by two men who, throughout the fast, had posed as reporters. The three encountered a checkpoint on their route out of the jungle that had not been there before.
The fast received wide coverage in the Chiapas state press and gained the attention of the President's office. Some of the discussion centered around whether foreigners should be allowed to express their views on internal Mexican politics. CPTers responded to such criticisms by saying that the concern is one of injustice, which is not constrained by national borders. They also acknowledged the long, shameful history of interference in Mexico by outside powers, recognizing that their own governments share the blame for creating the conditions under which the indigenous communities of Chiapas have been militarized.
Members of CPT-Chiapas November through January were: Claire Evans (Chicago, IL), Matt Guynn (Rickmond, IN), Anne Herman (Binghampton, NY), Scott Kerr (Downers Grove, IL), Erin Kindy (N. Manchester, IN), Carl Meyer (Millersburg, IN), Frank Moore (Houston, TX), William Payne (Toronto, ON), and Lynn Stoltzfus (Harrisonburg, VA).
On the afternoon of January 30, CPTers Claire Evans (Chicago, IL), Scott Kerr (Downers Grove, IL), and William Payne (Toronto, ON) and two friends from the U.S. lit 100 white candles outside the gates of a prison where ten political prisoners are incarcerated. The five traveled to the prison just outside the city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas to pray for political prisoners in Chiapas and throughout the world, and for those imprisoned unjustly and without due process.
As they began their vigil, five guards from the prison came to investigate. To everyone's amazement, the guards accepted CPT's invitation to join the prayer circle. One of the guards proclaimed the gospel while another led a litany focused on the release of political prisoners and on peace in Chiapas.
The group gave thanks for the recent release of a number of political prisoners by Pablo Salazar, the new governor of Chiapas, and prayed that Mexican President Vincente Fox would take similar steps soon in regard to federal prisoners.
January 30 has been declared the International Day of Nonviolent Action commemorating the anniversary of the death of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. Gandhi was incarcerated many times for his nonviolent work in India and died at the hands of an assassin. While CPTers prayed in Chiapas, members of the Mexican peace group, SERPAJ (Servicio Paz y Justicia) and students of the UNAM (the National Autonomous University of Mexico) held a simultaneous vigil in Mexico City.
From January 25 - February 4, CPT's largest delegation ever visited Vieques, Puerto Rico. Twenty-seven delegates heard from a wide range of groups who oppose U.S. and NATO use of Vieques as a practice bombing range.
Currently, the U.S. Navy controls 70% of the 21 mile long island including vital shoreline. The U.S. along with NATO partners practice military maneuvers there. Heavy metals including depleted uranium have contaminated land and water. Cancer rates and other serious health problems linked to the naval activity are significantly higher on Vieques than those on the main island of Puerto Rico.
CPT has sent delegations to Vieques for the past year to support courageous, nonviolent workers calling for a homeland free of the violence perpetrated by armed forces. Thousands of Puerto Ricans and internationals peacefully occupied Vieques, successfully stopping the bombing for over a year. They are ready to re-occupy the area if and when the Navy resumes practice bombing.
On previous occasions CPTers have received "ban and bar" letters from the Navy prohibiting them from entering particular sites for a period of time, usually one to five years. Delegates decided it was time to "ban and bar" the Navy from Vieques, so on February 1, they entered the Roosevelt Roads Naval base to present a "ban and bar" letter addressed to Rear Admiral Kevin Green of the United States Navy.
It stated: "We ask that the U.S. Navy cease all operations on Vieques, clean and reclaim all toxic sites and leave. Violations of this order may constitute violations of the laws of the United States, of international law and the sovereignty of God."
Seven participants were arrested and issued "ban and bar" letters of their own, which stated, "should you EVER be found within the limits of Roosevelt Roads Naval base you will be apprehended."
Those detained were Jim Clune (Binghamton, NY); Anne Herman (Binghamton, NY), Brian Ladd (Boulder, CO), JoAnne Lingle (Indianapolis IN), Lisa Martens (Winnipeg, MB), Rev. Steve Ratzlaff (Lincoln, NE), and Brian Terrell (Maloy, IA.)
