11 June 2015
CPT INTERNATIONAL: Christian Peacemaker Teams, movement building and the Detroit Peacemaker Congress
by Sarah Thompson
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) began with these questions:
What if pacifist Christians trained as hard for peace as militaries (including militant Christians) trained for war? What if pacifist Christians (such as the Mennonites, Brethren, and Quakers) were willing to sacrifice as much for peace as a soldier is willing to sacrifice for war? What could happen?
Christian Peacemaker Teams is part of the answer to that question. Having begun in 1986, in the crucible of Latin American solidarity movements, CPT has continued to thrive within various social movements as a creative, faith-inspired organization committed to undoing oppressions and to strategic peacemaking interventions in situations of violent conflict. Joining with you all—people who belong to social movements, have risked a lot, sacrificed much, and experimented with healthier ways of sharing this planet—enlivens our work. It is one reason we hold a Peacemaker Congress every other year—this year it will take place in Detroit—so that our workers in the field can engage with you, our supporters. and new people interested in movement building.
CPT sends small teams of people to agitate for justice at the invitation of and alongside grassroots leaders and community organizations who are nonviolently resisting the lethal and structural oppression that they face. Currently we work in Iraqi Kurdistan, Colombia, Palestine, and alongside First Nations communities in Canada. In each place where we currently work there is an undercurrent of conversation that bubbles up to the surface about water: equitable distribution in Palestine, environmental justice in Treaty 3 Territory, access to a clean supply for Syrian refugees, human rights for Colombian river communities and deaths from thirst and heat for migrants crossing the Arizonan desert, as people who experienced the loss of fellow travelers shared with a recent CPT two-week delegation to the US/Mexico borderlands. In Detroit, at the Peacemaker Congress, we will be addressing the injustice of water shutoffs to thousands of poor households.
In addition to water, securing safe and affordable housing is another common justice issue we face in CPT work. To the right is a picture of a house in Detroit slated for demolition. Below is a picture of a CPTer documenting a recently demolished Palestinian home in the village of Um il-Khair, which sits next to the Carmel settlement. More than 2,000 Israeli settlement homes are built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank, and forced evictions and home demolitions are a daily occurrence under Israeli military occupation. Though these are different scenarios, what can we learn from one another’s experiences?
Through our connections with the re-ignited Poor People’s Campaign, Maureen Taylor invited CPT to come to Detroit, Michigan, USA, in the Great Lakes watershed. In addition to this gathering we will host a Peacemaker Congress here July 17-19, 2015 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. You are welcome; registration is online.
Executive Director, Christian Peacemaker Teams