Nearly five months after CPT issued a report identifying widespread mistreatment of Iraqi detainees, the news finally hit U.S. headlines with horrifying pictures of Coalition soldiers abusing and ridiculing Iraqi prisoners.
Looking at these degrading pictures, the question in the hearts of most people is, "How could young American men and women do such horrible things?" The gut response is, "It must be an aberration, a few bad people." President Bush insisted that only a "few people" were to blame (Reuters, May 2). Brigadier General Mark Kimmett was even more forceful: "...this is a small minority of the military.... The Army is a values-based organization.... [What] you see in these pictures may reflect the actions of individuals, but by God, it doesn't reflect my army" (60 Minutes II, May 3).
However, the sheer number of allegations of mistreatment, many of which CPTers have heard personally, suggests that the problem is not just a matter of "a few bad soldiers." The problem is very broad. CPT has been documenting first-hand accounts of abuses within the detention system for nearly a year. For months, team members have communicated grave concerns in numerous meetings with U.S. military and Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) officials in Iraq, and with representatives in Congress -- stories like that of one young man who described how his elderly father suffocated and died of a heart attack as they both lay hooded and handcuffed in the back of a military vehicle.
Does this mean that most soldiers are sadistic abusers, whose crimes equal those of Saddam? Of course not. Indeed, there are countless honorable soldiers who work in the military prisons in Iraq. Many Iraqis who relate stories of degrading abuse also comment on the "noble soldiers" who protested such abuse and treated them with respect. Dr. Ali, a professor at Baghdad University, was held without charges for 38 days last winter. Before taking him to prison, soldiers kept him in a cage meant for animals under the open sky for three days and nights. But at the airport prison, his guard befriended him and said, "I hope you will be freed."
One elderly man from Baquba was taken in a house raid last August and held for four months. He described numerous abuses: soldiers threatened him with attack dogs, made him stand for hours in the sun with water bottles a tantalizing distance away, and forced him to sleep on the bare ground. But he also told of a "noble soldier" who finally asked, "What crazy person imprisoned this old man? He could not even fire a weapon; the backfire would hurt him." Because of that soldier, the elderly man was freed.
What is so disturbing about the abuse is that it is perpetrated by good young men and women who have become dehumanized enough -- by training, combat stress, and neglect -- to deprive people of food, water and toilet facilities, to beat them and humiliate them.
The fact that so many soldiers do manage to maintain great integrity and courage under such stress is a testament to the inherent goodness of the people in the armed services. However, the stress of warfare creates conditions that lead too many soldiers to express their anger, fear and frustration with abusive behavior.
One soldier at Abu Ghraib prison told a CPTer, "I work twelve hours a day, seven days a week. I can't take this anymore."
Military ideology sees all security detainees as "bad guys." For a soldier who has watched his or her friends die and who feels threatened all the time, it can become all too easy to abuse the "bad guy" nearest at hand, even if that "bad guy" is a fifteen-year-old boy scooped up in a house raid because his uncle was a suspected Baathist.
The military's hierarchical structure encourages fierce loyalty and deference to superiors. These abuses do not happen in a vacuum -- soldiers receive orders. During an interview with 60 Minutes II, one of the soldiers charged with abuse at Abu Ghraib stated that he never received training about the Geneva Conventions' standards for humane treatment of prisoners, and that higher officers encouraged his abusive methods of interrogation.
Military officials have chosen to cast a wide net when hunting for insurgents. In order to capture one suspect, the Coalition Forces arrest all of the male members of a household during chaotic midnight raids that terrify entire families and sometimes end in the injury or death of women and children. For those Iraqis who are guilty of terrible violence, the methods used to capture, imprison, and interrogate them are so violent that the Coalition only creates more resisters.
The devastation to Iraqis is only part of the suffering. There is psychological and spiritual devastation to the soldiers who witness and perpetrate acts of violence upon Iraqi detainees? Who will care for these soldiers when they come home? Who will change the military system so that this does not happen again?
The number of soldiers who are becoming dehumanized by a system based on violent force is not negligible. We are all responsible for them, and for these actions. So we must all be part of the healing.Back to the top
On May 3, two CPTers returned to Baghdad from Amman, Jordan to resume CPT's violence-reduction work after a two-week absence. Three remaining team members joined them on May 10.
The team had left Iraq April 14, at the urging of Iraqi partners who said that the presence of internationals was putting them in danger.Back to the top
During Lent (February 25-April 11), CPT called on the world-wide church to fast, pray, and take action on behalf of thousands of Iraqis imprisoned by U.S.-led Coalition Forces. CPTers in Iraq prayed and fasted each day in tents erected in Baghdad's central square, outside a prison, or at a site of a violent raid. Iraqi families joined CPT's vigils, holding pictures of detained loved ones and calling on the Coalition Provisional Authority to release detainees held without charge and stop abuse of prisoners.
Many Iraqis supported the vigils as they passed by. Some even helped translate conversations for the team. Others were more skeptical. Some asked where CPT was during the Saddam Hussein regime. One person asked, "Do you think this prayer vigil is going to do any good? It's a mess. No hope."
