Signs of the Times: Summer 2004 Vol. XIV, No. 3

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Contents

ARIZONA: NO MORE DESERT DEATHS!

 

CPTer Elizabeth García pours water on a cross remembering migrants who've died crossing the Mexico-U.S. border in desert region, near CPT’s project based in Douglas, Arizona.

CPT’s summer-long Arizona Borderlands project works with the “No More Deaths” coalition to protect the lives of those crossing the U.S./Mexico border in Arizona desert regions, and to promote humane and sustainable immigration policies.

U.S. policymakers openly designed border enforcement to channel migrants into the most inhospitable areas of the desert. Residents fear legal prosecution for helping migrants in distress.

CPT provides food and water in the deadly-hot desert as an act of resistance: challenging fear and opening space for residents, law enforcement, and lawmakers to respond in Christian ways to our migrant brothers and sisters. It must never be illegal to give life-saving assistance even when the person’s presence has been declared illegal.

Based in Douglas, Arizona, near the largest Border Patrol station in the U.S., CPT-Arizona helps to staff a movable respite-care desert camp or “Ark of the Covenant,” and organizes “Samaritan patrols” - driving, walking or biking into the desert searching for migrants in medical distress.

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CPTer Cliff Kindy participates in the Migrant Trail Walk

MIGRANT TRAIL WALK

The “Migrant Trail Walk” from Sasabe on the U.S.-Mexico border to Tucson, Arizona, June 7-13 kicked off the sum- mer “No More Deaths” movement. Between 23 and 200 walkers partici- pated each day fol- lowing the blistering desert trails 75 miles north over the week. Steady news coverage placed the issues before the public. Even with abundant water, three people suffered heat exhaustion and had to stop walking. “We ‘legal’ walkers did not face death,” reflected CPTer Cliff Kindy, “but risking the Migrant Trails pulled us into an entirely different level of commitment to this cause.”


DESERT FAST AND MEMORIALS

Hundreds of migrants die every year as they cross the harsh desert. U.S. Border Patrol reports only the few hundred bodies they find; many more are never found.

As a prayer for all migrants, CPTers and residents from Douglas, AZ and Agua Prieta, Mexico, conducted a memorial service for Wilma Machado. They built a rock cairn and cross near the location where she was found dying, just west of Douglas, Arizona, and less than a mile north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Since the project began in late May, CPTers have memorialized the deaths of five migrants in Arizona’s Cochise County.

Wilma, 42, from Brazil lay dying on July 1 as her friend desperately sought help from nearby residents. Tom Bassett from Douglas noted, “Wilma died in the shadow of the largest Border Patrol station in the U.S. With homes all around.” CPTer Mark Frey added, “She died surrounded by people -- people afraid to help because they fear the legal consequences of aiding people in need. Something is very wrong.”

In early July, CPTers conducted a six-day desert fast to pray for the safety of migrants crossing the U.S./Mexico border, and to demonstrate publicly that it is not illegal to give food and water to those who are hungry and thirsty. By the end of the first day, the team had distributed its entire supply of food and water to more than thirty migrants.

In addition to the inhospitable climate, migrants must contend with mistreatment by Border Patrol agents, threats by local vigilante landowners, dangerous travel with often-unreliable coyotes (paid guides), and assaults by bandits on both sides of the border. Human rights activists estimate that 20-30% of migrants are assaulted in this area of the desert.

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BLESSED BY THE STRANGER

by Elizabeth Garcia

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me.” - Matthew 25:31-34

On July 24 at 7:00am, I was riding my bike around the camp in Douglas when I spotted a small group of migrants walking. As I got closer, I could sense that they were afraid. I asked if they needed food or water and, when they finally stopped, I explained our work.

All five migrants were starting to feel weak after three days and nights without food or water. Ana was vomiting and experiencing headaches and cramps in her legs and fingers. Miguel had injured both knees in a fall the day before and was in a lot of pain.

When I asked if they knew where they were, Mario said, “Yes, we are getting close to Los Angeles,” pointing toward Douglas. (Los Angeles is 600 miles west of Douglas.) Like many who get separated from their coyote (guide), they had been wandering in the desert in circles.

They came to the camp where we gave them food and water and then took them into our house to shower and change clothes. They told us they had been with a group of sixteen people and were hiding just a few feet away when five of their group were captured by the Border Patrol.

When they had recovered from their heat exhaustion and dehydration they started to think of continuing on their way. I asked them if they were afraid. Looking at me with tear-filled eyes, Ana said, “Yes, but I have two kids back in Mexico, and I promised them a better life. Even if it costs me my own life, I will keep walking. I hope God will hear my prayers.”

A week later, Mario phoned from North Carolina to say, “My family wants to talk to you. We are so grateful for what you all did for us.” Areli also phoned from Washington with her thanks.

In the Arizona desert we can find that hungry one, that thirsty one, that naked one, that stranger. In the Arizona desert we are offered a unique blessing in a time that otherwise knows only how to fear the stranger, a time when the stranger is suspected of bringing not blessings, but terror to our homes. We all have a choice. I choose to be blessed by their presence.

