Signs of the Times: Winter/Spring 2003 Vol. XIII, No. 1 & 2

Contents

Iraq: God Is Great Despite the Bombs

CPTer Scott Kerr (Downers Grove, IL) surveys bombed building in Baghdad.

The United States and Great Britain began bombing Baghdad on March 20, 2003. CPTers staying at the Al Daar Hotel reported that the air raids began most evenings just as the Muslim call to prayer echoed from the mosques. "Surrounded by bomb blasts, we were reminded that 'Allahu Akhbar' - God is great," said CPTer Scott Kerr (Downers Grove, IL).

From October 25, 2002, through April, 2003, CPT sent 62 Christian peacemakers to Iraq on six short-term delegations and maintained a full-time team of up to five CPT Corps members and Reservists in Baghdad.

Delegates and team members visited hospitals, schools, and orphanages, and met with church leaders, university professors, UN representatives and other officials. They traveled throughout the capital city of Baghdad as well as other urban centers including Basrah, Mosul (Ninevah) and Babylon.

Together with members of the Iraq Peace Team (IPT), an initiative of the Chicago-based Voices in the Wilderness campaign to end the sanctions, CPTers maintained a 24-hour-a-day vigil at a downtown water treatment facility adjacent to a massive hospital complex as a public witness against the bombing of civilian infrastructure. The bombing campaign eventually left the city's population without adequate drinking water.

Even after the bombing began, CPTers reported that ordinary Iraqis showed them tremendous hospitality and friendship.

During the initial days of the war, the team surveyed damage in ten different neighborhoods of Baghdad and visited casualties in the hospitals. In several residential areas they found remnants of fragmentation bombs whose purpose is not to destroy buildings but rather to maim and kill people.

On March 29, Iraqi officials, having endured more than a week of sustained bombardment, expelled six CPTers and two IPTers after they documented damage near a communications building destroyed the night before.

Those expelled left Baghdad in three cars and headed for Amman, Jordan. As the group raced along the shrapnel-covered highway through a bombing zone, one of the cars blew a tire and crashed. CPTer Cliff Kindy (N. Manchester, IN) required ten stitches for a head wound while delegation member Weldon Nisly (Seattle, WA) sustained several broken ribs.

Eventually an Iraqi civilian passed by and drove the injured peacemakers to the nearby town of Rutba. They found that the town had been devastated by US/UK bombing despite the absence of any military target. The children's hospital was completely destroyed. At the only functioning medical clinic, an Iraqi doctor graciously treated their wounds, refused payment for his services, and sent them on their way to Jordan.

Back in Baghdad, with tightened restrictions on foreigners and food supplies running low, members of CPT and IPT decided that a smaller team could be more responsive to the rapidly changing situation. The eight remaining CPTers left Baghdad for Amman on April 1.

Both groups of CPTers leaving Iraq witnessed civilian cars, buses, ambulances, and houses that had been destroyed by US/UK bombing.

Two weeks later, on April 16, five CPTers returned to Baghdad where they found US forces in military control of the city. They continue to bear witness to the destruction caused by the US/UK war and the evolving US occupation of Iraq.

CPT-Iraq team members October-April included: Peggy Gish (Athens, OH), Scott Kerr (Downers Grove, IL), Cliff Kindy (North Manchester, IN), Jerry and Sis Levin (Birmingham, AL), Lisa Martens (Winnipeg, MB), Betty Scholten (Mt. Ranier, MD), and Stewart Vriesinga (Lucknow, ON).

Delegation members to Iraq December-March were: Anne Albright (McPherson, KS), Heather Angus (Urbana, OH), Matthew Bailey-Dick (Goshen, IN), John Barber (Deerfield Beach, FL), Pat Basler (Webster, WI), Jon Broadway (Montgomery, AL), Mabel Brunk (Goshen, IN), Le Anne Clausen (Mason City, IA), Lynn Coultas (Havana, FL), Scott Diehl (S. Burlington, VT), Jim Douglass (Birmingham, AL), Bill and Genie Durland (Cokedale, CO), Thomas Finger (Evanston, IL), Grant Gallup (Managua, Nicaragua), Sue Gray (Carbondale, CO), David Havard (Sheffield, England), Carol Hochstedler (Stratham, NH), Maureen Jack (Fife, Scotland), Charlie Jackson (San Antonio, TX), Joy Johnson (Durham, NC), Larry Kehler (Winnipeg, MB), Cor Keijzer (Leeuwarden, Netherlands), Robert Leonetti (Trinidad, CO), Jim Loney (Priceville, ON), Bill Marx (Derby, NY), Mary Ellen McDonagh (Chicago, IL), David G. Metzler (Bridgewater, VA), Anne Montgomery (New York, NY), Michele Naar-Obed (Duluth, MN), Weldon Nisly (Seattle, WA), Sean O'Sullivan (Los Angeles, CA), Jane Pritchard (Toronto, Ontario), Tom Reiber-Martinez (Summit, NJ), Linda Sartor (Santa Rosa, CA), Juanita Shenk (Pasadena, CA), Allan Slater (Lakeside, ON), Kara Speltz (Oakland, CA), Edward Stoltzfus (Harrisonburg, VA), Margaret Tegenfeldt (Poulsbo, WA), George Weber (Chesley, ON), and Jonathan and Leah Wilson-Hartgrove (Devon, PA).