Other members of the delegation were Mark Byler (Goshen, IN), Robert Epp (Henderson, NE), Noelle DePape (Winnipeg, MB), Christine Dull (Englewood, OH), Ralph Dull (Englewood, OH), Christopher Friedman (Boulder, CO), Jim Gibble (Lititz, PA), Ruth Johnston (Woodstock, ON), Cliff Kindy (N. Manchester, IN), Miriam Kindy (N. Manchester, IN), Eric Meyer (Millersburg, IN), H.A. Penner (Akron, PA), Rick Polhamus (Fletcher, OH), Lisette Sanabria (San Juan, PR), Ryan Siemens (Winnipeg, MB), John Sherman (Dayton, OH), Rachael Waas Smith (N. Manchester, IN), Dick Williams (Boulder, CO), Gretchen Williams (Boulder, CO), and Rich Williams (W. New York, NJ).
In this issue of Dialogue we share exchanges regarding violence in the Occupied Territories and CPT's presence there. Placing CPTers in the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, which suffered heavy attacks from the Jewish settlement of Gilo, sparked vigorous discussion about CPT's work. We regret that we are unable to identify some e-mail contributors more fully.
Michael Spivak: I was wondering if you care at all about the Israeli civilians living in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo who are under constant nightly attack by Palestinian snipers shooting from Beit Jala. These snipers are trying to terrorize Israeli civilians in Gilo. Why are they doing this? Is an Israeli life worth any less than a Palestinian life? In your eyes, obviously yes, since you make not a single reference to the nightly terror endured by Israelis living in Gilo thanks to Palestinian "freedom fighters" shooting at schools in Gilo. How are they achieving freedom by shooting at Jewish schools?
Kathleen Kern, CPT-Hebron, Webster, NY: The night after the first heavy shelling of Beit Jala and shooting into Gilo, Ha'aretz had a picture of a little girl in Gilo holding a bullet she had found in her living room. One of the local Palestinian papers had a picture of a little girl in Beit Jala holding two tank missiles. She was framed by the hole that the two missiles had blasted into the side of her house.Both Palestinian gunmen and the Israeli military are shooting at civilians. As pacifists, we find all of this shooting morally objectionable, but the media refers to an exchange of gunfire, when the reality is that entire Palestinian neighborhoods are being decimated with missiles shot from tanks and helicopters. We are appalled at the gunmen, all from outside the area, who draw these missile barrages into the neighborhoods in Hebron, Beit Jala and Bethlehem.
Rabbi Moshe Yehudai-Rimmer, Kenton, Newcastle, England: Reading the Beit Jala report, I just would like to ask the team members whether they have had any experiences, encounters, discussions etc. with the local residents of Beit Jala regarding the shootings that were taking place from Beit Jala towards Gilo?
Kathleen Kern, CPT-Hebron, Webster, NY: I was in Beit Jala for two weeks, during which time there was no shooting. But in the weeks before I came, the people in Beit Jala had organized neighborhood patrols to get the shooters out. This met with mixed success. After a while, the gunmen started coming out at odd hours, like 4 am, and once, gunmen threw rocks at the neighbors who were yelling at them to get out of the neighborhood. This shelling of neighborhoods in response to gunfire is ongoing in Hebron and I can say that in both places, the gunmen come from outside and the neighbors want them out. There are lots of rumors about them being collaborators or even Israeli secret police. I think it's just too many guns in too many hands.
Bryan: Your organization should really do some reading about the Israeli conflict. Maybe then you will start preaching the truth. Until then you are in my books just poor misinformed souls probably getting some type of funding from one of Arafat's charitable organizations financed by his personal casino in Jericho. In the end the real truth will prevail not your pathetic interpretation of it.
Dianne Roe, CPT-Hebron, Corning, NY: "Pathetic" is the word used by both Israeli and Palestinian journalists to describe the strength of the Palestinian Authority (PA) police force. "Pathetic" also describes the Palestinian negotiating position when agreements were forged that required the PA to become puppets of Israeli security. "Pathetic" is how you describe us.
It seems that way to us sometimes, too. Our press releases are pathetic up against the Israeli-American machine that offers journalists all expense-paid helicopter tours complete with accommodations and carefully constructed "news" overviews so that they are reporting the Israeli line. "Pathetic" is the hospitality we offer the occasional journalist who makes it past four checkpoints, partly on foot, to arrive in the center of Hebron amid the stone throwing and gun fire of clashes, to our apartment in the chicken market where the chickens have not been fed since the last lifting of the curfew.
We invite you to become sym-pathetic. We invite you to visit us, across those many check points, and then to judge the merits of our words. Our viewpoint is not false. It is not widespread because it has been secreted in the middle of checkpoints and closures.