Arizona team members May-August were: Claire Evans (Chicago, IL), Mark Frey (Chicago, IL), Ron Friesen (Loveland, CO), Elizabeth Garcia (Brownsville, TX), Scott Kerr (Downer’s Grove, IL), Cliff Kindy (N. Manchester, IN), Joanne Lingle (Indianapolis, IN), Murray Lumley (Toronto, ON), Doug Pritchard (Toronto, ON), Janet Shoe- maker (Goshen, IN). Arizona delegates were: Suzanna Collerd (River Forest, IL), Noah Dillard (Tempe, AZ), Amy Fry-Miller (Fort Wayne, IN), Paul Horst (Evanston, IL), Tim Kortenkamp (Felton, CA), Miriam Pukuma (Philadelphia, PA), Sara Rickard (Chicago, IL), Thomas Scanlan (Denver, CO).

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CARRY IT ON: A LETTER FROM GENE STOLTZFUS


Outgoing CPT Director Gene Stoltzfus

In August CPT completes an 18-month transition process that welcomes Carol Rose, Co-director for Operations, and Doug Pritchard, Co-director for Program as my replacements. I hope you will get to know and love them as much as I do.

The seeds for this peacemaking experiment were planted long ago in the two millennium old struggle for enemy loving. As mean and angry voices calling for ever-more daunting weapons of destruction continue to assault us, a new Spirit of clarity calls the human family to another way. Even when almost all hope has been swallowed up by violence, pain, death and unfairness, we are learning to see the signs and become allies of transformation. The moment of opportunity is now.

Organizations like CPT are created to carry forth that movement of the Spirit for fairness and integrity. Over the last 17 years we have learned that the combination of training, disciplined teams, spiritual rootedness, and sustained commitment can make a major difference in the local areas where we work and in the way grand structures, both corporate and government, do business. I am repeatedly surprised at what a few people can do with careful organization and preparation. I could paper my office walls several times with inquiries from church bodies and other groups all over the world requesting information on how to get started.

CPT will change dramatically as it grows to include many more participants from beyond North America and adapts to the demands of cross cultural work, healthy team life, and timely, prophetic engagement. I pray that you join me in giving complete support to the 35 full-time CPTers, 130 Reservists and hundreds of partners, volunteers and co-workers around the world who risk life every day to push back the forces of violence. Blessings to all!

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COLOMBIA: ‘THEY’RE GOING TO KILL MY DADDY’

An eight year-old girl ran from her house screaming, “They’re going to kill my Daddy!” Two CPTers arrived moments later to find members of the illegal right-wing paramilitaries holding the girl’s father at gun point. A guerrilla fighter, whom the paramilitaries had captured a few hours earlier, accused him of collaborating with that left-wing illegal armed group. His family, friends and CPTers plead for his life, asserting his civilian status.

Within minutes of CPT’s arrival on the scene the paramilitaries took their machine guns and marched on down river, leaving the girl’s father and a barrage of insults and threats behind. Still trembling, everyone joined together in prayer for protection and peace. All those present expressed a clear sense that if CPTers had not arrived, this beloved community member would have been killed on the spot.

The day after the paramilitary incursion, CPT encountered three guerrillas passing through civilian yards. CPT and local residents exhorted the commander to keep his troops at a distance and not involve civilians in the conflict. The continuing presence of the guerrilla forces and their threatening insistence that people bring them food supplies attracts paramilitary incursions and accusations and increases the risk that civilians could be caught in a battle.

In the wake of such terror, the community’s resolve to live in peace emerged stronger than their fear. Over forty residents of Los Yeques signed an open letter requesting active response from government authorities, human rights groups and the general public (see page 4). CPT later accompanied a government human rights official to the community who provided assistance for the threatened community member to seek refuge in a different part of the country.

The residents of Los Yeques and neighboring La Florida reaffirmed their commitment to their united “Process for Life, Dignity, and Freedom.” They are determined to face the threats of violent forces together rather than leave each family to withstand in isolation. They are building the community through common action, strengthening connections with nearby communities, and developing the local economy through agricultural projects. They have asked for allies. The Catholic “Peace and Development Program,” and CREDHOS, a regional human rights organization, are working with the communities of the Opón River in this process that aims to improve security without the use of weapons.

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SILENCE TO SPEECH

Residents of Los Ñeques compose an open letter denouncing paramilitary incursions and death threats

What does it take to move from silence to daring speech? The community of Los Yeques has made courageous shifts from individual families dealing with threats, to a practical and risky solidarity. Below are excerpts from their bold open letter signed by 44 community residents. They ask us to stand with them.

To government authorities, nongovernmental organizations, and the general public:

“...We, the civilian population, denounce the violence perpetrated against us and call upon the authorities to come to our community and address our concerns. We are tired of threats, pressure, verbal abuse, and deaths... As we assert our insistence on respect for our status as civilians, we need your support... Right now, we are accompanied by God and the CPT team.”

“In the morning, upriver from our community, we heard a shootout... At about 1:00pm a group of paramilitaries arrived...and threatened a man from our community... When CPTers heard the shouts and cries...they ran and stood between the man and the paramilitaries. So the paramilitaries left the man alone.

“We are more afraid now than before our companion was threatened, which puts us all under death threat. With all the conflict that has happened lately, we have hope in God and the CPT team, which has worked arduously for us. But again, we reiterate, when the CPT team is not in the region, what will happen? We are waiting for your presence as soon as possible before a massacre occurs.”


