Advent Reflection: Meet CPT Reservist Michael Himlie

Christian Peacemaker Teams wish to celebrate this Advent season by sharing the reflections and experiences of CPTers who carry out the work of transforming oppression.

Week to week, we will introduce you to a CPT Reservist who will share their story through the symbols of each Advent candle in honor of the season and invite you to take action to support transforming oppression. 

On this last Sunday of Advent, we explore the theme of Light.

 

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Tell us a bit about yourself: 

I am from Harmony, M.N., US, on Meskwaki land, Turtle Island. I am currently applying to graduate school programs, and am thankful to currently serve CPT as a Corps Rep on the Steering Committee. I love to do anything outside. I am a very active person at heart, but always have a good book with me as well.

What year did you join the CPT Corps? 2017

What motivated you to join CPT?

Since I was young, perhaps 11 or 12 years of age, I heard stories of CPTers engaging in the work. Regrettably, because I grew up in a very pro-U.S. military town, and was perplexed about, war, occupation, and exploitation, CPT was simply an alternative, ethical way to engage in these curiosities of mine. As I studied, learned and became more engaged, it became clear to me that the work of undoing oppressions and grassroots-supported work was central to the work of CPT and my being a part of it. I am still in a transformational time of being just as motivated to engage in the work of CPT that intrigued me as a child, but in an ongoing transformation of undoing oppressions work.

Which teams have you served on or how have you fulfilled your reservist duty?

I joined CPT after university and joined the Palestine team after CPT’s intensive training. During my time on Palestine team, I was denied and banned and then went on to the Iraqi Kurdistan team for a short time. Prior to and post Palestine, I also served on the Lesvos program and have engaged in many speaking tours throughout North America/Turtle Island, and  Europe. I have also spent a short time as a reservist on the Mexico/U.S. Borderlands program. Now I serve as a Corps Rep to CPT’s Steering Committee. 

Palestine: 2017-2018 
Lesvos: 2017/2019 
Iraqi Kurdistan: 2018 
Mexico/U.S. Borderlands: 2019

How you experience LIGHT while you work at transforming oppression in your CPT context: 

Until about two weeks ago, I would have said that I do not regard light in any particular way specific to undoing oppressions. However, two weeks ago I was listening to a podcast that a friend and teammate told me about, hosted by Layla Saad. In this episode Layla has author and birth doula Latham Thomas on. They talked about many insightful topics, one being on the duality of darkness and light. They reflect that we are taught to define light ultimately as pure, as well as good, holy, and sacred, while darkness is evil, bad, defiant. Latham shares that how we are taught to think about darkness and light has been fraught with a sense of duality and layering race. We are taught to believe people are highly capable of leading us because they look a certain way, while someone who comes in different (darker) physical packaging does not “connect” to me because they are not what I was taught to believe purity looks like. The expression “this is a dark time” is common, but Latham reminds us that with all the words in the world, we can choose different words to describe bad times other than as “dark”. 

Latham goes on to say that we need the dark. We grow at night when we sleep; we see the stars and moon because of the darkness; babies grow in mothers’ wombs in darkness and are born into light. Darkness and light do not exist without one another. Given Latham’s experience and knowledge, I am working on noticing my internal, rooted beliefs about darkness and light, and working to experience the sacred beauty of darkness and light this season.  

Please share a short prayer or reflection for Advent, which has helped guide/motivate/inspire/sustain your transforming oppression work: 

Glennon Doyle said, “What carries on racism is not the KKKer, it’s the moderate who cares more about order than justice.” Just because I can name someone more racist than I does not mean I am deserving of a gold medal. Undoing oppressions work is a life long journey that is tested daily. Glennon also has an analogy that goes like this: if I carry a coffee cup filled with tea, and am bumped, tea will spill out of my coffee cup. Likewise, if I call myself a feminist and my teammate calls me out on sexist behavior and I become defensive in response, inside myself I have not done the proper, deep transformational work. It is our job as average beautiful moderate humans to do the life long work of undoing oppressions so that when we are bumped, we are the same justice loving people inside and out, nurturing a better world.

Take Action

In 2019, 106,711 migrants entered Europe by sea. 1,246 died at sea. The decision to seek refuge in a country that does not welcome you is a choice of life or death - a decision difficult to fathom by many, but yet one made by the 100,000 new migrants expected to arrive on Greece’s shore in 2020. The Greek government has chosen to adopt an aggressive policy to criminalize migrants, house them in inhumane conditions, and provide legal support that appears to be a farce, as CPT-Aegean Migrant Solidarity reported earlier this year. Even those who provide humanitarian assistance to migrants are criminalized. Sarah Mardini  and Seán Binder, both swimmers, are facing up to twenty five years in prison for rescuing migrants arriving by boat.

This Advent, we invite you to join Amnesty International’s ‘Write a Letter, Change a Life’ campaign to demand that charges against Sarah and Seán be dropped. It is not a crime to save lives.