North American Christians also supported the campaign with creative actions. CPTers in Chicago spent several nights in tents at the Federal Plaza to dramatize the harsh conditions endured by Iraqi detainees. They handed out leaflets, visited Senate offices, and vigiled at military recruiting centers.
Police arrested CPTers Gene Stoltzfus and Scott Kerr minutes after they took signs reading "Break Bread not Bodies" to a recruiting center located in a shopping plaza. They were arrested on charges of criminal trespass, held for two hours and then released.
In Toronto, CPTers depicted a U.S. soldier raiding the house of an Iraqi family and led a prayer for detainees at the Good Friday Prayer Walk for Justice.Back to the top
Since July, 2003, CPT has worked to ensure justice for Iraqi detainees. Team members compiled a 16-page report based on 72 cases of Iraqi citizens detained and imprisoned by U.S. forces between May and December of 2003 which identifies numerous violations of human rights. This report was distributed to high-level Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) officers, elected officials in the U.S. and Canada, and the media in January. With world-wide anger stimulated by shameful images of U.S. soldiers abusing detainees aired in early May, the report now serves as significant briefing material for journalists and legislators deluging CPT's offices with calls for reliable information.
You can help keep up the prophetic pressure needed to effect real change in CPA policy and achieve some measure of justice for thousands of Iraqi detainees. CPT's Adopt-a-Detainee Campaign matches individual detainees with congregations, mosques, synagogues, or peace groups who organize their members to write letters on the detainee's behalf. Each campaign packet includes the story of a particular detainee.
Contact Rick Polhamus: Tel: 937- 313-4458; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgBack to the top
Despite Canada's public opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, Canadian Brigadier General Walt Natynczyk is in Iraq on exchange with the U.S. Army. He serves as Deputy Chief for Strategy, Policy and Planning for Coalition Forces in Baghdad. Canadians may contact Prime Minister Paul Martin to express concerns about Natynczyk's role in the failed strategies, abusive policies, and lack of planning on the part of Coalition Forces regarding Iraqi detainees and urge development of a new strategy that respects Iraqis' rights.
Prime Minister Paul Martin:
Gish served with CPT in Iraq for several months before the war and during the occupation.
"The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it."
One year ago, with fighter jets poised and an ultimatum given to Saddam Hussein, war seemed inevitable. We who refused to accept this found ourselves engaged in a kind of spiritual resistance. Some thought us unrealistic and impractical. After all, Jesus couldn't have really meant that we should love our enemies or that nonviolent love is stronger than evil.
While we had no illusions about the Bush administration's capability of invading Iraq, we did not want the culture of fear and hopelessness to paralyze us and to swallow up the light in this intense unleashing of violence. Maybe it was our own stubbornness, but I couldn't help thinking that our resistance to the inevitability of war was like the light continuing to shine in the darkness.
Iraqi people defied the darkness by announcing the call to prayer every time the bombing started. "Allahu Akbar! -- God is great" rang out over the mosques' loud speakers. God is more powerful than the greatest military force in the world! The bombs still fell, but they did not break the spirit of the people.
Today we resist the darkness by refusing to view the Iraqi people with fear and suspicion, by refusing to see either Iraqis or U.S. soldiers as our enemies, and by refusing to believe that violence is the only way to combat terrorism.Back to the top
From their observation post in a nearby hotel, CPTers felt the shocks of three bombs exploding at the Kadhum Shrine in Baghdad where more than ten thousand Shiite pilgrims had gathered on March 2. The first blast shattered the window of the team's room.
Moving to the roof, team members began filming and photographing the side gate where most of the damage could be seen. A three-story spray of blood marred the wall of the shrine. The attack killed thirty-eight people, including five children.
Iraqi police and shrine security guards had the situation under control within 20 minutes. However, a convoy of U.S. army vehicles soon arrived at the shrine's main entrance and blocked the road. Angered by the soldiers' presence, a crowd of pilgrims threw their shoes at the convoy, a gesture of extreme outrage in Arab culture. When U.S. soldiers responded by firing into the air, men in the crowd began throwing furniture, rocks and other debris until the convoy finally retreated.
"It was frightening," said CPTer Sheila Provencher (South Bend, IN). "The soldiers were probably just coming to help and didn't realize how much danger they were in. I was just praying that both they and the crowd would stay calm so there wouldn't be a massacre."
Shrine officials asked CPT to observe the pilgrimage after receiving threats against the local Shiite community. The team offered their video footage to aid in the investigation of the bombing, just one of many attacks on Shiite sites around Iraq that same day.