Baghdad: Clean Up The Mess

Since returning to Iraq on April 16, CPTers have spent a lot of time assessing the presence of unexploded ordnance in Baghdad.

On April 26, an explosion at a munitions dump in a residential neighborhood five miles southeast of downtown killed forty people. Munitions and shrapnel were blown over a two-mile radius.

The team found grenades, landmines, and mortar shells scattered all over this neighborhood and the adjacent one. No security or cleanup crews were evident and curious children continued to pick up live shells from the streets.

When U.S. soldiers claimed they had no time or resources for such concerns, team members suggested they might reassign a few troops from the hundreds guarding the Oil Ministry building.

That day the team visited over ten sites where similar dumps of Iraqi ordnance or unexploded U.S. ordnance are evident.

At one location they saw a live U.S.missile partly buried in the ground. At another there were six 20-foot long Iraqi surface-to-air missiles lying on the ground with other bombs.

A U.S. soldier said that they are starting to work on this problem, beginning with "major" stockpiles, but it will be some time before they get to those located in residential areas.

Team members also went to the U.S. Army Central Command office in Baghdad to learn more about reconstruction plans. The Information Officer had no information.

Numerous other concerns reported by team members include:

  • Electricity is still only operating for one or two hours during daylight and not at all at night.
  • Food costs are high with vegetables selling at four times their pre-war prices while people have little or no income.
  • Families were digging up shallow graves in the hospital grounds trying to find their family members (many bodies had to be buried before they could be identified); oxygen, medicines and equipment are in short supply.
  • Iraqis tell CPTers that, for the future, they want neither the U.S. nor a U.S.-controlled puppet running their country.

 

Reservist George Weber: "Light a Candle"

Among the 16 peace delegates who traveled to Iraq on December 29 was CPT Reservist George Weber.

On January 6, George (73), a retired history teacher from Chesley, Ontario, was killed instantly when the vehicle he was traveling in blew a tire and rolled on the highway between Basra and Baghdad.

Delegates Charlie Jackson (43) of San Antonio TX, and Michele Naar-Obed (46) of Duluth MN, sustained moderate injuries in the crash.

George served with CPT in Hebron in 2001 and 2002 where he took a particular interest in accompanying Palestinian school children to classes under Israeli-imposed military curfew. In Iraq, George was deeply touched by the children suffering from radiation-related cancers, a result of radioactive ordnance remaining from the first Gulf War and the lack of medications under the US-led economic sanctions.

George's wife, Lena, remembers his decision to join a CPT delegation to Iraq: "He said, 'I can't just sit back and do nothing. What would I say to my grandchildren? I have to do what I can.'"

In an interview with his local newspaper before he left, George said, "We are going to suffer along with the Iraqis. It's an opportunity to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness."

George was buried in his hometown of Chesley in the simple made-to-measure casket he traveled in from Iraq wearing a $100 hand-tailored suit he ordered in a Baghdad market as a way to help the local economy.

Even as the CPT family grieves the loss of George Weber, we draw courage from his commitment, his conviction and his witness.

Iraq: Don't Ask Me

by Lisa Martens
(written during the bombing of Baghdad)

 

Do not ask me ever again if I saw the fireworks tonight and what it felt like. No, don't ask me that.

 

Instead, ask me about the day when we are so struck by the beauty of our bodies -- the way our hands work, the smooth roll of joints, the divots above our heels, the small of the back, the intricacy of eyes.... Ask me about the day when we are so thrilled by these miracles that we decide never to participate in the killing of another person's body.

Instead, let's ask each other about the day when affection for our children overcomes us, bursting every boundary that separates us from every person, so that we cannot stand to be part of, or pay for in any way, the killing of any child.