CPT Colombia team members, delegates, and interns June-August included: Scott Albrecht (Kitchener, ON), Adaía Bernal (Bogotá, Colombia), Jonathan and Sara Brenneman (Hershey, PA), Jenny Dillon (Washington, DC), Duane Ediger (Chicago, IL), Anton and Charlotte Flores (La Grange, GA), Kim Freeman (Kitchener, ON), Julie Hart (Newton, KS), Celeste Kennel-Shank (Washington, DC), Carmen Kingsley (Elkhart, IN), Ra- chel Long, (North Liberty, IN), Anthony Nocella (Houston, TX), Jessica Phillips (N. Newton, KS), Sandra Rincón (Madrid, Colombia), Chris Schweitzer (Fairfield, CT), Pierre Shantz (Blainville, QC), Dwayne and Andrea Wenger-Hess (Baltimore, MD), Keith Young (Gobles, MI).

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HEBRON: HAIR YE, HAIR YE

CPT trainee, Annaliese Watson
(Cloverdale, OR) shaves the head of fellow trainee John Lynes (East Sussex, England) near the Israeli Consulate in downtown Chicago July 23.

Land confiscation in the Hebron district has escalated at an alarming rate to make way for Israel’s “Security Wall.” The Israeli military seized 1,059 acres in 2003 and destroyed 97 homes in the past two years, according to Abdel Hadi Hantash of the Hebron Land Defense Committee.

Palestinians describe the Israeli military’s bulldozing of fields, orchards, vineyards and homes as “shaving the land.” The perimeter of Palestinian land is “shaved” by hundreds of large and small actions of the Israeli government, including:

    • building a new settler road within feet of a Palestinian mechanic shop which only settlers can access through a small opening in the fence. Palestinians predict that the military will close this opening in the fence, allowing no access to the shop.
    • prohibiting one Palestinian family in the Beqa’a Valley to access more than 15 meters of their land.
    • smashing nine toilets in the southern part of the Hebron district in May 2004.

In June, reflecting on the absurdity of these so-called “security” actions, CPTers Kristin Anderson, Maia Williams, and Christy Bischoff decided to shave their heads.

“Land confiscation is absurd. Shaving our heads is absurd. The occupation is absurd,” Williams noted. “But having a shaved head has simplified and focused my speaking about the work we do in Hebron. My family gets it, the boys on the street understand why I am in Palestine.”

Inspired by the women of the Hebron team, participants in CPT’s summer peacemaker training erected a mock “Security Wall” across from the Israeli Consulate in downtown Chicago. Echoing the words of Pope John Paul II, who said, “In reality, the Holy Land doesn’t need walls but bridges,” panels of the mock wall reversed to reveal a bridge of peace.

Set against the backdrop of the mock wall, ten individuals took turns sitting in a pose of powerlessness while their heads were shaved. The striking image of the public shaving caught the attention of the media and hundreds of passers-by over the lunch hour. Representatives of the group then gathered up the locks of hair and later delivered them to Israeli Consulate officials.

HEBRON ACTION: TALK ABOUT LAND CONFISCATIONS

Israel’s “security barrier” is heading inexorably toward Hebron, heralding the confiscation of ever greater amounts of land, and the further diminution of civil rights for those who would be trapped behind it. For two weeks, talk to one person every day about land confiscation and the Wall. Please send CPT Hebron a note about one of your conversations.

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MABROOK, ALA’A!

In mid-July students all over Palestine get the results of the tawjihi, the final examination of their senior year. Friends and family visit the graduates to say "Mabrook!" -- Congratulations!. CPTer Dianne Roe sent this note to one such graduate, Ala’a Al Ja’abari, whom she has known since he began high school.

It was a joy to see your smiling face when you handed me the report of your examination.

I remember your Freshman year in the fall of 2000. You had to make your way past stone throwing and shooting to get to school. Then the Israeli soldiers declared a curfew and would not let you leave your house. Sometimes you had to stay overnight in another part of town just to go to school.

While you were gone, Israeli settlers vandalized your house. Toward the end of your Sophomore year, Israeli soldiers re-entered Hebron and placed the whole city under curfew. Your school was closed, but still you persisted in your studies.

In your third year I tried to visit your family. I stood near the checkpoint as your neighbor, Um Abdullah, begged the soldiers to let her have visitors to no avail. Even in those difficult times you were always smiling.

Curfew was lifted for most of your final year, but you had to pass by Israeli military checkpoints to get to and from school. I know how embarrassed you were last April when the soldiers kicked your legs apart and frisked you. You said to me, “Don’t worry, I will be OK. This happens almost every day.”

So now, Ala’a, we pray for the future. We know you wish to be at peace with everyone and that you will work for that. We know Israeli students who will work for the same thing. It has been an honor for us who know you. “Mabrook!”

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NEW LIFE IN THE OLD CITY

by Maia Williams and Kristin Anderson


Israeli soldiers stop Palestinians in Hebron’s Old City.