Dale Welty: I was reading an ad published by FLAME in a recent weekly edition of the Washington Times in which they state, "Since all Arab children are imbued from first grade with hatred for the Jews and with the desire to become martyrs for their cause, peace would seem to be a long way off." May I suggest that Christian Peacemaker Teams begin teaching the love of Jesus in Palestinian schools in an effort to eliminate the hatred and violence against the Jews that is currently being promoted. Otherwise, you are wasting your time and the Church's money. The methods you are using to promote peace in the Middle East will continue to prove ineffective.
Gene Stoltzfus, CPT Director, Chicago, IL: Be careful about taking the advertisement of the Washington Times to contain credible information. I know that you are sincerely seeking a solution and giving honest advice, but your sources are not reliable. We try our very best to live out the love of Jesus and when its appropriate we discuss redemptive love with great enthusiasm. At the moment most of the schools in Hebron are closed due to Israeli attacks so it would not be possible to use schools as a venue for teaching. You would also be interested to know that the Koran refers to Jesus in some detail and regards Jesus to be a prophet so there is a natural starting place for such conversations.
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On Ash Wednesday (February 28) at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa ON, CPT Canada will release a comprehensive report documenting Canada's abuse of human rights which CPT's New Brunswick team witnessed during the 2000 lobster fishing season at Esgenoôpetitj (Burnt Church, NB.)
CPT Canada Coordinator Doug Pritchard says, "The report calls upon the Canadian government to stop its violence and radically alter its dealings with Esgenoôpetitj First Nation. It also calls upon the Canadian people to take an active role in resolving this conflict and forging a just relationship with Aboriginal peoples."
After the news conference, CPTers will go to the Ottawa headquarters of Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans for a time of spirited intercessory prayer for an end to violence in the fishery.
A draft memo to the federal cabinet, recently leaked to the media, says that failure to implement a comprehensive strategy on Aboriginal rights would "significantly increase the risk of conflict between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities next fishing season."
CPT maintained a team of 4-6 people at Esgenoôpetitj from April to October 2000 at the invitation of Mi'kmaq lobster fishers. The team witnessed a systematic denial by Canadian government officials of the Mik'maqs' right to fish under their own Fisheries Act. CPT's report summarizes 29 serious incidents of abuse as fishers were harassed and arrested and their fishing equipment and boats confiscated.
Pritchard says, "The Canadian government's actions against Mi'kmaq fishers were often accompanied by an excessive and even reckless use of force. Canada appeared unwilling to engage in any serious dialogue with Esgenoôpetitj."
Esgenoôpetitj fishers have invited CPT to return for the spring lobster fishing season in April, 2001.
"The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." 2 Corinthians 10:4
On Saturday, December 2 CPT-Lee Heights gathered to pray for peace in The Flats, a section of old warehouses converted into bars and nightclubs along the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland. The Flats has become the setting of frequent killings and acts of violence.
In November 2000, outside a nightclub called the Mirage, a fight escalated into a shooting which resulted in two deaths. "It is as if The Flats has rapidly developed into a killing field and the fatalities continually increase," said Jacqui Rozier, a member of the Lee Heights church and participant in CPT's peacemaker training.
The group carried out a simple liturgy in the main parking lot area of The Flats which included traditional hymns, scripture reading (Psalms 122), and prayers seeking protection and deliverance of the city. "As we grieve the violence within our city we pray not only for the victims of senseless violence but for the violence that resides silently in the hearts of all humankind," said Lee Heights Peace Minister Henri Ngolo.
Singing "We Are Marching in the Light of God," the team then walked several blocks to the Mirage nightclub where they placed white carnations and hung signs proclaiming peace on the chain link fence. "In the name of Jesus we stood victorious over the principalities, powers, rulers of darkness and spiritual wickedness that is over Cleveland," proclaimed Lee Heights pastor, Robin Miller.
Five Cleveland television networks and a radio station covered the event. Later, a pastor in Madison, Ohio who saw the vigil on the news called to thank the church for their efforts. His 21-year-old son was killed in The Flats last summer.
The Cleveland, OH team, which has completed half of CPT's peacemaker training, includes Elluage Carson, Amy Gomez, Alyce Foster, Jesse Griffin, Carol Hanna, Lois Mack, Jackie McKenny, Robin and Cynthia Miller, Phyllis Milton, Henri and Wanda Ngolo and Jacqui Rozier, all of the Greater Cleveland area, and Barb Martens of Ruthven, Ontario.