Let's ask each other about the day when seven-year-old Yusuf, the shoe-shine kid - the wiry, street-wise, almost-always-grinning, toughest kid you ever saw -- no longer sits on the curb in despair, tears running down his dirty face, because his city is being bombed and he has nothing to eat.

Let's ask each other if it's really okay to conquer a nation and take its resources, no matter how noble our intentions might be. Let's ask about the day when we localize and communalize and work things out so well that we no longer steal.

Let's talk about the day when we are so awed by the metals of the earth, by their strength and texture and color and inherent value, that it is a sacrilege to make those metals into weapons that maim people's bodies and maim the earth herself.

Let's talk about the day when Christians everywhere agree that they will not kill each other, and the armies of the world begin to crumble. Let's talk about the day when martyrs are so deeply honored -- not as untouchable saints, but as flesh and blood human beings -- that all people, in their example, refuse to kill.

Let's talk about the day when the old prophetess, dressed in black, eyes sparkling, calls to the Empire, and all the spirits of Empire, and she enchants them saying, "Do not kill each other. Share the good things." And the Empire is so charmed that it takes up the chant and bursts into gales of laughter and tears of enlightenment.

Iraq: A Piece of My Heart

by Peggy Gish
as reported by phone on 3/31/03 from Amman, Jordan

 

 

 

Peggy Gish spent 6 months with CPT in Iraq.

Before the bombing, I could go to the Sisters of Charity orphanage every morning and play with the children. Ages four months to fifteen years, they all have severe handicaps, physical or mental, but they can still give and receive love. We would sing, blow bubbles, then help feed the children who couldn't feed themselves.

The Iraqi people we met on the streets were touched that we were with them in this time of war. We learned a little about them and their families, and shared with them about what CPT is doing. It seemed very important to them to know that they were not forgotten by the world. I was fortunate during the better days before the bombing to develop closeness with some Iraqis.

After the bombing began, the Iraqi helpers couldn't get to the orphanage, so they needed our help even more, but by then we also had other activities. We slept by the water plant, went to the hospitals where the injured were being brought, and we visited civilian neighborhoods where U.S. bombs had hit.

When I finally got back to the orphanage, the Sisters were trying to catch afternoon naps after being up all night with the children who were frightened by the bombing.

At first, there were air raid sirens. When you'd hear that, you'd feel a shiver of fear and dread. But you can't stay in that state. After a few days, there was too much bombing to sound the sirens each time.

The experience put our faith to the test -- faith that whatever happened, we were in God's hands. Within the team we shared our fears and anxieties, and comforted each other. It was very helpful to worship together and to read scripture together.

A big piece of my heart is still there.

Iraq: Action Alert - Send Colored Tape to Congress

"We don't have any orange tape left," said Captain Payne in response to CPTer Lisa Martens' request to cordon off a large quantity of live munitions in a residential area of Baghdad until it could be cleaned up by Unexploded Ordnance Engineers.

This was not the first time U.S. Army personnel told CPT members that they did not have enough bright-colored tape to mark the site, enough engineers to clean it up, or enough personnel to keep children out of the potentially lethal area.

CPT has visited more than ten residential neighborhoods where unexploded U.S. munitions or abandoned stocks of Iraqi munitions, including 20-foot missiles, mortar rounds, land mines, and rocket-propelled grenades, remain unsecured. Meanwhile, the U.S. Army has placed Iraq's Oil Ministry under heavy guard.

Army officials acknowledge that these munitions are unstable and especially dangerous because they are partially burnt and crushed.

ACTION:

Obtain pieces or rolls of bright-colored tape, which authorities ordinarily use to mark off dangerous sites, at your local hardware store.

Send it to your congresspersons or the U.S. Ambassador to your country together with a letter urging them to prioritize protecting civilians over protecting the Oil Ministry.

The following web sites can provide contact information for your senators, representatives, and Ambassadors:

  • www.senate.gov
  • www.house.gov
  • www.usembassy.state.gov

See CPT's web site for more background: www.cpt.org

Colombia: Fuera Sapo!

By Keith Young and Duane Ediger

Larousse Concise Dictionary, English/Spanish:
Fuera 3 interj f.! - (get) out!
Sapo nm - toad.

 

"And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

At the point of entry into the area along the Opón River where CPT accompanies communities of returned refugees, CPT delegations, team members and local residents have, on several occasions, strung large banners with messages of hope such as "PEACE BEGINS HERE."

Recently, two new banners appeared there with the words "FUERA SAPO!" (GET OUT, TOAD!) spray-painted in sloppy red lettering. The paint job was similar to that which defaced the peace banners in February with the initials "AUC/BCB," denoting the country's largest counter-insurgency paramilitary organization (the United Self-defense Forces of Colombia) and one of its local divisions.