Iraq team members March-May were: Matt Chandler (Springfield, OR), LeAnne Clausen (Mason City, IA), Anita David (Chicago, IL), Peggy Gish (Athens, OH), Cliff Kindy (North Manchester, IN), Jim Loney (Toronto, ON), Anne Montgomery (New York, NY), Maxine Nash (Centreville, IN), Sheila Provencher (South Bend, IN), Greg Rollins (Surrey, BC), Stewart Vriesinga (Lucknow, ON), Jane MacKay Wright (Providence Bay, ON). Delegates to Iraq April 1-15 were: Gail Arnall (Washington, DC), Nadine Bechtel (Goshen, IN), Fred Brancel (Monona, WI), Tets Kimura (Adelaide, Australia), Kathleen Namphy (Palo Alto, CA), Marion Stuenkel (Madison, WI). Delegates to Iraq April 1-15 were: Gail Arnall (Washington, DC), Nadine Bechtel (Goshen, IN), Fred Brancel (Monona, WI), Tets Kimura (Adelaide, Australia), Kathleen Namphy (Palo Alto, CA), Marion Stuenkel (Madison, WI).Back to the top
In December 2002, the Anishnaabe people of Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows) in northwestern Ontario blocked a logging road to protect their traditional land use area from clear-cut logging by Abitibi Consolidated, the world's largest newsprint producer. Logging interferes with the rights of Anishnaanbe people to hunt and gather on these lands. Asubpeeschoseewagong is located 300 km east of Winnipeg, MB, and about 450 mi north Minneapolis, MN. This is the fourth project where CPT has accompanied Aboriginal peoples' struggle for justice, which spans the Americas from the Andes mountains to Hudson Bay. Previous full-time teams served in Esgenoôpetitj (Burnt Church, NB), Pierre, SD, and Chiapas, Mexico.
Tree stumps, slashed branches and empty oil containers created a dismal scene outside the Kenora, Ontario, courthouse March 11. CPTers set up the mock clear-cut forest as Abitibi-Consolidated faced twenty-one charges of failing to comply with their Forest Resource licence and making false statements.
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), the government body responsible for licencing Abitibi to cut forests on the Asubpeeschoseewagong community's traditional land, brought the charges. Abitibi, which boasted a profit of $259 million (Cdn) in 2002, has paid fines of several thousand dollars for past violations of provincial forestry law.
The United Nations International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, to which Canada is a party, affirms the inherent right of all peoples to enjoy and utilize fully and freely their natural wealth and resources, and that a people may not be deprived of its own means of subsistence. The practice of clear-cutting has infringed on the ability of Asubpeeschoseewagong band members to sustain their economy by destroying food-bearing plants and animal habitat.
While many Anishnaabe and non-native citizens interpret Treaty #3 as an agreement that allows both communities to share the land, the Governments of Canada and Ontario maintain that the land was surrendered. They support clear-cut forestry as sustainable even though it destroys the local trapping and hunting economy.
Local newspapers and radio stations picked up the story at the courthouse. Signs reading "Abitibi Breaks More Than Provincial Law" and "Honour Our Side of the Treaty" ringed the scene. CPTer Scott Kerr cheerfully warned lawyers, police officers and court employees, "Watch your step; you're in a clear-cut," as they threaded their way through stumps and debris near the doors. Despite high winds and freezing temperatures, several passersby stopped to inquire about the scene, and some expressed their support.Back to the top
Woodyard, along with six other high school students and two adult leaders, met with community members, teachers and logging company officials as part of the first youth delegation to be hosted by CPT in Grassy Narrows.
An important part of the week for me was witnessing the clear-cuts from the perspective of years of history and connection to the land and wildlife. During the two-hour drive through the deteriorating landscape, a community member shared with us many meaningful experiences from his life. As a child, his father took him into the forest, gave him a gun, and instructed him to shoot a birch tree. After doing so, he noticed clear sap leaking out of the wound in the tree. His father taught him that every living thing has a life force and needs to be treated with the respect and love that one gives to their family. He told us that before one takes from nature, one must first ask permission from the four directions, and afterwards one must offer a gift in gratitude.
After hearing and understanding the Aboriginal peoples' respect for trees, it was devastating and frightening to witness the geographical genocide of the clear cuts. The landscape before our eyes, once a rich forest and habitat to numerous species, had been drastically diminished to a stark and lonely graveyard of stump remains and broken branches. I can now only begin to comprehend the pain that the people of Grassy Narrows feel after repeatedly witnessing the mass genocide of these community members.Back to the top
Follow the footsteps
We learn, we come to see and understand your world
Take a step outside into the arms of nature
We come to hear you, for you teach us to listen
Asubpeeschoseewagong team members March - May were: Matt Schaaf (Winnipeg, MB), Lisa Martens (Winnipeg, MB), Jessica Phillips (Encinal, TX), Scott Kerr (Downers Grove, IL). Asubpeeschoseewagong delegates were: March 13-19: Katie Derksen, Eli Froese-Germain, Leonard Gerbrandt, Andrea Innes, Greer Leckie, Stewart Leckie, Thomas Montgomery, Mireille Rigby, Elizabeth Woodyard, all of Ottawa, ON. May 28 - June 6: Joe Carr (Grinnell, IA), Rodger Cragun (Duluth, MN), Aiden Enns (Winnipeg, MB), Esther Kern (London, ON), Tony Raymer (Waverly, IA), Michael Smith (Westerly, RI), Cynthia Stone (Toronto, ON), Kristyn Thurman (Oxnard, CA).Back to the top
Soon after an attack by guerrillas that sank a barge and killed four people last December, residents of La Florida and Los Ñeques began to meet regularly to discuss the impact of living in a war zone. While they expressed desperation over the worsening conflict and fear for their safety, they also emphasized the importance of mutual aid and trust within their communities when armed combat breaks out.