CPT and Library on Wheels for Nonviolence and Peace sponsored a “Festival Day for Shopping in the Old City of Hebron” on June 3. The organizers hoped to encourage people to “bring new life to the Old City,” which has been choked by the Israeli military’s stranglehold on Hebron. To entice people to come to the Old City, all shoppers were eligible to win a new refrigerator.

A CPT delegation, together with team members and volunteers with the Library on Wheels, passed out books of raffle tickets to shopkeepers the day before the festival. On the festival day, Old City shops that had been closed for months were opened and many shopkeepers were eager to receive more raffle tickets after they had distributed their first book. Shopkeepers told CPTers, “We wish the situation would turn back to the way it used to be. Now there are no people here. Without people, we cannot survive.”

The Israeli military closed the Ibrahimi Mosque checkpoint during the festival day, allowing no one to enter including children carrying buckets attempting to go to the local soup kitchen. The Israeli military also detained Palestinians next to the other main entrance to the Old City, at the Beit Romano checkpoint.

The winner of the refrigerator was an 11-year-old boy whose family lives in the Old City. The family has few resources and the boy’s mother was delighted. The sponsors plan to hold a shoppers’ day festival on the first Thursday of each month, in the hope that more people will support renewed life in the Old City.

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‘BREAKING THE SILENCE’

In the winter of 2002, Hebron team members had frequent contact with Yehudah Shaul, a young Israeli soldier in the Nahal Brigade. Shaul told them he admired their work and was appalled by the way soldiers and settlers treated Palestinians in Hebron.

Recently, Shaul helped organize an exhibit, “Breaking the Silence,” in Tel Aviv that documented soldiers and settlers abusing Palestinians in Hebron. He told an interviewer, “The exhibit has two goals: for the Israeli public to know what we’re really doing in Hebron, and what it’s doing to us.”

Photos in the exhibit include pictures taken through the scope of a gun (including one of a Palestinian boy feeding his pigeons), of detained and blindfolded Palestinian men, of Palestinian shops with the Star of David painted on them, and of settler graffiti such as “Arabs to the gas chambers!” The exhibit also contains a display of keys that Israeli soldiers confiscated from Palestinian drivers, which serve as a mute contradiction to statements from official Israeli military spokespeople that soldiers do not confiscate keys.

Several CPTers visited the exhibit on June 15. A week later, Israeli Military Police raided the exhibit, confiscating video clips of soldiers describing their service in Hebron and a folder of articles about the exhibit. The military police interrogated three of the reservists who organized the exhibit for over six hours, ostensibly because the military police suspected them of committing the abuses they are trying to make public. The military reservists told Ha’aretz newspaper that they thought this treatment was a move to punish those soldiers who had given evidence about what had happened in Hebron and to intimidate others who are thinking of breaking their own silence.

Hebron team members June - August were
: Kristin Anderson (Willmar, MN), Benno Barg (Kitchener, ON), Christy Bischoff (Asheville, NC), Chris Brown (San Francisco, CA), Cal Carpenter (Minneapolis, MN), Donna Hicks (Durham, NC), Maureen Jack (Fife, Scot- land), Diane Janzen (Calgary, AB), Rebecca Johnson (Parry Sound, ON), Kathy Kamphoefner and Paul Pierce (East Jerusalem), Kim Lamberty (Washington, DC), Jerry Levin (Birmingham, AL), Rich Meyer (Millersburg, IN), Lorin Peters (San Leandro, CA), Doug Pritchard (Toronto, ON), Dianne Roe (Corning, NY), Jim Ronyon (Archbold, OH), Jim Satterwhite (Bluffton, OH), Char Smith (Gibson City, IL), Kathie Uhler (New York, NY), Maia Williams (Dale City, VA); and intern Anna Bachman (Pt. Townsend, WA).

Hebron delegation participants were: John Davis (Milford, OH), Edward Favilla (Phoenix, AZ), Bret Kincaid (Brentwood, MD), Kevin Rempel (Kitchener, ON), Michelle Stanley (Canadaigun, NY), Barbara Za- borowski (Phoenix, AZ).

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ASUBPEESCHOSEEWAGONG: DISPLACEMENT AND COURAGEOUS RETURNS

by Lisa Martens

In Chiapas, Mexico, it was high drama -- hundreds of Indigenous people walking many miles to return to the homes from which armed groups had violently displaced them.

Here in the Anishnaabe Nation (including Grassy Narrows), when Anishnaabe women Roberta, Kaaren and Barbara return to the land from which they have been displaced, it means that they build trapping cabins and trails. Their return does not make the newspapers.

Chrissy Swain, an initiator in Asubpeeschoseewagong’s movement to reclaim its rights, sits under a blanket along a logging road on their traditional land.

Other Anishnaabe do not make it home. The father of a friend of mine moved to the nearby town of Kenora after his displacement and died, perhaps of alcohol poisoning, in a police holding cell.

In Colombia armed groups have displaced millions from their homes. Here in the Anishnaabe Nation, the deaths happen more slowly and are disguised as the victims’ fault. Police killed Geronimo, a young Anishnaabe man, probably intoxicated with alcohol, in August 2003. In Kenora, a town near Grassy Narrows, another Anishnaabe man, Max Kakegamic, was beaten to death in 2000. Police charged one person and later released him. The other person seen at the crime scene, a nephew of one of the investigating officers, was never arrested.

