Signs of the Times: Summer 2001 Vol. XI, No. 3

CONTENTS:

Puerto Rico

Middle East

Colombia

Canada

Chiapas

Violence Is Not Child's Play

More

Puerto Rico: Prisoners of Conscience

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO-In a seven-hour trial in Federal District Court on June 28, four members of a CPT delegation who entered a restricted area on the island of Vieques May 2 were convicted of trespassing. They were among 180 others arrested for engaging in nonviolent witness in early May to oppose the U.S. Navy's exploitation of the island for military exercises and bombing practice.

The four were tried before a magistrate along with seven others, mostly Puerto Ricans. Rich Williams (West New York, NJ) was sentenced to 30 days in prison; Harold A. Penner (Akron PA) received a 20-day sentence; Mark Byler (Goshen, IN) and Brian Ladd (Boulder, CO) were each sentenced to 20 nights in a half-way house, 100 hours of community service, and 1 year probation.

Williams and Penner were taken immediately to Guaynabo Detention Center in San Juan where they were housed with some 75 others who had committed civil disobedience on Vieques. Across the road from the prison supporters maintained a continuous "peace camp," protesting the inordinately long sentences.

Byler and Ladd returned to their home communities and began serving their sentences in mid July.

Ladd commented, "Our sentence (probation, half-way house, community service) is really quite restrictive. I felt a spiritual heaviness in the probation office in Denver. This part of my post-trial journey will bring me to new understandings about the nature of our criminal justice system, and of the strange kind of work we are invited to do to place ourselves where we can be instruments of God."

As Byler began his first night at a work-release facility in Fort Wayne, IN on July 23, 50 supporters gathered for worship and a press conference. Members of at least 16 congregations attended, and Mennonite, Brethren, and United Methodist leaders read official statements of their church bodies that condemn the Navy's use of Vieques.

Members of CPT-Colorado held a 7:00am "Coming Out Party" for Ladd as he completed his 20 night sentence on July 30.

Even as the trial took place, resistance to a two-week resumption of military maneuvers on Vieques continued with 70 additional arrests.

U.S. President Bush announced that the Navy would leave Vieques in 2003. But, according to Byler, "Having the Navy in Vieques is like having an unwanted relative parked in your living room, and promising to stay 'only' two more years."

Despite a July 29 referendum in which 68% of Vieques voters demanded that the Navy leave immediately, another round of bombing practice began August 2.

From the Metropolitan Detention Center, Guaynabo, Puerto Rico:

Rich Williams, Federal Prisoner #21470-069:

What a glorious day God has provided! Spirits are high here. We sang "Marching in the Light of God" in Spanish this morning. Previous mornings a popular recording star, Danny Rivera, serenaded us. With a burst of applause we acknowledge the new arrivals and any departures. Many go to court and are released for time served (usually 14 days). We will lead a discussion on CPT tomorrow.

 

"If injustice is the law, then civil disobedience is the order!"-scribbled on the wall of a holding cell at the Metropolitan Detention Center, Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.

Vieques Four Being Arrested

[Williams was released from prison July 25. He and fellow inmate Dan Steiger from Long Island, NY, fasted the final 10 days of their sentences to protest the Navy's continued abuse of the island and to honor four Vieques residents whose deaths have been linked to the presence of toxic munitions.]

H. A. Penner, Federal Prisoner #21471-069:

I am sorry that I was not able to be in Nashville [Mennonite Church USA Assembly] as a delegate of the Akron Mennonite Church. As a U.S. prisoner of conscience, incarcerated because of actions motivated by my faith, I pray that we all may be instruments of God's justice and peace in the world.

My cell-mate is Adam Clayton Powell IV, a New York State Assemblyman. Today we're welcoming Bobby Kennedy, Jr. (environmental lawyer and nephew of the late president) and Dennis Rivera, perhaps New York City's most powerful labor leader. Something is seriously wrong if the U.S. needs to jail these leaders!

[Penner was released from prison July 13.]

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Hebron: "Made in the USA"

Hebron CPTers awoke the morning of July 20 to find that the balcony of their apartment had been hit by six bullets during the night's heavy shooting. One bullet pierced the balcony door leading into the apartment and shredded a stack of bed sheets. The bullet hole clearly frames a military post on the roof of the Avraham Avinu settlement. No one was injured in the CPT apartment.

 

CPTers examine bed sheets shredded by bullets that hit their Hebron apartment.

The previous week, Israeli forces fired continuous rounds of mortars and gunfire, exacting a heavy price from Palestinian civilians in the wake of the killing of a Kiryat Arba settler. On July 13, heavy shelling began at midnight and lasted several hours. The next morning, CPTers Kathy Kamphoefner and Jim Satterwhite visited homes and documented damage in the areas that had undergone the heaviest gunfire-walls damaged by mortar fire, windows shattered by the blasts, and roof-top water cisterns riddled with bullets. One resident greeted CPTers by holding up a 4-inch shell which bore the imprint: "Made in the USA."

"The IDF (Israel Defense Force) returned sporadic Palestinian sniper fire with continuous automatic weapons fire and tank bombardment of Palestinian residential neighborhoods," said Kamphoefner and Satterwhite. "We have seen this pattern of collective punishment too often."

Collective punishment of a population as well as Israel's settlement policy are violations of international law.