"The whole community needs to act together because the problem of violence affects us all," said one of the residents. "The rural population is suffering the weight of the war," added another.
Both communities were displaced to the city twice after armed incursions in 2000. CPT's presence starting in 2001 facilitated their return home, where they have stayed despite ongoing activity of armed groups.
In recent months, leftist guerrillas have increased pressure on civilians to supply them with food, planted land mines, stolen a motorized canoe, and set up encampments near civilians' homes.
Right-wing paramilitaries have harassed residents, in one case shooting repeatedly into the riverbank and trees near an inhabited house and injuring a dog. They also monitor civilians' movements in Barrancabermeja's river port, checking to see who might be taking food to the guerillas.
Both armed groups continue to threaten and rob civilians, accuse them of being informants for the other group, and engage in open combat within their communities. "We recognize that the armed groups use psychological warfare against us," said one community member.
In the face of crisis, mistrust, hopelessness, and uncertainty, these communities are showing increasing courage in demanding respect for their rights as men and women who reject war and weapons. CPT's presence -- visiting and praying with residents, challenging armed actors to see the value of nonviolence -- helps provide space for these initial steps towards peace and dignity in the Opón River communities.Back to the top
Three Colombian army soldiers in civilian dress were shot, presumably by guerrilla forces, while boating down the Opón River April 23. CPTers found the bullet-punctured, bloodstained canoe floating downstream the following day.
The body of 23-year-old Oscar Becerra Gómez was recovered downstream April 26. The other two are missing and presumed dead. In the attack's aftermath, the team maintained a prayerful, observant presence with civilians and soldiers in the communities south of Barrancabermeja, where the team is based.
Los Ñeques, where the attack took place, is home to farmers, fishers, children, great-grandparents, chefs, singers, sharers of mangos and smiles and practical jokes. Many of them took temporary flight to the city on the afternoon of the attack out of uncertainty over what might follow.
Violence opens the door for the spirit of fear to oppress communities. In the days immediately following the attack, over 100 soldiers from two battalions arrived. They are not immune to that fear. One group of soldiers hit the dirt and aimed their rifles at CPTers walking up a trail to visit with civilians. They relaxed after they identified the CPTers as noncombatants.
Days later, when soldiers, mostly teenagers, stopped the team's canoe, CPTers explained their history and presence. By the end of the day the team had met and prayed with over 50 soldiers and had handed out some 30 Spanish CPT fliers.
Upon finding groups of soldiers cooking and hanging their hammocks around civilian houses, the team reminded military commanders that the Geneva Conventions require combatants to maintain a sufficient distance from civilian homes and avoid involving them in the armed conflict. Community members have expressed mixed feelings about the military presence. In a prayer with team members, a farmer on break from tending his banana fields pleaded, "May those armed men go somewhere else and leave us alone to farm and live in peace. Amen."
Many who would prefer that all armed groups leave the area also look on individual soldiers with compassion. After a military operation in which army troops deactivated several anti-personnel mines, one woman said, "I offered the young men coffee and food because they were hungry. I hope people will offer my son hospitality wherever he is."
God's Spirit finds expression in people's ability to see beyond a uniform, in their generosity, and in their perseverance in search of a life free from violence.Back to the top
CPTers in Colombia marked International Women's Day, March 8, by accompanying throngs of women struggling for a dignified life in the midst of armed conflict as they wound their way through the streets of Barrancabermeja. The march, organized by the Popular Women's Organization (OFP), stopped at three of OFP's shelters which house women at risk of paramilitary attack.
Marchers then made their way to City Hall chanting, "We won't bear or raise children for the war," and "Not another man, woman or peso for the war." Nearly 700 OFP members in black robes joined hands and lay in the streets, forming a large human body. The die-in gained the attention of the mayor who finally agreed to a meeting the OFP had been requesting for weeks.
The march ended at the city park with everyone reciting a prayer in unison:
God of life, give us strength to hold high the living word.
Colombia team members and delegates March - May were: Scott Albrecht (Kitchener, ON), Jim Buckles (Richmond, IN), Robin Buyers (Toronto, ON), Kryss Chupp (Chicago, IL), Duane Ediger (Dallas, TX), Barb Howe (Gainesville, FL), Tracy Hughes (Sandusky, OH), Erin Kindy (Tiskilwa, IL), Joel Klassen (Toronto, ON), Rachel Long (North Liberty, IN), Bruce Miller (Madison, WI), Doug Pritchard (Toronto, ON), Sara Reschly (Chicago, IL), Sandra Rincón (Colombia), Carol Rose (Dallas, TX), Pierre Shantz (Blainville, QC), Connelly Stokes-Prindle (Richmond, IN), William VanWagenen (Cambridge, MA), Keith Young (Gobles, MI), plus 12 Holy Week delegates from Colombia not named for security reasons.Back to the top
Six Israeli soldiers thoroughly searched the CPT apartment for 40 minutes April 18. They said they were looking for something "suspicious" but refused to be more specific.
