26 November 2014
CPT INTERNATIONAL REFLECTION: Treasure
in Ferguson, Colombia, Palestine, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Turtle Island
by Kathleen Kern
Since a St. Louis, Missouri prosecutor and Grand Jury have determined that
Police Officer Darren Wilson killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown did not
merit a trial, I have been busy tweeting #Ferguson on the Christian Peacemaker
Team Twitter account. Those tweets
have been getting a lot of retweets.
We have no people working in Ferguson and I have asked myself why I am
inundating the account.
I think it has to do with the disposability of human life,
with the contempt shown to Michael Brown when the authorities left his body in
the street for four and a half hours and did not bother interviewing key
witnesses to the shooting for weeks (until there was a public outcry.) That contempt connected directly with
our work in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine, with indigenous communities
in North America, and with migrants in Europe. In all these cases, people in power have deemed the people we
work with disposable.
If you want to drive Colombian farmers off their land so
that you can make big profits with palm oil plantations, it’s okay to assault
them, to threaten to rape their nine-year old daughters, to kill their animals,
to burn their homes, to use the instruments of the Colombian state illegally to
evict their communities’ teachers.
And of course, you can do much worse. The types of violent harassment cited above are just some
issues the communities we work with have been dealing with recently.
In Iraqi-Kurdistan, our civil society partners have had to
drop most of their work to focus on the some most disposable people in the
world: refugees. And these
refugees have included those from the Ezidi/Yazidi community, whose wives, sisters,
and daughters are now in ISIS/DAESH brothels, women considered worthless except
for sexual gratification.
And then there is the project CPT Europe participated in
this summer, welcoming the refugees that Europe wishes would just disappear,
and who, because of European policies, have drowned by the thousands in the Mediterranean,
fleeing the violence in countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
In Palestine, for nineteen long years, we have watched the
forces of military occupation say it is acceptable to arrest, jail and torture
Palestinian men, women and children without due process, and destroy their
homes if Israel wants their land for settlement expansion. It is acceptable for soldiers to shoot
teargas at Palestinian children on their way to school and look on as settlers
In our work with Indigenous partners, we have watched again
and again, naked racism strip them of their sovereignty, strip their lands of
their resources, and leave behind the toxic poisons of their industries. We have watched the government shrug as
1800 Indigenous women are reported murdered and missing.
So I think it’s all related. Mike Brown, VonDerrit Myers, Tamir
Rice, Tina Fontaine, Loretta Saunders, Bella Laboucan-McLean…People of color
who lost their lives because here in North America, they were considered just
as disposable as the people we work with in Colombia, Palestine, Lesvos, Turtle
Island and Kurdistan.
The good news, of course, is that our Colombian, Indigenous,
Palestinian, Kurdish, and refugee partners are revealing to the world that they
are a treasure—as are the people of Ferguson. The season of Advent is upon us. Let us listen.
Good hashtags to follow #BlackLivesMatter
Good accounts: @FaithinFerguson, @BroderickGreer @MikeBrownCover. The #Ferguson hashtag has a lot of good
information, but you will also find really racist tweets there.