CPT Hebron team members during May, June, and July included: Jane Adas (Highland Park, NJ), Grace Boyer (Hampton, VA), Rick Carter (Halstead, KS), LeAnne Clausen (Mason City, IA), Anita Fast (Vancouver, BC), Bob Holmes (Toronto, ON), Kathy Kamphoefner (St. Louis, MO), JoAnne Lingle (Indianapolis, IN), Ben Long, (N.Liberty, IN), Anne Montgomery (Brooklyn, NY), Rick Polhamus (Fletcher, OH), Dianne Roe (Corning, NY), Greg Rollins (Surrey, BC), Jim Satterwhite (Bluffton, OH), and Harriet Taylor (Germantown, MD).

Hebron: "Like Raw Wounds"

"The framework in which we carry out our work has changed over the past months," explained Hebron CPTer JoAnne Lingle. AIt's like a raw, bleeding wound."

"You just can't predict what will happen from day to day," she said. "Will a road will be open or closed? Will we be able to take a taxi to Beit Ummar just north of Hebron or not? Will we climb up to the roof of our apartment and see Israeli settlers firing automatic weapons into the market below?"

"And then," she added, "some things are just bizarre. Like the police doing nothing to stop the settlers from shooting, but warning us to get off the roof because it isn't safe!"

"There is great respect for CPT," she concluded. "Our role is more appreciated than ever."

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West Bank: Nonviolent Witness Met With Police Aggression

On June 15, CPTers Anita Fast, Bob Holmes and Anne Montgomery joined an estimated 200 Palestinians and 20 Israelis and internationals in a nonviolent witness against the confiscation of Palestinian lands in the village of Al-Khader by the Israeli settlement of Efrat.

The group headed up the hill where Efrat settlers had installed several mobile homes to stake a claim to the land. Israeli soldiers stopped the protestors and Israeli police threatened to arrest them if they didn't disperse. As the group turned to move back down the hill, police charged after them and began beating people.

Fast and Montgomery intervened saying, "There's no need to use violence," when police attacked two older Palestinian women, kicking one hard as she retreated. Then Fast was hit in the back of the head. Police grabbed her and began shoving and pulling her by the hair up the hill toward a police van. At the van, police again hit her in the back of the head and ripped her shirt. Israeli peace worker Neta Golan was also beaten by police who twisted her arm behind her back until her elbow broke.

Six people were arrested and charged with "refusing to obey a military order to leave" and "resisting detention." They repeatedly refused to sign agreements detailing fines and travel restrictions and were eventually released.

Two weeks later, on June 29, CPTers Holmes and LeAnne Clausen traveled to Al-Khader to join Palestinians and Israeli peace groups for a another nonviolent witness against the settlement expansion. Two busloads of Israelis coming from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were blocked from entering Al-Khader by Israeli soldiers and police who spontaneously declared the area a "closed military zone."

After two failed attempts to enter the village, the 70 Israelis and a handful of internationals exited the buses, gripped arms and blocked traffic in both directions on a main artery used by settlers in the area. Neta Golan, her left arm in a cast, was among the group. Five Israeli men and Holmes were arrested and later released.

Meanwhile, at the planned demonstration site inside Al-Khader, about 150 Palestinian villagers took steps to erect a protest tent that would draw attention to the hardship of living under the occupation. The action was halted when an explosion beside an army jeep caused Israeli soldiers to open fire on the crowd. Soldiers then occupied two Palestinian homes and imposed a curfew for several hours.

Israeli peace activist Gila Svirsky said, "Although no tent went up today, the oppressive nature of the occupation was conveyed quite clearly, with the angry response that it sometimes evokes, and the collective punishment doled out afterward to an entire community."

 

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West Bank: Israeli Military Demolishes Homes in Yatta

On July 4, CPTers Kathy Kamphoefner, JoAnne Lingle, Dianne Roe and Jim Satterwhite rode over dusty roads and goat trails toward several newly demolished homes in the Yatta region of the West Bank near the Israeli settlement of Susia.

On July 2 the body of Israeli settler Ya'ir Har Sinai had been found in that area. The surrounding countryside was put under tight curfew as the Israeli military rounded up 20 Palestinian men and boys to interrogate them about Ya'ir. Beginning in the early hours of July 3, the army bulldozed homes, tents, wells, cave dwellings and animal shelters. According to a report by the Israeli peace group, Rabbis for Human Rights, as many as 1000 individuals were left homeless in the demolitions.

CPTers trudged up the hill to meet two families now living on piles of rubble. Israeli army bulldozers demolished one family's main house leaving a total of ten persons, including small children and twin infants, without shelter. Their sheep pen was also bulldozed, killing two sheep in the process.

 

Mother with twin infants left homeless by demolitions

 

Four homes belonging to a second family were demolished causing twelve people including small children and a pregnant daughter-in-law to spend their days in the hot sun.

As CPTers prepared to leave, the mother asked if they could help find her sixteen-year-old son. He was interrogated with the others but not released. According to a member of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, there are some 80 children currently detained in Israeli prisons, some in solitary confinement.

700 families had been forcibly evicted from their Yatta area homes in November, 1999. When the Israeli Supreme Court handed down a decision allowing them to return to their land in March, 2000, CPT joined Israeli and Palestinian partner organizations in a huge celebration. These most recent demolitions occurred at the site of that party in the southernmost area of the West Bank.

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Land of Milk and Honey: Glimpses of Life on the West Bank

by Bill Rose

Bill Rose (Tampa, FL) participated in CPT's May, 2001 delegation to the Middle East.