Corps member JoAnne Lingle insisted that CPT has nothing to hide. She handed them a newsletter, directed them to CPT's web site, and invited them to talk with CPT workers on the street.
One of the soldiers said, "There was a Palestinian and some Germans who came to see you last week." "Maybe," Lingle said, "I don't know, but our door is open to anyone who comes in peace. If you came without your guns, you could sit and drink tea with us."Back to the top
In the early morning hours of March 11, the Israeli Ministry of Interior denied CPTer Greg Rollins (Surrey, BC) entry to Israel at Ben Gurion airport.
Rollins was arrested in May, 2003, while observing the detention of a large number of Palestinian men in Hebron. He spent 17 days in prison and was threatened with deportation before the Israeli High Court ruled that he had done nothing illegal.
Upon learning that Rollins was turned back, lawyer Sani Khoury said, "I'm surprised! It seems the Israeli security people at the airport made a mistake. Our settlement in writing has the force of a court order. It says that there are no restrictions on Greg's entering Israel. Any past restrictions in Interior Ministry computers must be removed, previous deportation proceedings will not be held against him -- no restrictions."
On further appeals, an Israeli court concurred that Rollins had been cleared, but upheld the right of immigration officials to refuse anyone entry for security reasons. Rollins is now working with the Iraq team.Back to the top
In Hebron, CPTer Dianne Roe connected her Lenten fast for justice, called for by the Iraq team, with the plight of Palestinian detainees. On March 8, the Israeli army took 24-year-old Thaher Sabarna from his home in Beit Ummar north of Hebron. He joins thousands of Palestinians detained without trial. The Sabarna family, a partner in CPT's Campaign for Secure Dwelling (CSD), is paired with Roe's home congregation, the First United Methodist Church in Corning, New York.
Thaher's 15-year-old brother Yousef showed us what happened to the family when the soldiers came at 2 o'clock that morning. I cringed when Yousef pushed his own head down on the tractor, indicating that was how the soldiers had pushed Thaher, then tied him and kicked his legs. Then Yousef went to the stone wall where his family members had been forced to stand for two hours, shivering in their nightclothes as the soldiers searched the house.
Yousef's mother, Edna, a teammate and I gathered around the wood stove in the kitchen. The mattresses where the younger boys sleep were still on the floor, and Amer, the youngest, was napping. Edna said everyone was exhausted and the children no longer feel secure in their own home. The soldiers took Thaher from a bed near the spot where Amer slept. Edna is an Israeli Jew married to a Muslim. Her children have Israeli IDs. Her husband's other children, including Thaher, have West Bank IDs. All of the children felt safer with Edna because she is Jewish and can complain about the soldiers. Now no one feels safe.Back to the top
The Israeli government is building a separation wall on Palestinian territory, which encircles illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank on the Israeli side of the wall and annexes Palestinian land in the process.
I live in Ezariyya, a West Bank town a couple of miles outside of Jerusalem. I leave Ezariyya by walking up a steep path, passing taxis and vans constipating the road. I arrive at vertical slabs of rock and stare at the soldiers, dressed in green cloth and jaunty hats, posturing their guns, joking, sitting in their jeeps to avoid the hot sun, and yelling at Palestinian taxi drivers. This is the place where the wall touches me and I touch the wall.
On the same concrete slab, there is a drawing of a gun and a drawing of a peace symbol. There are stenciled spray paintings of martyrs and an intricate painting of a windowed nature scene. I see the wall as an ugly piece of governmental propaganda which Palestinians have transformed into a powerful piece of revolutionary art.
Tonight, a three-year-old nephew of the woman with whom I live asked me if I would take him to Jerusalem. He warned me he has West Bank identification. I told him I would hide him in my backpack and the soldiers would not see him. He said he would take a gun. "No," I told him, "we don't need a gun." He replied that I didn't need a gun because I was a girl.
His mother cares for her family, one arm bandaged and limp. She broke her arm trying to climb the wall a couple of months ago.
I am just a visitor in this family and in this country. I cannot hide a little boy in my U.S. passport so that he will be safe. He is obsessed with the soldiers' guns. As winter turns to spring, I am beginning to share in his obsession. I am beginning to paint guns on paper.
I see that walls build homes and build prisons. Paper can decree freedom and slavery.
When I give the soldier my passport, he flips through the gray pages and asks where I am from. I wish I had the courage to say, "from here." I am from the place where people creep into the night with spray paint and felt markers to remind all of us to stand, eye to eye with a soldier in the noon day sun with our heads held tall.
On January 8, 2003, I was among several CPTers who photographed Israeli settlers bulldozing large tracts of Palestinian land in the Beqa'a Valley. After I took several photos, one of the settlers, armed with a gun, jumped from his bulldozer and came towards me. He grabbed my camera, threw me to the ground, then boarded the bulldozer and continued his activity with my camera in his hand.