In Palestine and Israel, settlers have been occupying Palestinian land for over 50 years. Instead of giving in to genocide, some Palestinians try to rebuild bulldozed homes, go to school, and raise their families.

Here, in North and South America, Settlers have occupied Indigenous land for over 500 years. In the Anishnaabe Nation around the Grassy Narrows area, the displacement has been going on for over 120 years. Instead of giving in to genocide, some of the Anishnaabe at Grassy Narrows have slowed and stopped logging trucks trespassing on Anishnaabe land. They slow the clear-cutting of the their home.

Instead of giving in to genocide that stretches wider and longer than clear-cutting, the Anishnaabe in this region: trap, pray, harvest medicine, laugh, work to support their families, put on community Art Shows, teach their children old and new things, grieve the occupation of the land, educate their occupiers, plan next steps, and tell stories.

The immediate threat of violence between loggers, police and community members has receded, but CPT will continue a project in this region. The team will focus on racism by whites in Kenora, while maintaining contact with the community of Grassy Narrows. It is good to work against our violence here.

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LITANY: BETTER NEIGHBOURS

by Lisa Martens

Response from congregation after each line is read: “we will work to be better neighbours.”

By giving back what we have taken...
By listening carefully to Indigenous people...
By walking gently as part of God’s creation...
By respecting the spirit of sharing in our treaties with Indigenous Nations...
By participating in economies that include everyone and destroy no one’s ways of life...
By learning alternatives to the clear-cutting of forests...
By not taking the land and waters for granted...
By being grateful for creation...
By practising Jubilee...
By providing for the redemption of the land...
By remembering that the land is God’s, not ours...

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HEALING NEEDED

by Matt Schaaf and Lisa Martens

A local business owner found Anishnaabe man Stewart Smith in a pool of blood behind the United Church in Kenora on April 30, 2004. Beaten nearly to death in the early morning, he was rushed to Winnipeg where he lay in a coma for weeks. CPTers and a group of Anishnaabe and white citizens of Kenora gathered in the alley on May 14 to pray for Stewart and his attacker(s).

“The police are doing all we can do,” in deterring violence against Anishnaabe people, reported Kenora police Deputy Chief Dan Jorgensen, but they have not identified a suspect. The Anishnaabe Coalition for Peace and Justice, in which CPT is involved, is forming to take more responsibility for what goes on in Kenora’s streets.

Racist attacks in the Kenora area span recent decades, and happen both to people who live on Kenora’s streets and those who live on reserves and come into town to shop. “I have a real, deep-in-my-stomach, deadly fear,” explained one Grassy Narrows woman to CPT member Lisa Martens. In the late 1970s, the woman’s father and cousin had been driving to Kenora when they stopped to help four strangers with their car. The strangers beat the father, left the car running, plugged the exhaust pipe, and raped the cousin. She died. The family reported the incident to the police but have heard of no follow-up.

Beatings of Anishnaabe people, displaced from their lands and living on the streets of Kenora, is not widely known. Community organizers identify a youth gang, the Kenora Indian Bashers, as one of the aggressors.

This is how an Asubpeeschoseewagong man described generational racism in the nearby town of Kenora to CPT member Matt Schaaf. “White youths beat native people when they are teenagers, then they grow up to become mayors, business people, police officers. And their kids, the next generation of civic leaders, do the

same.”

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WHAT WOULD YOU LOSE?

CPTers and delegation members passed out flyers showing the above map on the streets of Kenora, ON, July 12. The 10 km walk was equal to the perimeter of a medium-sized forest clear-cut. The group circled the 260 acre area with coloured flagging tape to demonstrate the impact clear-cutting has upon Kenorans and their Anishinaabe neighbours. Indigenous people rely on the forest not only for food and shelter, but also for education, recreation, and worship.


Asubpeeschoseewagong/Kenora team members June - August were: Tricia Brown and her daughter Madison (Newberg, OR), Chris Buhler (Waterloo, ON), Erin Kindy (Tiskilwa, IL), Lisa Martens (Winnipeg, MB), Doug Pritchard (Toronto, ON), Matt Schaaf (Winnipeg, MB), Char Smith (Gibson City, IL). Delegation partici- pants July 4-15 were: Krista Harrison (London, ON), Sarah Shepherd, Bob Holmes, Dean Jalonen and Jim Loney (Toronto, ON), Jenn Geddes and her son Zachary (Ottawa, ON), and Sheila and Dwyer Sullivan (Kitchener, ON).


 

DIALOGUE

In Dialogue, we highlight exchanges from our web site and e-mail networks regarding CPT’s vision and peacemaking ministry. This issue focuses on reactions to 1) CPT’s work protecting undocumented immigrants along the U.S./Mexico border and 2) CPT’s efforts to secure justice for Iraqis imprisoned by U.S. Forces.

CPT Arizona


Scott Hess, Lancaster, PA: Regarding your efforts along our southern border, what part of illegal alien do you not understand? Your sick policy of inclusion is degrading the country for all of us. Stop it!

Doug Pritchard, Toronto, ON, CPT Program Director: The scriptures contain many commands to care for the aliens and foreigners among us. Our team on the border is responding to emergency needs for first aid and advocating for a fair and humane immigration policy to reduce these emergencies.