Liad was a ball of energy. A petite but hyper-aggressive Israeli human rights activist, she was pushing non-violence to the limit. Muscled her way through a cordon of flak-jacketed soldiers, zeroed in on a hefty middle-aged settler woman. It was a battle of lungs and gestures. I couldn't understand the Hebrew invective, but judging from the body-language it wasn't pretty. Israeli soldiers intervened before the two ladies came to blows, but the screaming continued.

Like many of her fellow citizens, Liad sees the presence of Israeli soldiers and settlers in Gaza and the West Bank as a moral blight on her country, and she's working with the International Solidarity Movement to challenge the occupation. Her group has many allies in Israel as well as in the international community; and also among the Palestinians, whose society and economy are being strangled by the expansion of Israeli settlements and by military blockage of roads in the Occupied Territories.

The action was taking place a Deir Istayal, an Arab farming village outside Hebron, which was being threatened by Israeli squatters. The town mayor, who'd organized the protest, insisted that it be kept non-violent. And so it was- just barely. Those of us in the Christian Peacemaker Teams edged our way to the forefront of a phalanx of Palestinian villagers until we stood face-to-face with the soldiers, behind whom an approaching crowd of defiant Israeli settlers were waving flags and jeering. Far in the background stood the objects of our protest: a set of house-trailers, each about the size of a boxcar, that would serve as temporary shelter for more Israeli families encouraged by their government to settle in the Occupied Territory.

The Fourth Geneva Convention, promulgated in 1949, prohibits population transfers into occupied territories for reasons of colonizations-a prohibition which the Israeli government does not accept. Hence the outrage of the Palestinians and their Israeli sympathizers.

Liad kept on squirming and elbowing the Israeli GIS who were trying to restrain her, until they handed her over to some police officers who shuffled her into a paddy wagon. Four of us from the CPT contingent locked arms and ignored the soldiers' orders to disperse. There were angry warnings and we were placed under arrest; but the paddy wagon was almost full so delegation leader Bob Holmes (Toronto, ON) was the only one taken off to police headquarters.

The witness continued, but didn't boil over into violence. In anticipation of teargas we'd been issued slices of raw onion and sprigs of wild sage to stuff into our nostrils; but although the soldiers were brandishing gas canisters they never actually used them. No rocks or rubber bullets either-a noisy but relatively peaceful demonstration.

Finally the paddy wagon pulled away. We boarded a chartered bus and headed off for the nearby police compound to set up a vigil until our fellow protesters were released. After an hour or so the interrogations and paperwork were complete; all of our people were sprung, weary but none the worse for wear, and we were ready to call it a day. Just as we were leaving the compound, two young Palestinians, bound and blindfolded and escorted by a squad of Israeli soldiers, were brought in. They'd been busted for throwing rocks at a settler vehicle, and they looked totally helpless. Being identified as political miscreants in disputed territory under Israeli jurisdiction, they surely did not enjoy the right to a speedy trial or other legal niceties that we take for granted. There was nothing we could do to intervene.

Members of the delegation were: Rose, Verna Engstrom-Heg (Oneonta, NY), Patricia Katagiri (Vancouver, BC), Ben Long (North Liberty, IN) and Sharon Willis (Davis, CA).

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CSD Partners on the Move

  • Campaign for Secure Dwellings (CSD) partners in New York included prayers provided by CPT in a mass worship service of nine congregations.
  • Friends Meeting in Vancouver hosted a Middle Eastern banquet as a fundraiser to support a CPT delegation member and organized public meetings for reporting back when the delegate returned from Israel/Palestine. Two new churches joined the CSD network as a result of their participation in these events.
  • CSD partners in Wisconsin asked all members of their congregation to send postcards to their congresswoman which resulted in her meeting with a delegation of church members to talk about Mid-East policy.
  • Members of a Chicago-area partner church join with Jews from "Not In My Name" at regular Friday "Women (and men) in Black" noon-hour vigils. There are Women In Black "End the Occupation" vigils all over the world

Many CSD partners who have sent delegates on CPT's peacemaker trips to the Middle East find first-hand experience and reports from Israel/Palestine very energizing. Be part of the groundswell. Invite another church to your CSD event!

 

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CPT in Colombia

Following a 3-month Lenten presence (February-April), CPT Colombia set up its project base in the industrial city of Barrancabermeja, an 8-hour bus ride north of Bogotá.

Barrancabermeja (Barranca for short) is a refinery town where all of Colombia's oil is processed. As such, it is hotly disputed territory among all the armed groups in the conflict (military, paramilitary, and rebels). Many refugees from outlying areas are also now living there. The team's violence-reduction work in Barranca has included street patrols, public witnesses and a presence at a refugee center in town.

CPT has also been working in the zone (county) of Ciénaga del Opón, a swampy region located southwest of Barranca about two hours up river by boat. Many people have been displaced from their homes because of the violence. CPTers have been invited to accompany people in different stages of returning to their homes. Team members maintain a regular presence in the villages of Colorada and Nieques where residents have declared their desire to live without interference from any armed group.

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Colombia: "They Want to Kill Us"

by Scott Kerr and Pierre Schantz

Early in June, CPTers Benjamin Horst and Scott Kerr traveled to Ciénaga del Opón where they encountered three families who had been hiding in the swamp since fleeing their homes. One family had lost a spouse to paramilitary violence; another had lost a mother; and while in hiding one young woman had been maimed by an exploding antipersonnel mine. These families were desperate to get out of the swamp area.