The next mornings' stiff neck became a year of doctor's visits. Eventually I had surgery, and I am cautiously pleased with the results. One could say the surgeon performed a miracle.
This year, as I spoke with friends of my deep concerns for Hebron, some of them shook their heads and said, "Oh, when Jesus comes it will all be better." They want the Messiah to perform miracles and bring peace. Before my eyes, I saw concern turn into apathy. People prefer to sit back and wait for a miracle.
Christ said to earnestly seek justice and peace (Matthew 5:6, 9). This is difficult work. I visualize a thousand years of peace in which swords are joyously turned into plowshares (Revelations 20). I believe peace will come as Christians are led by Christ from apathy to activism. Perhaps that will be the miracle.
Hebron team members March - May were: Kristin Anderson (Willmar, MN), Nathan Bender (Toronto, ON), Christy Bischoff (Asheville, NC), Chris Brown (San Francisco, CA), Cal Carpenter (Minneapolis, MN), Anita David (Chicago, IL), Bill & Genie Durland (Colorado Springs, CO), Mark Frey (Chicago, IL), Lorne Friesen (Winkler, MB), David Janzen (London, ON), Diane Janzen (Calgary, AB), Kathy Kapenga (Manama, Bahrain), Mary Lawrence (Lunenburg, MA), Jerry Levin (Birmingham, AL), JoAnne Lingle (Indianapolis, IN), Cathy McLean (Strathroy, ON), Dianne Roe (Corning, NY), Kathie Uhler (New York, NY), Maia Williams (Dale City, VA). Hebron delegation members were: April 13-25: Phyllis Bergquist (Plymouth, WI), Robert Philip (Flier, Scotland), Russell Schmidt (San Francisco, CA), and Jake Terpstra (Grand Rapids, MI). May 25 - June 6: Sandra Anderson (Willmar, MN), Laurie Hadden (Markham, ON), Susan Mark Landis (Orrville, OH), Pieter Niemeyer (Stouffville ON), Abigail Ozanne, (Falcon Heights, MN), Grace Pleiman (Brooklyn, NY), John Stoltzfus, (Seattle, WA), Timothy Taugher (Binghamton, NY).Back to the top
Last summer at least 210 migrants lost their lives in the southern Arizona desert as they attempted to cross the U.S.- Mexico border region. Many die of heat-related causes, but violence at the hands of vigilantes and Border Patrol officers has also been on the rise in recent years.
To help prevent this loss of life, a coalition of humanitarian and human rights groups operating under the name "No More Deaths" has invited CPT to place a team of four near Douglas, Arizona. CPTers will lead one of several desert camps and establish contacts with area activists, churches, Border Patrol, ranchers and vigilantes. They will also assist with training of "No More Deaths" volunteers for all camps. The camps will assist migrants during the hottest and most dangerous months, June through September.
Three CPT delegations will travel to the border area during the first two months of the project. Contact Claire Evans in CPT's Chicago office for details.Back to the top
On April 19, CPTers and members of Lee Heights Community Church in Cleveland witnessed against recent legislation that made Ohio the 45th state to allow citizens to carry a concealed weapon. Over 40 people gathered in the public square downtown to pray and remember four teenagers from the church who had been killed by gun violence over the years. One sign read: "God protect us from our own foolishness."
Back to the top
This Dialogue from an e-mail discussion among CPT workers addresses the availability of graphic pictures on CPT's web site. Photos of partially decomposed bodies taken by CPTers in Colombia appeared on-line with a note on the album cover which states: "Warning: Graphic Images."
Scott Kerr, CPT Asubpeeschoseewagong: I would like to send people to our site without reservation, but I would not want my family to see those photos. Is it respectful to the families of the people killed? I don't want to censor people or their message, but I wonder how these graphic photos benefit our work?
Maxine Nash, CPT Iraq: The question was raised when the media showed pictures of those who were burned and hung on the bridge in Falluja, Iraq. It is not about censorship, but responsibility. We want to tell the things that need to be told, but we also have a responsibility to the communities in which we work and to our CPT constituents. Can we tell the story without the graphic pictures?
Sara Reschly, CPT Chicago: I clicked on the graphic pictures before I realized it and I panicked, because I knew I did not want to see those images. Unfortunately, it took me two or three tries to get out of that album. It was an unpleasant experience.
Kathleen Kern, CPTNet editor, Webster, NY: Those in power are targeting Al Jazeera and other Arabic news sources for showing footage of civilians being massacred in Fallujah and Baghdad. But people need to see that footage. How do Colombian CPTers, people on the Opón River, where the attacks occurred, and human rights and peace groups that CPT works with, think the horrors of Colombia that don't get reported in the U.S. should be reported?
Mark Frey, CPT Chicago: The pictures are revolting and shocking, which is why we need them. Sometimes this work is about life and death. Our North American cultures have erected systemic and emotional barriers to protect us from the horrors of the violence that occurs "over there."