Sapo is Spanish for toad. In this context, it means "informant" or "collaborator." The local paramilitaries are sending the message that they suspect some civilians in the area of informing or collaborating with the guerrillas. Guerrilla groups in turn hunt for suspected paramilitary collaborators or informants in the same region. Both groups use manipulation and fear to pressure the civilian population, not only into non-collaboration with the "enemy," but into collaboration with their group. As a result, the civilian population is dragged into the front lines of the war.

As CPT's presence in the Opón region has decreased over the past months because of visa denials, the activity of armed groups has increased:

  • Very shortly after four CPTers received deportation orders in August 2002, the AUC paramilitaries moved into the community of Ciénaga del Opón and have remained there since.
  • In November 2002, a member of the community of Los Ñeques was dismembered by the paramilitaries and buried in a shallow grave, forcing the family to flee.
  • In January, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrillas gunned down the president of the rural citizens council of the Ciénaga del Opón, the area now under paramilitary control.
  • In February, CPTers visiting the community of La Florida witnessed a known paramilitary member dressed in uniform on patrol with a Colombian Army battalion. During the unit's stop in the community, two more men in civilian clothing known by CPTers to be paramilitaries spoke with the Lieutenant and met privately with the paramilitary in Army uniform.

Human rights leaders in Barrancabermeja are clear: "Lives are saved thanks to international accompaniment such as that of CPT…."

CPT continues to work towards obtaining visas, team members and partners will continue to en-gage in banner battles and other creative efforts to proclaim peace.

CPT-Colombia interns, delegates and team members December-April included: Nathan Bender (Toronto, ON), Adaía Bernal (Colombia), Grace Boyer (Hampton, VA), Lisa Brightup (Wichita, KS), Scott Brubaker-Zehr (Waterloo, ON), Julian Carreño (Colombia), Kryss Chupp (Chicago, IL), Duane Ediger (Dallas, TX), Mark Frey (Chicago, IL), Bill Hajicek (Bremen, IN), Kathleen Kern (Webster, NY), Arlene Kindy (N. Manchester, IN), Donna Meyers (Stowe, PA), Bruce Miller (Madison, WI), Sandra Rincon (Colombia), Pierre Shantz (Blainville, QC), Lena Siegers (Blyth, ON), Carol and Charles Spring (Palo Alto, CA), Matthew Wiens (Winnipeg, MB), Dick and Gretchen Williams (Boulder, CO) and Keith Young (Comer, GA).

Hebron: The Ladder Lady

by Art Gish

CPTers in Hebron go on school patrol each morning to protect Palestinian children from Israeli settlers who often harass them, and to accompany them past Israeli soldiers who often prevent them from getting to school.

This morning, as we started out on school patrol, settler children threw stones at us. One of the soldiers who watched the attack cursed us and told us to leave. A settler cursed us and another settler greeted us with his middle finger.

Then I met the "ladder lady." I had heard so much about her. Each morning she puts down a crude homemade ladder from a rooftop to let 30 children get out of her neighborhood in the Old City so they can go to school. She puts it down again in the afternoon when the children return. The Israeli military has put up gates on the street to prevent the children from reaching the ladder.

My teammate and I helped set up the ladder and watched the beautiful little girls scramble down. They are quite good at it. This morning there were only girls because the Israeli military did not allow the boys' school to open.

On January 16, Israeli police detained CPTers Lorne Friesen and Dianne Roe for helping young children go to school. CPTers argued that, according to international law, children under curfew must be allowed to go to school.

The police responded by pointing to the soldier who had complained about the CPTers and stated: "He is the law. When he says children are not allowed to go to school, those who do are breaking the law. When you help children break the law, you are breaking the law and we must arrest you."

The police and soldiers allowed the CPTers to leave but threatened them with arrest if they continued to accompany the children to school.

 

The "Ladder Lady" helps children on their way to school in Hebron.

The children have not yet lost hope. They are determined to go to school no matter what. They walk past the settlers and soldiers. They even walk through the tear gas that has become so common.

CPTers will continue to accompany children who want to go to school. If necessary we will break the unjust law that prohibits children from going to school. We will continue to change the law by changing the heart of the soldier whose gun has become the law.

Working to help schools remain open and accessible for students has been a persistent focus for CPT in Hebron.

One of CPT's first actions in 1995 was to help students open the city's University by tearing down cement walls erected by the Israeli military to block the entrance.