Travel on the Opón River has become very dangerous for farmers. They report the presence of several paramilitary checkpoints on the river where fish and crops are stolen and "rebel sympathizers" are identified or questioned. The families asked CPT to accompany them to Barranca where they planned to catch a bus out of town.

After making arrangements for the trip, Kerr and teammate Pierre Shantz stayed the night with the displaced families in the swamp. They heard machine gun fire in the distance. The next morning the group headed down the muddy Opón River to the larger Magdalena River. The families were tense yet optimistic about reuniting with loved ones several hours journey from Barranca. As the boat approached the city and a paramilitary-controlled port, tensions increased.

Shantz reports: "I was sitting beside a ten year old child who appeared to be happy and secure. For most of the trip I joked around with him and all seemed fine. Then, as we aproached the city, a boat that is used for public transportation up and down the river came toward us. The boy started crying and screaming, 'Why? Why? Why do they want to kill us?' I looked around and realized all the women were petrified and in tears. I have never seen fear like I saw in the men's faces. Behind us another boat approached and passed us. I tried to reassure the child that it was just public transportation but he insisted, crying, 'No, no! It's them and they want to kill us!'"

The team made it to port without further incident. Shantz and team member Ben Horst continued to accompany the families out of town to safety. One of the men thanked the team saying, "If you had not been with us, they [the AUC paramilitary forces] would have killed us."

CPT's Colombia team members May through July were: Bob Epp (Henderson, NE), Pierre Gingerich (Minneapolis, MN), Ben Horst (Evanston, IL), Jonathan Horst (Mt. Joy, PA), Scott Kerr (Downers Grove, IL), Carol Rose (Wichita, KS), and Pierre Shantz (Waterloo, ON).

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Colombia: Indigenous Leader Still Missing

by Ben Horst

On June 18, CPTers Scott Kerr and Ben Horst joined a 1000-person march looking for Embera Katío indigenous leader, Kimy Pernía Domicó. Three masked men on a white motorcycle kidnapped the internationally respected leader at gunpoint on June 2. The searchers walked from house to house over dusty roads in areas largely controlled by paramilitaries asking for any information regarding Domicó and demanding his return.

Domicó is widely known for spearheading the Embera Katío people's struggle against the Urrá Dam (partially funded by the Canadian government) which ravaged their homeland. Just days before Domicó's disappearance, Carlos Castaño, the leader of Colombia's most notorious paramilitary organization (the AUC), was asked in an interview what threat Domicó could possibly pose to the AUC. "The dam!" Castaño replied. "He's stopping the functioning of the dam!"

Domicó is still missing and the Embera Katío people say international pressure is still needed to insist that the Colombian government take the necessary steps to find him.

In response to CPT-Colombia's call for "Prayers and Candles" on behalf of Domicó, members of the indigenous pacifist group, Las Abejas (the Bees) in Chiapas, Mexico lit candles and sent the wax to Colombian President Andrés Pastrana. Las Abejas, many of whom are living as refugees due to paramilitary violence, called on Pastrana to "listen to the cries of our beloved Colombian brothers and sisters who daily suffer death, disappearance and torture."

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CPT Colombia hosts Rigoberta Menchú

"Who has seen a snake?" asked Rigoberta Menchú, the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, to a group of 150 children at a June 15 mass in the CPTers' neighborhood in Barranca. Most of the children raised their hands. "And are snakes good?" she asked? "NO!" they responded.

Menchú, a Guatemalan of the indigenous Quiche people, then used the difference between how her people view snakes and how the city-raised Colombian children view snakes as an object lesson about dialogue, differing opinions and the need to resist the temptation to use violence to change others.

Menchú then delivered a short speech to a gathering of community members and, after an interlude of traditional dance performed by a group of older women, was escorted to the CPT house in Barranca where team members Jonathan Horst and Bob Epp explained their work. "I've never presented CPT to so many people in Spanish," said Horst, "especially such high profile people!"

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Nova Scotia: One Day is Not Enough!

by Joanne "Jake" Kaufman

CPT established a violence-reduction presence in mid-June at the lobster fishery in Saint Mary's Bay, southern Nova Scotia. The Indian Brook First Nation invited CPT to provide an observer team in anticipation of a renewal of last year's harassment and violence from federal fisheries officers.

Fisher families from the Indian Brook First Nation gathered in Halifax on National Aboriginal Day, June 21, to denounce the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans' (DFO) continued refusal to recognize their right to regulate their own fishery.

DFO employees peered out of their windows as some 40 people vigiled outside the locked office doors. One Mi'kmaq fisher sat in a green canoe with red and white metal lobster traps on board. Signs in the canoe said, "I want to Fish," and "Can't Catch Lobster on Land."

A non-Aboriginal woman from Halifax joined the group, wrapped in a fishing net. She carried a sign saying, "First Nations were here First; They have First dibs." She said she supported the action because, "You don't see [Mi'kmaq] out with factory trawlers. They could teach us a thing or two about conservation."

After the vigil, the Mi'kmaq fishers launched the canoe into Halifax harbor, with jests all around, trying to keep it balanced so no one would fall into the notoriously polluted water. Lobster traps were set with no interference. DFO Manager of Aboriginal Operations, Steve Wilson, said that his officials would not disrupt the Indian Brook fishers on Aboriginal Day.

But the government's "zero tolerance" policy for Aboriginal fishers was still in effect. Indian Brook's fishers knew that if they returned to their traditional fishing grounds in St. Mary's Bay on another day, all their equipment, boats and traps could be seized again.