Scott Kerr: In Colombia, bodies floating in the river serve as a threat to remind everyone what will happen to them if they cross an armed group. Sometimes I think the newspapers in Barrancabermeja do the work of the paramilitaries by showing the pictures of the mutilated bodies. I understand the viewpoint that showing people the realities of war is important. But consider that the pictures could be misused, or hurt family members, or lead people to think that CPT uses shock images to get their point across.
Anita David, CPT Reservist, Chicago, IL: So the government censors the images and the press censors the images and we censor the images. And we work with people whose lives are on the line and we choose to put our lives on the line but we shouldn't put images out there? If using an image endangers someone's life I wouldn't use it. Otherwise I ask, whose life am I endangering by not using that image?
Erin Kindy, CPT Colombia: During December 2003, our team was present when five bodies were found floating and removed from the river, which is basically the front yard of all members of the communities we accompany. The photos posted are not the most grue some ones we have. I don't want to sensationalize what happened. We knew some of the family members of the deceased and we know the people who were affected by these deaths. Sometimes photos can communicate emotional realities experienced by both team and community members in ways that words never can.
Kathy Kapenga, CPT Hebron Reservist: I respect the wishes of some people to avoid images of violence. I have lived in the Middle East for more than 25 years, and the sense of responsibility for what the U.S. government does in the region weighs very heavily. I've always wanted to collect shocking photos for an exhibit, "Your U.S. Tax Dollars at Work!" In your face? You bet! Citizens of a democracy are responsible for their government's policies and should not have the effects of those policies concealed.
Carol Rose, CPT Colombia: During Lent, one of the hot topics in North America was the graphic movie portrayal of Jesus' death, The Passion. We don't need Hollywood to give us images of torture; we have Christ's suffering graphically before us in the suffering of our neighbors. One of the painful pictures is the foot of a man who was shot and thrown into the river last December. I choose to use that image to focus meditation on the current suffering of Christ in people who live and die in the violence of war and thus to deepen my commitment to respond to those neighbors as I would wish to respond to Christ.
Elizabeth García, CPT Colombia: I was one of the first persons on the Colombia team who saw the dead bodies. It was hard. It was horrible. I still live with those images and probably will for the rest of my life. However, in a way I was blessed to be part of that experience. It is important to show the real truth and the real meaning of things. It's hard, but it's real.Back to the top
Doug Pritchard and Carol Rose will become CPT's new co-directors, beginning September 1. Founding director Gene Stoltzfus hands over the role after sixteen years of leadership.
Carol Rose, 44, of Wichita, Kansas, recently completed six years as pastor of Mennonite Church of the Servant in Wichita. Previously she worked for thirteen years with Mennonite Central Committee in Honduras, Thailand, the Philippines, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. A supporter of CPT since its beginning, Rose facilitates the Biblical Nonviolence module in CPT trainings. She will marry CPT Reservist Duane Ediger in June. Rose will serve as Operations Coordinator out of CPT's Chicago office.
Doug Pritchard, 55, of Toronto, Ontario, is currently coordinator of CPT Canada, a position he has held since the inception of that program in 1997. He has overseen the recruitment, training, and placement of CPT workers, and developed a strong financial and prayer support base for CPT with churches and individuals. A member of Toronto United Mennonite Church, Pritchard holds a doctorate in chemical engineering and worked in that industry before starting church-related peace and justice work in 1990. He and his wife Jane, a CPT Reservist, have three sons. Pritchard will serve as CPT's Program Coordinator from Toronto.
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"When you put your body, brains and time on the line for peacemaking, it makes the rest of us think about our own commitments."
The world needs disciplined, creative people dedicated to the hard work of active peacemaking. CPT needs men and women of all ages and personality styles who are committed to nonviolence, grounded in faith and willing to take risks by working in settings of violent conflict. Are you being called to this ministry? Is someone you know hearing the call? CPT is eager to hear from you. Contact Claire Evans at 773-277-0253 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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CPT needs a new or low-mileage van for training courses, attending conferences and other peacemaking work in North America. Annual use: 30,000 miles. Financial support for purchase from individuals and congregations is welcome.Back to the top
CPT Year in Review - 2003: this 20-page booklet offers a concise view of CPT's project work during the previous year.
Studies in the Book of Acts: this 34-page four-lesson adult study guide includes reflections on the violence- reduction ministry of CPT; provides an excellent introduction to the work of peacemaking for use with Sunday School classes or independent study groups. Suggested donation: $5 per copy.Back to the top
Arizona Delegations: May 27 - June 5; June 26 - July 3; and July 24-31.
Colombia Delegations: July 13-26; September 21 - October 4.
Middle East Delegations: July 24 - August 5; September 27 - October 9; November 22 - December 4.
Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows, ON) Delegation: September 3-12.
Iraq Delegations: September 28 - October 12; November 17 - December 1.
Peacemaker Training: July 16 - August 14 (Chicago); September 24 - October 11 (Toronto); December 27, 2004 - January 23, 2005 (Chicago).