Currently, both Hebron University and Palestine Polytechnic Institute remain closed by Israeli military order. Long beyond any reasonable "security" rationale, these closures are simply an unjustifiable, punitive denial of education to thousands of young people.

Check CPT's website at www.cpt.org for an urgent action alert.

CPTers serving in Israel/Palestine December-April included: Kristin Anderson (Willmar, MN), Art Arbour (Toronto, ON), Chris Brown (San Francisco, CA), Cat Grambles (Waterford, CT), Le Anne Clausen, (Mason City, IA), Lorne Friesen (Winkler, MB), Art Gish (Athens, OH), Donna Hicks (Durham, NC), Bob Holmes (Toronto, ON), Tracy Hughes (Wooster, OH), David Janzen (London, ON), Diane Janzen (Calgary, AB), Kathy Kapenga (Bahrain), Mary Lawrence (Lunenburg, MA), Jerry Levin (Birmingham, AL), JoAnne Lingle (Indianapolis, IN), Rich Meyer (Millersburg, IN), Barb Martens (Ruthven, ON), Anne Montgomery (Brooklyn, NY), German Nijim (Cedar Falls, IA), William Payne (Toronto, ON), Rick Polhamus (Fletcher, OH), Sue Rhodes (Bath, England), Dianne Roe (Corning, NY), Greg Rollins (Surrey, BC), Kathie Uhler (New York, NY), and Mary Yoder (Columbus, OH).

Middle East delegation members in February were: Keith Hershberger (Pittsburgh, PA), Keri Holmes (Winterset, IA), Mary Loehr (Ithaca, NY), Al Meyer (Goshen, IN), Larry Mosley (Pensacola, FL), Richard Reha (Tiskilwa, IL), Carolyn Reimer (Waterloo, ON), Dwyer Sullivan (Kitchener, ON), Phil Waite (Berwyn, IL), and Richard Wigton (Middletown, PA).

Israeli Military Targets Nonviolent Activists

In less than a month -- from March 15 to April 11 -- the Israel Defense Force (IDF) killed or injured three nonviolent internationals working with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).

On March 16, Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old college student from Olympia, WA, was crushed to death in Gaza by an Israeli army bulldozer as she attempted to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian family's home.

Photographs and eye-witnesses testify that Corrie was clearly visible, wearing the bright orange ISM uniform vest. The Israeli army investigated itself and exonerated its personnel of any responsibility.

For over two years the ISM - a project organized by Palestinians and Israelis -- has placed internationals with unarmed civilians in the West Bank and Gaza.

ISM engages in the same type of violence reduction activities as CPT, and CPT's Hebron team works closely with ISM personnel, providing on-the-ground orientation for new ISM volunteers.

On April 5, Israeli troops in the town of Jenin, shot Brian Avery, 24, of Albuquerque, NM. Avery suffered serious wounds to his head and face from a heavy caliber machine gun at a time when no clashes were reported in the area.

On April 11, Thomas Hurndall, 21, a British citizen, was shot in the head by Israeli forces near Rafah, in Gaza, as he escorted a group of Palestinian children out of the line of fire. Hurndall is on life support in an Israeli hospital. Reports indicate he is in effect brain dead. Again, there was no fighting reported in the area, and like Corrie, photographs show that Hurndall wore a bright orange vest.

CPT extends our heart-felt sympathies and prayers to these three nonviolent soldiers and their families.

To express your concern, visit CPT's web site for Urgent Action information. For the latest updates and other information visit the ISM website at www.palsolidarity.org.

 

Hebron street life.

 

 

Hebron and Colombia: Doin' the Visa Dance

 

 

In August, 2002, Colombian government officials verbally agreed to facilitate granting appropriate visas to CPTers carrying out the church's violence-reduction ministry in Colombia.

Until March, 2003, however, not a single visa was issued. In fact, Colombian consulates have denied both initial visa requests and appeals of several CPTers.

The first and only visa application approved for a CPT worker since May, 2002 was for Reservist Scott Albrecht (Waterloo, ON) in March.

The Colombia team's size has been greatly diminished because of the visa denials, limiting the type and amount of activities the team can accomplish.

In recent months, both CPT's partners in Colombia and supporters in North America have redoubled efforts to resolve the visa problem.

Additional high-level meetings with Colombian authorities, an April 3, 2003 "Dear Colleague" letter signed by 21 Representatives in the U.S. House asking President Uribe of Colombia to expedite visas for CPTers, and hundreds of faxes and phone calls from grassroots supporters are all promising steps in the ongoing visa dance.