To quote from one of the signs at the Halifax vigil, "Aboriginal Day? One Day is Not Enough!"

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Esgenoôpetitj: Community Service

by Natasha Krahn

CPT maintained a presence in Esgenoôpetitj (Burnt Church, NB) from April to June. The spring lobster season did not see a return of last year's violence as many had feared. There is still concern, however, that the fall commercial season will be volatile, so CPT returned in August. Many community members are still undergoing legal proceedings stemming from last year's events.

Even though he commented that the court may not be the place to solve issues of Aboriginal treaty rights, Judge William McCaroll fined Esgenoôpetitj First Nation members Jason Barnaby and Clifford Larry $1000 each on May 29. They were found guilty of "obstruction of a fisheries officer" under the Fisheries Act.

On June 12, 2000, three Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) boats began seizing lobster traps of the Esgenoôpetitj First Nation (EFN). Barnaby and Larry were on one of the EFN boats which went out to investigate. The boats driven by the DFO attempted to swamp and ram the EFN boats. Five weeks later six EFN members, including Larry and Barnaby, were charged in the incident.

Before the judge pronounced sentencing, the crown attorney asked that a fine of $2000 be set as a deterrent for the two men. Larry replied, AI'll just be back [in court] in August because I'll do what my community expects me to do."

The defense attorney pointed out that neither man is currently working and would have a difficult time paying a fine. The judge suggested that the two could work off the fine doing community service. An EFN member sitting in the courtroom chimed in, "That's the reason they're in court-for doing community service!"

CPT's Atlantic Canada teams (Esgenoôpititj, NB and Indian Brook, NS) during May, June and July were: Benno Barg, Ellis Brown, and Joel Klassen (all of Kitchener, ON), Anne Herman (Binghamton, NY), Rebecca Johnson (Parry Sound, ON), Joanne Kaufman (Boulder, CO), Natasha Krahn (Waterloo, ON), Patty McKenna (Manhattan, KS), William Payne, Jane Pritchard, Vern Riediger, and Jane Wright (all of Toronto, ON), Janet Shoemaker (Goshen, IN), Lena Siegers (Blyth, ON), and George Weber (Chesley, ON).

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Chiapas: "Theater of Repentance"

After visiting Mayan refugees and praying at military bases in the highlands of Chiapas, CPT delegation members dramatized their observations in the main plaza of San Cristóbal de Las Casas on July 27.

A crowd of 100 local residents and tourists witnessed the street theater which depicted a displaced Mayan coffee grower buffeted by low international coffee prices and violence-in part supported by U.S. military aid. When a North American consumer becomes aware of the human costs not reflected in the price of her cup of coffee, she calls on her fellow North Americans to join her in a prayer of repentance.

Delegation member Scott Albrecht (Waterloo, ON) noted, AAs a Canadian it is easy to blame U.S foreign policy, but Canadian consumers are just as complicit."

Delegates included Albrecht, Tricia Brown (Newberg, OR), Judy Nault (Victoria, BC), Bill Rose (Tampa, FL), Brett Shull (Oakland, CA), Carol and Charles Spring (Palo Alto, CA), Stewart Vriesinga (Clinton, ON), Ben Weller (N. Manchester, IN), Paul Neufeld Weaver (Worthington, MN), and Barbara Williamson (Evanston, IL).

 

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Chiapas Prayer Alert

This year's change of government at both the federal and state levels in Mexico launched Chiapas into a period of uncertainty. Throughout the month of May, CPTers consulted with key advisors regarding the current situation. Most described it as Aan exceedingly difficult and dangerous time," A the calm before the storm," or Athe eye of the hurricane." They affirmed the importance of CPT's presence especially amid concerns that rising tensions in the period leading up to October 7 municipal elections could spark violence.

Nearly 10,000 people continue to live as refugees due to ongoing threats from paramilitaries in Chenalhó where CPT has focused most of its work. Concentration of displaced communities in camps has led to scarcity of food and water and critical shortages of firewood for cooking-an essential component of indigenous life and culture. Military forces have replaced temporary bunkers with permanent concrete structures at installations in the area.

José Vásquez, a prominent leader of the Mayan pacifist group, Las Abejas (the Bees), has been selected to run for Municipal President (Mayor) of Chenalhó against the PRI candidate with ties to local paramilitary groups.

Las Abejas are laying plans for special prayer processions and public vigils urging people to Anot fall into the temptation of violence" between now and the elections. Your prayers and messages of support sent to cptmx"laneta.apc.org will be delivered directly to Abejas communities.

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Chiapas: The Prayer of Elders and the Rest of Us

by Matt Guynn

As hundreds gathered in the ballroom, Gustavo called the Mayan elders forward. Five people knelt at the front, and began to chant prayers for our gathering. The smoky scent from the ceramic urn of incense filled the room. Traditional harp, violin, and flute were added and others danced as the elders continued praying.

This was the main activity for the first evening of the International Conference on Biological and Cultural Diversity held June 14-15 in the city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas. It moved me deeply. At a time when indigenous rights in Mexico are under assault, when military patrols in Chiapas are increasing, and paramilitary forces are entrenched more and more deeply, the place to start was with the prayers of the elders.

A week later, teammate Diego Méndez and I climbed the mountain above the village of Acteal. We were headed to look at the Mayan crosses where I had prayed with other CPTers and 200 members of the Abejas in June 1999 as we sought protection for Acteal against paramilitary threats. We reached the last turn before the crest where the ancient crosses are located.