CPT Steering Committee Meetings: October 21-23 (Waldheim, SK)Back to the top
Korea Connections: Invited by the Presbyterian Church of Korea, CPT Director Gene Stoltzfus travelled to Seoul March 19-24 to address a conference on Mission and Peace. He also visited churches, Korean peace movement leaders, and strengthened ties with members of World Christian Frontiers (WCF) and the Korean Anabaptist Center.
Peace Campers Needed: As part of a growing partnership with World Christian Frontiers (WCF) in Korea, CPT agreed to recruit two people for each of three peace camps (Afghanistan, Iraq and East Timor) July 27-August 27. The camps focus on rebuilding, peace education, children's programs and special activities in high conflict villages. Cost is $300 plus international travel. Contact Claire Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
Read All About It: Two new books on CPT are headed to the presses. Getting in the Way: Stories from the Work of Christian Peacemaker Teams, edited by Reservist Tricia Gates Brown, will be published by Herald Press in mid-2005. The book provides first-person, intimate views into CPT's work from projects past and present. Herald Press also plans a September release of Iraq: A Journey of Hope and Peace, by Reservist Peggy Gish. Written from her personal experience with CPT in Iraq before, during and after the war, this book makes real both the horrors of violence and the strong character and vision for peace of the Iraqi people.
Coca-Cola Hunger Strikers Win: CPT-Colombia team members made regular visits to support workers at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Barrancabermeja who ended a 12-day hunger strike on March 27 after winning concessions from the company. Managers finally agreed to transfer 91 union members slated for layoff to jobs at other plants. In addition, the company, which has used paramilitary forces to threaten and kill union leaders, promised to purchase a national newspaper advertisement discouraging such reprisals against the strikers. As of May 13, the company had not yet published the ad. The union called for an international boycott of Coca-Cola products last summer because of Coke's continued violent repression of workers. CPT supported the ongoing boycott with a vigil at "The World of Coca-Cola" in Atlanta in July as part of Mennonite Church USA's Assembly.
Citizens Seek to Restrain Rumsfeld: Peace activists in Colorado Springs, CO, including CPT Reservists Bill and Genie Durland, filed a complaint in Federal court seeking a restraining order against U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the commander of nearby Peterson Air Force Base. They argue that Rumsfeld, et.al, should be prohibited from "continuing work on the development or use of existing or new nuclear-armed missiles" at the base, claiming such development "is prohibited by international law," and "places the world in terror of annihilation." No ruling has been issued to date.
City Blinks First: On April 30, the City of Chicago dropped an $8000 lawsuit against CPT stemming from a public witness at Boeing Headquarters on July 22, 2002. CPTers in training dumped red dye in the Chicago River beside the headquarters to symbolize the bloodshed caused by Boeing-produced weapons around the world -- Apache Helicopters in Hebron, missile guidance systems in Iraq, conventional armaments in Colombia. On March 2, a judge did find two individual CPTers liable for $646, the amount the city claims it cost to test the dye for toxicity. The city was eager to settle out of court. CPT was eager to bear witness in court about Boeing's shameful priorities. In the end, the city blinked first.
Award forwarded to CPT: Nick Driedger, chief executive of Mennonite Savings and Credit Union, recently received the Gary Gillam Award for Social Responsibility from the Ontario credit unions. He forwarded the $2500 (Cdn) gift to CPT, saying that peace is "central to the faith-based member community that we serve."Back to the top
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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 16-person STEERING COMMITTEE: Bob Bartel and Walter Franz (Mennonite Church Canada), David Jehnsen (On Earth Peace), Cliff Kindy and Orlando Redekopp (Church of the Brethren), Susan Mark Landis (Mennonite Church USA), Lee McKenna (Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America), Tony Brown, Maxine Nash, Jacqui Rozier, and Hedy Sawadsky (at-large), Rick Polhamus (Corps Rep.), Ben Richmond and Brian Young (Friends United Meeting), John Stoner (Every Church a Peace Church), Rick Ufford-Chase (Presbyterian Peace Fellowship).
CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKER CORPS: Scott Albrecht, Kristin Anderson, Chris Brown, Cal Carpenter, Matt Chandler, LeAnne Clausen, Claire Evans, Mark Frey, Elizabeth García, Diane Janzen, Kathleen Kern, Scott Kerr, Cliff Kindy, Erin Kindy, Jerry Levin, JoAnne Lingle, Lisa Martens, Rich Meyer, Maxine Nash, Jessica Phillips, Sheila Provencher, Sara Reschly, Sandra Rincón, Dianne Roe, Greg Rollins, Carol Rose, Matt Schaaf, Pierre Shantz, Kathie Uhler, Stewart Vriesinga, Maia Williams, Keith Young.
RESERVE CORPS: 125 Reservists from 24 U.S. states, 4 Canadian provinces, Bahrain, Colombia, Israel, Philippines, and the United Kingdom supplement the work of the full time Peacemaker Corps.
SUPPORT STAFF includes: Bob Holmes (Pastoral Support Coordinator), Doug Pritchard (Canada office), Kryss Chupp and Gene Stoltzfus (Chicago office).Back to the top