In 2002, three CPTers were denied entry into Israel at the Tel Aviv airport, effectively preventing them from getting into Palestine.

An encouraging directive from Israel's new Interior Minister, Ayraham Poraz, states that peace workers wishing to enter Israel and the Occupied Territories will receive visas and work permits.

However, a May 2 Israeli newspaper re-port says that a new plan drafted by the Israel Defense Forces, the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry will ban pro-Palestinian activists from entering the country. According to the report, foreigners found in closed military areas will be arrested and deported.

The visa dance goes on.

Dialogue

In Dialogue, we highlight exchanges regarding CPT's vision and peacemaking ministry. CPT's presence in Iraq gave rise to discussions about the concept of "human shields," a term used by some in war situations and increasingly used in discussions about peacemaking. We also share some discussion on violent toys.

Bob Fleischer, Groton, MA: Do you think there is any chance of getting truly high-profile "human shields" into Iraq? I very much admire the work of CPT and others, but I was thinking -- if the Pope really wants to stop this war, why doesn't he move to Baghdad until the crisis is over? Perhaps he could get the Dalai Lama to join him.

Anne Herman, CPT Reservist, Binghamton, NY: I'm confused by this line of discussion. It was my understanding when I was in Iraq with CPT that we were not "human shields," but willing to share the fate of the Iraqi people in the event of a U.S. attack.

Lorrie Gaffney, Sandy, UT: I am also confused. Not by the idea or value of high-profile "human shields," should they desire to commit to that. I am confused by the number of e-mails showing such emphatic support for someone else to go. I thought CPT was a Christian group of people following a personal commitment to live as followers of Christ's example of nonviolent loving, and desiring to share the joy of that gospel message with others. Christ led by example. He didn't send the high-profile people to do his work.

John LeValley, internet: "Human shields" for Saddam? Where are your "human shields" for the people in the United States and around the world who are the targets of Islamo-fascist terrorists? Where are your "human shields" for the innocent Iraqi people who are jailed and murdered by Saddam Hussein every day?

Claire Evans, CPT Personnel Coordinator, Chicago, IL: CPT does not send team members to Iraq as "human shields." That terminology is used to describe innocent civilians forced by military leaders to protect bombing targets in wartime. It plays into the scenario constructed by the people who espouse killing and carries with it connotations of exploitation and manipulation.

There are documented cases from last spring in which Palestinian men in the West Bank were forced at gunpoint to enter dangerous situations ahead of Israel troops. CPTers in Colombia have happened across similar incidents.

The term "voluntary human shield" can avoid some of the connotation of being manipulated by military powers. However, it places the people being protected in the role of victims, and the people doing the shielding as rescuers. This picture does not adequately acknowledge the dignity and shared humanity of both parties.

CPT doesn't go into conflict zones imposing our grandiose schemes with bravado on people suffering from violence. We are committed to being visibly and vocally present alongside the people at whom the guns are directed. We see the faces and learn the names of those who are suffering.

We are peacemakers, motivated by a faith that recognizes our Iraqi sisters and brothers as children of God, hopeful that the presence of internationals can provide some measure of safety to people threatened by violence.

We acknowledge the role that our governments have in their suffering and, because of that, we feel an obligation to tell their stories and to put a human face on those our governments have called "the enemy."

Our role is to accompany, document, tell the stories, unmask the violence, and advocate for peaceful solutions to the conflict. Please don't call us "human shields."

 

Training participants hold portraits of people killed by the Beltway Sniper in Washington, DC, last December. Toys R Us sells the video game, "Halo," which was used by the 17-year-old John Lee Malvo to prepare for the sniping spree.

CPT's Winter, 2003, Training Group held a public witness at a Toys R Us store in Chicago on January 1 to highlight the dangerous nature of war toys.

CPT Letter to Toys R Us, December, 2002: ...We believe, and research supports, that toys which awaken fantasies of violence are bad for our children. Video and computer games which depict graphic violence and require our children to use violence in order to win make killing seem fun. These toys send children the wrongful message that violence is just a game.

On December 14, Stone Phillips reported on Dateline NBC that the Beltway Sniper investigation found that John Lee Malvo, aged 17, prepared for his DC sniping spree by training on an XBOX shooter game, "Halo," switched to "sniper mode" -- available in your store.

Leading up to Christmas, your store's inventory of war toys included "Forward Command Post" which features a "pre-bombed" civilian home complete with a U.S. soldier and an American flag, conditioning children not only to accept but to actually glorify "collateral damage" in warfare.