William Zabel, Denver, CO: Nobody wants to see any human being die, but the people that your group is helping are in many cases not innocent refugees. Cities spend millions of dollars to feed them, give them medical care, and educate them in their native language. These people care little for America, and many of them end up committing atrocious crimes against Americans. You should help the Border Patrol send them back across the border.

Elizabeth Garcia, Brownsville, TX, CPT-Arizona: I still don’t understand why some people think having troops on our border is a good idea. Many forget that this is not our land, it is God’s land. Borders are not physical, they are inside us. Borders are choices of the heart. We need a change of heart.

Mark Frey, Chicago, IL, CPT-Arizona: Our efforts in Arizona to turn the spotlight on the real human tragedy of U.S. immigration policy has met both support and criticism. Here are the team’s responses to some of the most common critiques and stereotypes about immigrants from the South:

“Why don’t the Mexicans just stay in their own country?” - Church member from an Arizona border town
Jobs. Migrants tell CPT that very few economic opportunities exist in Mexico. Bread-winners who take seriously their responsibly to support their family see migration to the North as the only option. Even the U.S. Border Patrol admits that 98% of migrants are coming for positive, non-criminal reasons. Workers in the U.S. and Canada send money back home; last year, money sent home was second only to Mexico’s oil industry in generating revenue for the country.

“Migrants are taking our jobs.” - Arizona border resident who immigrated 25 years ago from Australia

Migrants are often hard workers and willing to do jobs that other North Americans are not: garbage collection, hotel cleaning, construction, restaurant work. Employers enjoy a better profit margin through cheap migrant laborers, who are easy to bully because of their vulnerable undocumented status. Consumers benefit from lower costs. Are those who criticize migrants willing to pay more for houses and dinner entrees?

“Putting out water only encourages them to come. You are part of the problem.” - Customs and Border Protection officer in Douglas, Arizona

People are going to cross the border whether or not we give water to migrants dying of thirst. The solution lies in addressing the issues of economic inequality.

“Illegals drain our tax dollars.” - Border resident

Some research institutions argue migrants contribute $80,000 more in lifetime taxes than they use in social services. Others contend each migrant will cost U.S. taxpayers up to $60,000. What is clear is that sectors of the U.S. economy would suffer huge blows without these undocumented workers.

“Those stupid Undocumented Aliens leave trash all over my ranch.” - Border Rancher

Migrants do leave water bottles and abandoned clothes, backpacks and small personal items in the desert, often on ranchers’ property. Because thousands are crossing the border every day, the trash mounts quickly. Ironically, the same migrants who leave garbage along the southern states’ borders for people to clean up, disproportionately fill service jobs that frequently clean up after people in the northern states. U.S. residents on the border suffer all the costs of migration and enjoy none of the economic benefits.

CPT Iraq

John Brushaber, Shephenville, TX: Stewart Vriesinga’s comments [regarding mistreatment of Iraqi detainees on CTV news] do not reflect the beliefs of all Christians. News flash! These are prisoners! They were previously haters and killers of American soldiers, many whom are Christians! I am preparing to go to Iraq and support the fight against aggression as a soldier. The last thing I want to see is a Christian group aiding the enemy by not sharing hope to the lost. Your comments do nothing but spark further flames in the effort to win others to Christ. The plan for this country is bigger than you or I and all Christians must work together. The hatred that is flowing throughout the world goes farther than pointing at the U.S.A; it’s pointed at God and God’s people. I’ll die fighting if I must, but I’ll be fighting to share the love with those that will receive it.

Stewart Vriesinga, Lucknow, ON, CPT-Iraq: The assertion that these detainees were “haters and killers of American soldiers” is not accurate. The majority were arrested during house-raids and military sweeps, often based on misinformation and faulty intelligence. Coalition Forces presumed that the investigative work would take place after the arrest and detention and that most detainees would eventually be released.

Wrongfully imprisoning and mistreating thousands of innocent Iraqis is neither bringing “hope to the lost,” nor is it “winning others to Christ.” Treating Iraqis with less dignity than U.S. citizens sends the message that they are inferior to Americans, and are less loved by God. To imply that what “Christian” countries are doing to Iraqis is part of God’s plan is as offensive and destructive as the rhetoric of Muslim extremists who claim that God is calling all Muslims to a holy Jihad against western countries.

I agree that Christians must work together to share the love of God -- we must work with each other and with the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Iraq who agree that killing and abusing fellow human beings in the name of God is a sin. CPT will continue to work with Iraqis who nonviolently seek peace and justice through the love of God -- that Love that has the power to transform not only us but also our enemies.

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IRAQ: POST-TRANSFER

CPT Iraq offers these simple “signs of the times,” which reflect the tapestry of both changes and status-quo since the June 28th transfer of power from the United States to the new Iraqi government.

The park across the street from CPT’s apartment used to be a desert waste along the banks of the Tigris River. Today it is as green as Ireland and offers sculpted paths and bright-colored swing sets. But the park is empty -- parents and children are too afraid of militants or wayward mortars to venture beyond the security of their homes.

A street vendor sells produce in Basrah, Iraq.