On January 22, sixteen people completed CPT's month-long peacemaker training. Greg Rollins (Surrey, BC) joined the full-time Peacemaker Corps for a three-year term. Twelve people graduated as Reserve Corps (r) members and three individuals continue in discernment (d) about their level of involvement.
Participants engaged in a rigorous program of action, reflection and practice of a variety of peacemaking skills which included two public witness events.
On January 1st, the first day of the UN-declared "Decade of a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World," (2001-2010) the training team led a public witness calling for the removal of violent toys from stores in downtown Chicago. The team inspected six area toy retailers, rating them on the level of violent content in the toys and games they carried. At a press conference outside Toys "R" Us, which received a Notice of Toxicity for having the worst score, the group announced their concerns about the level of violence in children's toys. Eight team members stationed inside the store tried to engage in dialogue with the store manager and began calling attention to violent toys in the vicinity of the cash registers. All were quickly escorted out by security guards, but not before unveiling a banner and informing the customers that Toys "R" Us is a zone of high toy toxicity.
On January 14 the training group participated in a witness against project ELF (Extremely Low Frequency), a Navy transmitter that enables the U.S. to initiate an attack thus triggering a nuclear war. A group of thirty people vigiled outside the Navy's property speaking on behalf of the forests, fish, and the animals of the world affected by ELF, and the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The participants asked the Navy to stop preparing to use weapons of mass destruction so that life can prevail. Eight peacemakers crossed onto Navy property to continue their witness and the police placed them under arrest, issuing them all citations for trespassing.
Chris Schweitzer, one of the eight arrested, convinced an officer to deliver a letter to the Navy buildings on the base asking for the closure of ELF. CPTers arrested were: Cat Grambles, Matt Guynn (Richmond, IN), Greg Rollins, Chris Schweitzer, Jerry Stein, Jane Wright, and Keith Young.
CPT welcomes Kathy Railsback, Seattle, WA, as Coordinator of the "Violence is Not Child's Play" campaign which seeks 500 North American congregations and meetings to ask local toy stores to remove violent toys from their shelves. The campaign complements the U.N. General Assembly's declaration of 2001-2010 as the "International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the World's Children." Kathy completed CPT's training as a Reservist in January and will work half-time to organize and support churches involved in the campaign.
As part of CPT's "Violence is Not Child's Play: 500 Churches for Change" campaign, faith communities across North America have stepped up their efforts to persuade toy retailers to stop marketing violence to children.
Over the past six months, church members have conducted inspections and spoken to managers of local toy stores in Goshen and Fort Wayne, IN; Kansas City, MO; Lethbridge and Edmonton, AB; Winnipeg, MB; Cleveland, OH; Waterloo, ON; Wichita, KS; Boulder, CO; and Chicago, IL.
In the process, participants have alerted retailers and the broader community to the harmful effects of violent toys on children. "[The] unprecedented level of violence in toys and entertainment that is marketed to children is very disturbing," said Marilyn Houser Hamm (Winnipeg Free Press, November 5, 2000).
In their coverage of toy store inspections organized in conjunction with Mennonite Church Canada's Annual Conference last July, the editors of the Lethbridge Herald observed, "The [video] games have made killing that much more real, gruesome and, unfortunately, entertaining for our youth. . . Perhaps we can exert pressure on local stores to refrain from carrying graphically violent toys and games."
Some participants emphasized the importance of the campaign to long-range peace efforts. "This is a starting point for the next generation," said Keith Funk-Froese of Edmonton. They have a chance to make society something other than it is now." (Edmonton Journal, November 26, 2000). "It comes down to what kind of society you want to build and what kind of values you want to promote," said Ester Epp-Tiessen (Winnipeg Sun, November 6, 2000).
What YOU Can Do:
Contact Kathy Railsback; Tel: 206-361-9176; e-mail: email@example.com for more information on how to organize the campaign in your area. Organizing packets are available for a $5 donation from CPT's Chicago office.
Voices in the Wilderness - Sixteen people were arrested on the steps of the U.S. Mission to the U.N. on January 16, the 10th anniversary of the Gulf War, for opposing ongoing sanctions and bombings of the Iraqi people. The group shared a simple meal of lentils and rice, based on the daily food ration of ordinary Iraqi families under the UN/US economic sanctions. Unpurified water from the East River was brought to the meal to symbolize the contaminated water that many Iraqis have to drink, because the country has not been allowed the means to restore its water purification systems destroyed during the Gulf War. Although the formal Gulf War only lasted 42 days, sanctions and bombings in the "No Fly Zones" have killed between 1.5 and 2 million people over the past ten years.