As the world's leading toy retailer, you do not simply "respond to consumer demand" -- you shape it. At a time when corporations are increasingly being held accountable for marketing dangerous products to children (i.e. tobacco companies), your company continues to market violence to society's most vulnerable members.

Anonymous, Internet: I grew up with G.I. Joe and Transformers, etc. and I'm still okay. A bit cynical of the intelligence of most people, but that's your fault, not the toys/shows. Also, if you ever show up anywhere when I'm shopping with my niece, I'll sue your sorry hides. I realize you have a "right" to protest, but if you go around doing crazy stuff like you suggest on your website, and my little niece is with me, then you're violating our rights. Especially if you pull stuff off the shelves.

Donald McGunigale, Internet: Dear Psychos, After checking out your website, and reading much on the contents, I have concluded that your group is an extremist anti-social cult group. By using the figure of Santa and angels in the attempt to restrict the purchase of "violent toys," which have sold well and made children happy for many years, you are in fact brainwashing small children and the general public. In other countries there are groups similar to yours; one is called the Taliban. Your obvious lack of tact and understanding of the world today has made not only Christians, but Americans look bad.

Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows, ON): Standing Up for Everyone

Five Anishnaabe (Ojibwa) women immobilized a pulpwood truck by lining themselves up against the front grill. A team of forty high school students and their teachers herded a piece of logging equipment called a "slasher" back down the road it rumbled up. A roadside fire crackled in the minus-forty-degree cold as traditional Anishnaabe peacekeepers keep up a 'round-the-clock watch and blockade against logging vehicles.

 

Young student from Asubpeeschoseewagong.

These scenes from the Asubpeeschoseewagong (Ah-soob-shko-SEE-wah-gongk) community at Grassy Narrows, Ontario, have reached newsrooms across Canada as the Anishnaabeg defend their traditional territory and assert their nationhood.

"Clear cutting is destroying a way of life here, but logging is just the tip of the iceberg," says one local high school teacher.

Standing in the center of the blockaded highway, Charles Wagamees proclaimed, "We, the Anishnaabe who have always lived here, are standing up for everyone. We are here to uphold the law and protect the forest because [the white communities] are unable to keep their own laws."

Treaty #3 is one such law - a living agreement signed in 1873 guaranteeing the right of European settlers and First Nations communities to peacefully share the same territory and resources.

The governments of Canada and Ontario, however, have excused themselves from their legal obligations in order to sell the trees to private corporations.

 

Mid-winter fire circle at Grassy Narrows blockade site.

CPTer Matt Schaaf (Winnipeg, MB) explained, "My treaty rights to live in this land, to enjoy clean water, food, and trees have too often been met by taking the land, water and forest away from my Anishnaabe neighbors."

In this century, the people of Asubpeeschoseewagong have suffered flooding by Ontario Hydro projects, forced relocation, extensive mercury poisoning by the pulp and paper industry, and the loss of animal habitat, berries and medicines. In standing up to this litany of abuses and tearing of their social fabric, community members now risk themselves on the blockades to protect their land.

CPT has joined the Anishnaabeg to discourage violence on the roads and to defend Treaty #3. A team has been present at the community's blockade camp since December, 2002.

 

CPT-Asubpeeschoseewagagong team members and interns December - April included: Scott Albrecht (Waterloo, ON), Paul Brohaugh (Lindstrom, MN), Chris Brown (San Francisco, CA), Ellis Brown (Kitchener, ON), Tricia and Madison Brown (Newberg, OR), Korey Dyck (Winnipeg, MB), Mike Enns (Altona, MB), Bob Holmes (Toronto, ON), Barbara Howe (Gainesville, FL), Cole Hull (Friday Harbor, WA), Scott Kerr (Downers Grove, IL), Caitlin Keyzer (Winnipeg, MB), Gina Lepp (Harrow, ON), Krista Lord (Comer, GA), Murray Lumley (Ancaster, ON), Lisa Martens (Winnipeg, MB), David Milne (Belleville, ON), Dave Neufeld (Boissevain, MB), Jessica Phillips (Encinal, TX), Doug Pritchard (Toronto, ON), Vern Riedeger (Toronto, ON), Matt Schaaf (Winnipeg, MB), Char and Michael Smith (Gibson City, IL), Gene Stoltzfus (Chicago, IL), Jeff Theissen (Steinbach, MB), Stewart Vriesinga (Lucknow, ON), Matthew Wiens (Winnipeg, MB).

 

Delegation members January 25 - February 2, were: Juanne and Lauren Nancarrow Clarke (Kitchener, ON), Robert Regier (Carlton, SK), John Spragge (Toronto, ON).