House raids and detentions continue. One soldier CPTers met on the street said, “Yeah, today we’re on duty here, last night we were breaking down doors.”

Clean-up crews of young men and boys fill the streets of Baghdad, toting buckets and brooms and waving at passing cars.

U.S. humvees and armored personnel carriers still roll through the streets. Now one also sees soldiers from the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps on training exercises alongside the U.S. troops.

College students speak energetically about their future in Iraq. “I want to work for the Ministry of Justice,” says one young woman studying law at a college in Baquba.

Iraqi Police patrol the skies in their own helicopters, direct traffic at intersections choked with cars, and organize raids searching for criminals throughout Baghdad.

Families in our neighborhood speak wearily of the water and electricity shortages.

“I used to have to wait three months to visit my son,” said a man standing in the dust outside Abu Ghraib prison. “Now I visit every ten days. The [prisoner abuse] scandal did that for us at least.”

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From the cracks of a dusty, bombed street a sunflower blooms.

CHURCHES: REACH OUT TO TROOPS

“When you return home, we believe that you will want to be able to tell your families that you acted with honor and compassion,” states a leaflet CPTers handed out to U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

CPT invites you to take this leaflet to a military recruiting office near you to alert recruits that they can be held liable for their actions even if they are under orders.

Before wide-spread news broke of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners, CPT members Scott Kerr and Gene Stoltzfus took the leaflet to a recruiting office in Downers Grove, IL, along with signs saying: “14,000 Iraqi detainees” and “Stop Terrorism. Love our Enemies.” A barber next door to the recruiting office told the two he didn’t like their message and called the police, who arrested Kerr and Stoltzfus on charges of trespassing.

Kerr and Stoltzfus went to trial August 5. Lawyer Ed Osowski represented them, prepared with a briefing on U.S. citizens’ First Amendment (freedom of speech) rights. When the complainant did not appear and Osowski objected to a continuance, the state voluntarily dismissed the charges.

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IRAQ ACTION: ADOPT A DETAINEE


Hania holds a picture of her husband Kamel, who was captured along with 82 other men in December 2003 from the village of Abu Sifa north of Baghdad. Kamel is still a part of the Adopt-a-Detainee Campaign.

CPT launched the Adopt-a-Detainee Campaign in February, 2004, after Iraq team members had spent over six months documenting testimonies of Iraqis detained by the U.S.-led Coalition Forces. To date, at least 500 individuals and groups from five countries have been involved in the Campaign. Although the U.S. military has not significantly reformed its detention system, your actions have produced positive results.

In April, the Senior Advisor on Detainee Affairs for the Coalition Provisional Authority told the Iraq team that he received letters from CPT supporters writing on behalf of several individual detainees. Consequently, he checked up on these individuals and reported his findings to CPTers, who relayed the information to the detainees’ families.

We also shared your letters with detainees’ families, all of whom greatly appreciated your efforts. The uncle of Yasser Hameed Ahmed, one detainee in the campaign, wrote, “We do not know how to express our feelings for you because you care for our suffering under the occupation . . . [All] of our gratitude and respect for you. God be with you to help you work for the good.”

Iraqis continue to suffer violence and indignities within the U.S.-run detention system. CPTers continue to work to reduce these injustices. You can make a difference as part of the Adopt-a-Detainee Campaign.

For more information on the campaign, including how to participate, visit the Iraq page on the CPT website: www.cpt.org/iraq/iraq.php. Contact Rick Polhamus: Tel: 937-313-4458.

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IRAQ: STARING DOWN A GUN

by Greg Rollins

At the end of our street, there is a small gang with nothing better to do but loiter around shops. As the heat rose off the pavement one evening, CPTers Sheila Provencher, Stewart Vriesinga and I passed the gang at the far end of the block. Often they are friendly with us, but this time they stood in our way.

One of them pulled out a gun and pointed it at Sheila. I screamed, “Allahu Akbar!” -- God is greater! Muslims yell this whenever they are distressed. I thought it might disorient the guy with the gun, but it didn’t. He laughed and with the gun, squirted Sheila. (Did I mention it was a squirt gun?) He then turned and squirted Stewart and me.

The three of us ran to our apartment, filled balloons with water, and grabbed our own squirt gun. We spent the next while wrestling for water balloons and squirt guns and chasing each other up and down the street.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen much to CPTers, but maybe it should.

Iraq team members June - August included: Mabel Brunk (Goshen, IL), Anita David (Chicago, IL), Peggy Gish (Athens, OH), David Milne (Belleville, ON), Anne Montgomery (New York, NY), Maxine Nash (Waukon, IA), Doug Pritchard (Toronto, ON), Shiela Provencher (South Bend, IN), Greg Rollins (Surrey, BC), Stewart Vriesinga (Lucknow, ON).

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IRAQ: CHURCHES BOMBED

by Doug Pritchard

Two churches in the Karrada District in central Baghdad were bombed on the evening of Sunday, August 1. Three more churches in Iraq were attacked at the same time. This is the first time Iraqi churches have been targeted in this way, adding a new element to the present violence in Iraq.