Just before entering the clearing, we heard chanting voices and Mayan music wafting towards us. While down below other members of the Abejas were tending to the details of keeping 2,500 displaced refugees alive, the elders were on the mountaintop praying.

These two events brought me to see afresh the deep movement of Spirit in the struggle here in the highlands of Chiapas. It provoked me: How can I deepen my spiritual grounding in the midst of my own work for peace and justice?

Our best nonviolence work in CPT springs from a numinous spiritual core. Drawing from that brimming Source happens when I claim and practice regular spiritual disciplines. In the life of a CPT team, it happens in daily worship, and in private and public prayers.

The praying is never done. We each irrigate and moisten ourselves and our communities as we repeatedly walk to the Well together through prayer, sharing, and the affirmation of the Sacred in our midst.

On Saturday morning, the chanting of prayer in Acteal got me out of bed. At the end of two full days of festivities, the elders were up before five, kneeling in the sanctuary, praying, holding the world together. So might we all.

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Toxic Toys Targeted

Participants in Mennonite Church conferences in Abbotsford, BC and Nashville, TN took on local toy retailers as part of CPT's "Violence is Not Child's Play: 500 Churches for Change" campaign. "It's time to take a serious look at the corporations that profit from marketing violence to youth," said Kathy Railsback, campaign coordinator. Six Nashville area stores were surveyed for violent content. Phillips Toy Mart was awarded a "Certificate of Encouragement" for the least amount of violent toys, while KB Toys was rated "toxic." In Abbotsford, 30 people conducted surveys at six retail stores. Madison's on Montrose received a "Certificate of Encouragement" with an outstanding 97 points. Zellers received a "Notice of Toxity" with the lowest score of 51. One survey participant noted the irony that toy guns at Zellers were easily accessible on a bottom shelf, while benign "Tonka" trucks were at the top.

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Dialogue

In Dialogue, we lift exchanges from CPT.D, and open e-mail discussion of CPT's vision and work.

Nanci Pollard, Internet: Haven't Christians done enough damage to aboriginal peoples? Do we need Christian Peacemakers when we have our own Peacekeepers? Christians would do well enough to save the rest of the world. They have already "saved" us.

Doug Pritchard, CPT Canada Coordinator, Toronto, ON: You make a very good point. We do not see our role as saving Aboriginal peoples or keeping peace within Aboriginal communities. We try to respond to Aboriginal communities who are being attacked or threatened with violence by non-Aboriginal peoples or Canadian police/officials. If those Aboriginal communities see a role for outsiders to be present during their struggle for a particular purpose which they decide, then we try to be available. At Esgenoôpetitj and Indian Brook we have been invited by Aboriginal fishers who hope that a visible presence of more witnesses might restrain the hands of non-Aboriginal fishers, police, and fisheries officers who have perpetrated considerable violence in the past. The fishers have asked us to be present and filming from shore and at times from their boats. We do not seek to direct the communities' response to the Canadian government's actions nor do we speak for them.

Nanci Pollard: I guess you have a point too, as long as you were invited to the communities by the people. We have had far too much of well meaning outsiders more or less inviting themselves into our situations. We in the States very seldom see information on aboriginal issues in Canada. Last year we happened to see a piece of smuggled video on the Burnt Church attack. We need more of this exposure to bring national and international attention to these flagrant violations of human rights.

Frank Moore, CPT reservist, Brownsville, TX: For centuries, we have heard our leaders say, "We can never settle for peace at any price." That phrase came to mean that our leaders were never willing to pay any price for peace, but they were always willing to pay any price for war. Millions of men paid that price by killing, and being killed, until the rivers were stained red by innocent and guilty blood, and the piles of corpses became mountains of shame.

Enough of that, already! We who are both Christians and peacemakers are sick of the constant violence and hatred, especially when it is committed in Jesus' name, and now we must make peace, even if it kills us! Why should we who call ourselves "Christians" be willing to do any less than what Jesus did when he nonviolently made peace with God for us? Are you willing to pay any price, go anywhere, for the Prince of Peace?

Tim Blosser, Carlisle PA: The phrase is not, "We can NEVER settle for peace at any price." It is, "We can not settle for PEACE AT JUST ANY PRICE," a profoundly different statement. Our Savior did not settle for peace at just any price. It was the exact and perfect price paid that bought the peace of the cross.

The price our political leaders and our soldiers have paid is not for the sake of war. Ask any soldier who has seen the madness of war first-hand. He will tell you that he serves, not that war may exist, but that his presence might avoid conflict.

Peace on this earth will elude us. That much the prophet Isaiah made abundantly clear. The peace promised by the Prince of Peace has nothing to do with external peace, or international governmental affairs.

You SHOULD be tired of conflicts. But Christ did not send his disciples into the world to save it from earthly conflicts. He sent them to offer hope for a better world altogether.

Audrey A. Metz, Washington, DC: I know there's a lot I've missed about Jesus, and I'm pedaling as fast as I can to catch up, to read, to study, to absorb his life. When I was looking into possibilities for service, I was moved and impressed by CPT's work. Who knows? Maybe when I'm 80 or 90, I'll have become bored with DC and will be looking to other fields of service.

Doug Pritchard, CPT staff, Toronto, ON: Don't wait until you are 80 or 90! When we only have this one life to live on earth, it is dangerous to put off important things like CPT work until later. "Later" might never come and "sooner" you may have to give an account of how you applied Christ's teachings. Join us! The world needs many more Christian peacemakers now!