Farewell Sam - On January 26, long-time peace worker Samuel Day, Jr. passed away following a stroke. Sam was a reporter, editor and nonviolent activist whose relentless exposure of governmental wrong-doing brought not only journalism awards but also police citations. His resistance to U.S. nuclear weapons production led to frequent arrests and months of imprisonment. CPT was honored to have Sam visit the office during training in early January.
CPT's website has undergone substantial updating in recent months. You can now use the site to subscribe to Signs of the Times (quarterly newsletter) and CPTNet (e-mail news service). You can also send messages responding to CPT urgent actions directly to government officials. Special thanks to Daniel Rempel (Winnipeg, MB) for all his hard work.
Weaving Peace: a conference sponsored by On Earth Peace Assembly, a revitalized peace effort of the Church of the Brethren, will be held July 4-7, 2001 in Union Bridge, Maryland. Topics include economic violence and globalization, building peace in our schools and communities, stopping the marketing of violent toys and video games, what it means to be a peace church and many more. CPT is a conference co-sponsor. Contact On Earth Peace Assembly; Tel: 410-635-8704; firstname.lastname@example.org
Studying Peace: Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA, offers a 42-hour Master of Arts degree and a 15-hour Graduate Certificate in Conflict Transformation. In addition, the annual Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI) offers 17 intensive 5-10 day courses for professional training or credit. SPI 2001 will be held May 7-June 29. Call: 540-432- 4490 or email: email@example.com ; website: http://www.emu.edu/ctp.
Thanks for compiling that list of how to "Sing out Against Violent Toys". Bravo!
I fasted three days with your team in Mexico. Keep your courage. You will rise like the star and keep us restless for justice to travel where God is flesh. I am glad for your presence and your witness.
Please accept my profound thanks for the work your teams are doing in Hebron. I try to pray for them always, for strength and courage and that their commitment to reflect God's love may not fail in the face of continuing violence and injustice. I pray also that the hearts of those to whom they are witnessing, both Israelis and Palestinians, may remain open or be opened to God's love. Your work gives me hope and renews my faith.
L. Zoe Cole
You are all so much in my thoughts and prayers. I am a 70 year old woman and would gladly put my body on the line if it could bring peace. The Jabers have all suffered too much.
You people are aiding and abetting Arafat so that he can get more sympathy for bleeding his people for power over land that has been long ago deeded to the children of Abraham and NOT the Palestinians! He will use you as well.
I have never read such claptrap written in the name of Christianity as I have read on your site. One-sided for sure. Religion and politics are even more deadly than a bullet. You have been petting the wolf and when it bites, you will run to your governments demanding protection. Poor well-intentioned but misguided zealots.
The wonderful outpouring of financial contributions in December affirms that CPT's decision to grow from three to six or more projects over the next five years is based on real support. In one month, we received gifts totaling $113,000 (U.S.) and $27,000 (Canadian).
The economic optimism that has permeated North American society is countered by economic devastation in the areas where CPT works.
In Palestine, economic development is shattered by shelling from the Israeli Occupation Forces. In Chiapas, low coffee prices on the world market shrink the hope of our friends who have fled their homes due to paramilitary attacks. A new CPT project is underway in Colombia where violence is fueled by massive drug markets often within shouting distance of our first world homes. By the end of April we should know if a team will need to return to Esgenoôpetitj (Burnt Church, New Brunswick) to address violence against aboriginal fishers.
New political leaders may change the language that surrounds these problems. However, real solutions will come when those who are trampled on and pushed to the margins are listened to.
The generous offerings from individuals, congregations and peace groups accompanied by participation in advocacy, peacemaker delegations, and other forms of bold witness to faith and justice reflect the stream of Jesus' public ministry.
As the season of Lent is upon us, CPTers are attentive to ways in which the church might be called to special acts of spirituality, prayer and resistance.
It's a privilege to be part of this work. Your generosity, which represents a solid commitment to the unfolding of this vision, is an encouragement to each and every CPTer. Thank you.
New Expanded FormatAs CPT grows we've got more to report. We're experimenting with a slightly expanded format from 12 to 16 pages. You'll still find crisp articles direct from our teams in the field with a bit more room for photos and acknowledgements. Let us know what you think.
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 9000 copies of Signs of the Times.