CPTers Sheila Provencher and Greg Rollins were worshipping at St Raphael’s Catholic Church when the first bomb exploded at 6:25 pm at the Armenian church about 400 yards away from them. At that moment in the service, there had been a time of silence, and the priest then continued with the next words of the liturgy, “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.”

CPTers Peggy Gish and Doug Pritchard were worshipping at St Yousef’s Chaldean Church in the same neighborhood. As people were leaving the service at
6:50 pm, the second blast occurred at the Syrian church three blocks away. While leaving the church, Gish and Pritchard asked worried residents for details. One family pulled them inside their home and shared their experiences.

The young woman of the family wept and said, “My father was killed recently because he sold alcohol. I was too afraid to go to my church today. Now it has been bombed. I don’t know if my friends there are alive or dead.”

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REGIONAL GROUPS

Washington, DC: Hooded and handcuffed, members of the Washington, D.C. regional CPT training group recounted testimonies of Iraqis detained by American forces in front of the U.S. Supreme Court May 14. The training group and CPT supporters then processed to the Senate building, and presented Senators with the report CPT’s Iraq team had compiled from interviews with seventy-two detainees and their families conducted in 2003.

CPT-UK Group Launched: Two Iraqi Christians were among 16 people who attended the initial gathering of the CPT-United Kingdom Regional Group on June
8. David Cockburn, the first British CPT reservist, reported on Hebron and presented an overview of CPT. The group from Britain and Ireland hopes to eventually hold a regional training. If you know people in the UK or elsewhere in Europe interested in connecting with a regional group contact Tim Nafziger: Tel:
020-8341-6807.

PEACE BRIEFS

Colombian to visit Canada: Colombian CPTer Sandra Rincón will visit churches and other groups in Canada this September and October. Groups interested in hosting Sandra may contact Scott Albrecht at CPT’s Toronto office: Tel: 416-423-5525

Korea Partnership: CPT Reservist Jerry Stein (Amarillo,TX) attended a Peace Camp in East Timor July 27-August 27, sponsored by World Christian Frontiers
(WCF), an ecumenical group based in South Korea. CPT continues to build our relationship with WCF for deeper peace ministry in war zones.

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LETTERS

Recently, several people suggested that we publish too many negative messages. We share these because critical and even vicious communications are part of our world which still predates the culture of nonviolence we seek to create. We answer every letter, supporting each other to grow in our nonviolent literary competence without shedding firmness.

- Gene Stoltzfus, Director

Your comment that abuse in Iraq’s prisons was committed by “GOOD young men and women who have been dehumanized” is not correct [Spring 2004 - “Iraq: A Few Bad Soldiers?”]. The litany of abuse the U.S. is meting out to Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, is definitely not done by “good” people. Americans always seek to see themselves as inherently good, a view which you try to maintain by commenting on how some U.S. troops have “intervened” for innocent Iraqis. That is the least they could do, having invaded and slaughtered so many. Americans must stop making excuses for the appalling behavior of their troops.
Name Unknown
Australia
I am an atheist, but it is inspiring to know that there are Christians in the world who are doing what they can to live according to the loveliest aspects of the gospel.
Ellen Lingar
San Francisco, CA
I was expecting a Christian-based web site and instead I find just another delusional liberal group, with no truth in reporting. You promote liberalism over anything Christian. Not all conspiracies are Republican, Bush or conservative. Look in the mirror!
Name Unknown
It hurts sometimes to be confronted with the truth. Those “running” this country do not see that there is always another side to every story. I have just returned from Pakistan and Afghanistan where I listened to people’s reasons why America is so despised.
Peter Schauer
Chicago, IL
[NOTE: On May 27, some CPT supporters participated in a public vigil organized by a coalition of peace groups in Chicago to remember the deaths of Iraqi civilians and U.S. and Iraqi soldiers.]

Are the lives of Iraqi resistance fighters who have fallen while defending their country against a foreign and brutal occupation force not worthy of remembrance? Including them in the program does not mean that the organizers support armed resistance. On the contrary, including ALL who have fallen as a result of the invasion and occupation of Iraq shows a true respect for the idea that all life is sacred.
Eric Peters
Students for Social Justice
Chicago, IL
I feel surrounded by “Christians” who confuse flag waving with faith, confuse war with justice, and totally miss the boat on Jesus’ real teachings about how to regard one’s fellows. Finally there are Christians willing to spread the message about compassion in action.
Caitlin M.
Orange County, CA

 

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CREDITS

“This is the final issue of ‘Signs of the Times’ that I will be part of producing. This newsletter is the creation of so many people -- Kryss Chupp my companion here for the last 11 years, Claire Evans and Sarah Phend who organize the mailings, Scott Albrecht who recently joined us as publications coordinator, Kathy Kern who sets a very high standard for all of our CPT writing, Mark Frey and Sara Reschly who help us focus on what is important and do so much of the hard organizational work. It’s been an honor working with you all.” - Gene


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, Matt Schaaf, Pierre Shantz, Kathie Uhler, Stewart Vriesinga, Maia Williams, Keith Young.

RESERVE CORPS: 130 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.

ADDITONAL SUPPORT STAFF: Bob Holmes and Doug Pritchard (Canada office); Kryss Chupp, Carol Rose, and Gene Stoltzfus (Chicago office), and Janet Shoemaker (Goshen, IN).