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CPT Calendar 2001

  • Middle East Delegations: November 16-28, 2001; February 14-26, May 24-June 5, July 25-August 6, 2002.
  • Chiapas Delegations: November 19-December 1, 2001; March 19-April 1, 2002
  • Esgenoôpetitj Delegation: August 19-28, 2001
  • Colombia Delegation: TBA
  • Puerto Rico Delegations: TBA
  • Peacemaker Congress VI: September 20-23, 2001 - Joyfield Farm, North Manchester, IN
  • Application Deadline: October 1 for Chicago Peacemaker Training.
  • CPT Steering Committee Meetings: October 18-20 - Harrisonburg, VA
  • Peacemaker Training: December 27, 2001-January 23, 2002 - Chicago, IL.

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Peacemaker Congress VI

Join Christian peacemakers from across the continent Christian Peacemaker Congress VI at Joyfield Farm, North Manchester, IN, September 20-23, 2001. ASustainable Peacemaking: Building Connections for Change" will provide opportunities to be refreshed, share inspiration, make connections, and hear stories of peacemaking from around the world. The Congress is sponsored by CPT and New Call to Peacemaking.

Featured speakers C. T. Vivian, a veteran advocate for racial and economic justice, David Waas, professor emeritus of world and African history at Manchester College, and Dianne Roe, long-time CPTer with the Hebron project will guide participants in reflecting on ASustainable Peacemaking: Building Connections for Change." Sponsored by CPT and New Call to Peacemaking.

For registration and information contact CPT: Tel: 312-455-1199; e-mail: cpt"igc.org.

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PEACE BRIEFS

Priest Denied Entry into Canada-Michigan Peace Teams Co-Coordinator and former CPT reservist Fr. Peter Dougherty of Lansing, MI was denied entry into Canada at Sarnia, ON on Saturday June 9. Dougherty was headed to Ottawa to conduct a seminar on nonviolent peacemaking. The reason given was that Dougherty had been arrested in non-violent civil disobedience in the United States. Carl Stieren, Chair of Global Nonviolent Peace Force - Canada, the group sponsoring the seminar, expressed his outrage: "Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King were also arrested for civil disobedience. Would Canadian Immigration officials be instructed to turn them away at the border?"

Israeli Soldier Jailed-According to a report by Yesh Gvul ("There is a Limit"), 11 soldiers have been sentenced for refusing to take part in enforcing the Israeli Occupation since the start of the current Intifada. They are among more than two hundred soldiers who have actively refused since October 2000. Recently, Captain Edan Landau (Reservist) was jailed for refusing to escort operatives of the Israeli security police in the occupied territories. AI will take no part in these war crimes," declared Landau at his trial. Landau is a lecturer in linguistics at Ben Gurion University, Beersheba.

Colombia Quilt Project-Amnesty International is spearheading a project to "blanket" Colombian human rights defenders with support and encouragement as they face difficult times. A dozen quilts will be created and sent to 12 human rights workers/groups in Colombia. Individuals, groups and churches may contribute 9" squares. Contact Kit Dench, e-mail: cdench"mackaycenter.org or the Amnesty website: www.amnesty.ca/Colombia/quilt.htm.

A Big Splash-43 campers at Shepherd's Spring Outdoor Ministries Center (Sharpsburg, MD) contributed $950 to CPT as their "offering project" this summer. The incentive? The more the kids gave, the more camp staff were "eligible" to be pushed into the pool with their clothes on. According to Program Director, Tom Hurst, "With $200 to go before all staff would have the honor of a dunking, a 'giving frenzy' ensued. Kids reached again and again into their camp bank fund to contribute toward the goal."

Junity-200 Jewish peace and human rights activists representing 45 grassroots organizations recently gathered in Chicago to develop new strategies to push for an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. In response to the total collapse of the Oslo Peace Process and the devastating violence that has already resulted in more than 400 Palestinian and 100 Israeli deaths since the outbreak of the second Intifada, they created a new network called "Junity: Jewish Unity for a Just Peace" which will serve as an umbrella for coordinating national and international actions.

No to Capital Punishment-On July 4, CPT, together with the Tennessee Fellowship of Reconciliation, sponsored a silent pilgrimage through downtown Nashville in witness against the death penalty. The first person to die at the hands of the state of Tennessee in 40 years was executed a year ago during Holy Week. Said Heidi Siemens-Rhodes (Kalona, IA), one of the 140 participants, "It's very fitting on the 4th of July to work for a better country."

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ANNOUNCEMENTS

Carlisle Peace College: As the U.S. Army War College celebrates the 50th Anniversary of its location in Carlisle, PA and the 100th Anniversary of the creation of the U.S. Department of War, CPTers and proponents of a global peace service will open the first "Carlisle Peace College" November 9-11, 2001-a 22 day assembly of speakers, workshops and training in nonviolent methods of solving national and international conflict. Speakers include Kathy Kelly (Voices in the Wilderness coordinator) and Sis and Jerry Levin, who have advocated for reconciliation in the Middle East since he was released after 11 months in captivity by Hizballah in the 1980s. Contact Elayne McClanen: Tel: 301-260-7447; e-mail: kemcc"peoplepc.com.

Position Available: On Earth Peace Assembly, a peace and reconciliation agency of the Church of the Brethren, seeks a program coordinator beginning September 1, 2001. Contact Bob Gross; Tel: 219-982-7751; e-mail: bgrossoepa"brethren.org.

Senior Fellowship Competition: The United States Institute of Peace seeks applicants for its Senior Fellowship program. Scholars or practitioners who conduct research related to the peaceful resolution of international conflict are invited to submit applications by September 17, 2001. Contact 202-429-3886; www.usip.org.

 

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LETTERS

You could increase the number of spanish-speaking CPTers by sending them all for a 6-week stay in the Guaynabo Federal Prison. What better way to learn the language, and make a statement for justice at the same time! Upon graduation you will be given a chance to make a statement in Spanish for Puerto Rico news media.

Mark Byler

Goshen, IN

[Byler was arrested in a civil disobedience action on Vieques, Puerto Rico in May]

I'm not crazy about sending loads of CIA people over to Palestine as monitors, but an important talking point for peace team intervention deserves emphasis: The U.S. has loaded the region with weapons. If only a fraction of the money and resources spent on military preparations to 'deter' war had been devoted to fostering groups like CPT-unarmed , credible teams who've demonstrated their readiness to take risks-the last ditch effort to prevent regional warfare might not seem so elusive.

Kathy Kelly

Voices in the Wilderness

Chicago, IL

I applaud your great efforts. Sooner or later people all around the world will realize the terrible injustice that the Palestinians have been subjected to. God keep you safe.

Hussein Elburai

Gaza

I am 13 and my Minister has just come back from the Holy Land. She has told us of all the good work you are doing. I am just e-mailing you to say the thoughts and prayers of our youth group are with you.

Naomi-Ruth

Derbyshire, England

Recently I received a refund from the U.S. government as a result of President Bush's federal income tax reduction plan. I've decided there could be no better way to use this refund than giving it to CPT. Enclosed is a check for $298.15.

Wilbur J. Stump

N. Manchester, IN

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Credits

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STEERING COMMITTEE:

Bob Bartel, Paul Dodd, Pat Hostetter Martin, Cliff Kindy, Nancy Maeder, Orlando Redekopp, Hedy Sawadsky, Mary Scott Boria, Muriel Stackley, John Stoner, Dorothy Jean Weaver.

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STAFF:

Gene Stoltzfus-Director, Claire Evans-Administrative Coordinator, Kryss Chupp-Training Coordinator-Chicago, IL; Jan Long,Christian Peacemaker Corps Coordinator-N.Liberty, IN; Rich Meyer,Campaign for Secure Dwellings Coordinator-Millersburg, IN; Doug Pritchard,CPT Canada-Toronto,ON.

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CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKER CORPS:

Rick Carter, Claire Evans, Anita Fast, Matt Guynn, Bob Holmes, Kathleen Kern, Scott Kerr, Cliff Kindy, Natasha Krahn, JoAnne Lingle, William Payne, Rick Polhamus, Dianne Roe, Greg Rollins, Matt Schaaf, Pierre Shantz, Janet Shoemaker, Lena Siegers, Lynn Stoltzfus.

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RESERVE CORPS:

Jane Adas, Nait Alleman, Art Arbour, Amy Babcock, Fred Bahnson, Matthew Bailey-Dick, Nina Bailey-Dick, Benno Barg, Nathan Bender, Jeremy Bergen, Jamey Bouwmeester, Grace Boyer, LuAnn Brooker, Gary Brooks, Ellis Brown, Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, Chris Buhler, Judith Bustany, Pat Cameron, Bab Carlsten, Elluage Carson, Cat Grambles, David Cockburn, Rusty Dinkins-Curling, Duane Ediger, John Finlay, Christine Forand, Ron Forthofer, Alyce Foster, Angela Freeman, Mark Frey, Ron Friesen, Pierre Gingerich, Dorothy Goertz, Amy Gomez, Michael Goode, Jesse Griffin, Shady Hakim, Carol Hanna, Wes Hare, Anne Herman, Esther Ho, Tracy Hughes, Cole Hull, Rebecca Johnson, Kathy Kamphoefner, Joanne Kaufman, Bourke Kennedy, Erin Kindy, Joel Klassen, Brian Ladd, Murray Lawrence, Wendy Lehman, Gerry Lepp, Gina Lepp, Jim Loney, Reynaldo Lopez, Krista Lord, Lumley, Barb Martens, Lisa Martens, Elayne McClanen, Patty McKenna, Diego Méndez, Carl Meyer, Rich Meyer, Bryan Michener, Cynthia Miller, Marilyn Miller, Robin Miller, Phyllis Milton, Frank Moore, Scott Morton-Ninomiya, Bob Naiman, Paul Neufeld Weaver, Henri Ngolo, Wanda Ngolo, Pieter Niemeyer, Paul Pierce, Doug Pritchard, Jane Pritchard, Randy Puljek-Shank, Kathy Railsback, Sara Reschly, Vern Riedeger, Carol Rose, Jacque Rozier, Jim Satterwhite, Carleta Schroeder, Chris Schweitzer, Mary Alice Shemo, John Sherman, Jerry Stein, Harriet Taylor, George Weber, Dick Williams, Gretchen Williams, Doug Wingeier, Jane Wright, Joshua Yoder, Keith Young.

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ASSOCIATES/VOLUNTEERS:

Colombia team: Ben Horst, Jonathan Horst, Bob Epp (interns); Hebron team: Ben Long, LeAnne Clausen (interns); Daniel Rempel (Webmaster); Canada: Elsie Wiebe; Chicago: Paul Becher; COPA/DOOR volunteers; PLUS the indispensable team of Chicago volunteers that make our newsletter mailings possible!