Colorado: Going to Jail for Justice

CPTers and supporters across the U.S. and Canada - in Birmingham, New York, Denver, Pasadena, Duluth, Chicago, Toronto, and elsewhere -- engaged in nonviolent actions decrying the start of war againast Iraq. CPT-Colorado member Linda Hardesty reflects on spending time in jail.

I was arrested with twenty others on January 27 for civil disobedience -- blockading the entrance to the Halliburton office building in Denver, protesting the war in Iraq.

The funniest thing: When the deputy operating the elevator asked why we weren't singing "Kumbaya," we took it as a request and sang it on all our subsequent elevator rides.

The strangest thing: The fingerprinting machine kept saying different images of my own fingerprints were not a match. Guess that is better than somebody else's fingerprints coming up matching mine.

The most uncomfortable things: Three people in an extra-small one-person cell, meaning one of us (me) had to sleep partly underneath the bunk. Lock down about twenty-two hours a day. No recreation time, space or equipment. No reading material except the Bible and (bad) religious tracts. Nothing else in your cell except a mattress, blanket, the clothes you came in with, and a "toothbrush" that looked like a sponge on a tootsie roll stick. Need I mention the food?

The things for which I am most thankful: I stayed calm and relaxed the whole time. It was not too cold. I got to stretch out. The water tasted fine. The mattress could have been worse, or non-existent. Kudos to the jail staff -- the nurse got my prescriptions approved in less than a day. None of my belongings were lost. Most often, if you are civil to them, they are civil to you.

The hardest thing: Peeing in front of people.

The worst thing: Having my chronic sinus infection flare up.

The best thing: Hard to choose. Talking about our "political journeys" with other protesters while waiting to be booked. Meeting and getting to know my cell-mates. Getting to make phone calls where you are announced as "an inmate at Denver City Jail." No demands or responsibilities. "Getting away from it all."

Peacemaker Congress VII:

Uniting The Races For Homeland Security and World Peace

September 25-28, 2003
John Knox Presbyterian Church
Youngstown, Ohio

 

At a time when racism and abuses committed in the name of "national security" are being challenged from every corner of the globe, Peacemaker Congress VII offers an opportunity for Christians to gather strength and inspiration for the nonviolent work ahead.

 

Join other voices for justice and enduring peace as we seek together to bridge racial divisions, protect human and civil rights, and link domestic and foreign policy concerns.

Be part of the celebration and the challenge of walking in The Way of Jesus to bring healing, transformation, and competent, long-term strategy to our peacemaking.

Featured speakers include long-time civil rights activist and co-worker of King, Dr. Bernard LaFayette; Ruby Sales, director of SpiritHouse, a church-based social justice center in Washington, D.C.; and Peacemaker Corps member Lisa Martens, currently serving with CPT in Iraq.

Congress activities range from daily worship, to diverse peacemaking workshops, to special interest caucus groups, to nonviolent public witness.

Home-stay lodging and most food will be provided by the local hosting committee. Registration cost is on a sliding scale of between $75-100 for adults and $30 for students/low income.

To register contact CPT: Tel: 773-277-0253; e-mail: markefrey@cpt.org.

Regional Group News

CPT-Colorado members participated in a rally against a U.S. attack on Iraq in front of a local military recruiting center on International Human Rights Day (December 10). Thirty-five participants who laid in body bags daubed with artificial blood as a symbol of the deaths that would be caused by a war on Iraq were detained but not arrested.

Because CPT-Cleveland was successful in decreasing drug-related violence in the area around the Lee Heights church, a nearby community development association has enlisted the group's help in reducing the violence in their neighborhood.

CPT-Manitoba held an International Human Rights Day vigil along the river in Winnipeg to pray that international human rights workers might have access to Colombia and for an end to human rights violations there.

CPT-Ontario held "Don't Attack Iraq" banners over the main expressway leading into Toronto before each of the "national days of action" in December and January. The group estimates that over 5,000 drivers read their banner which was met with many favorable responses.

CPT Ontario member Murray Lumley participated in a 'zucchinis for peace' action in front of the Defense Minister's Office with the message "Zukes not Nukes." The group attempted to deliver the "Vegetables of Mass Nutrition," but the Minister of Defense declined the gift.

CPT-Northern Indiana hosted a coffeehouse on February 28, featuring four different music groups and a field report led by CPT member Matthew Bailey-Dick. The evening drew an estimated 150 people who enjoyed excellent food in the presence of the Spirit.

How to Begin a Regional Group

By focusing on the development and training of regional groups, CPT expects to make significant strides towards racial and national diversification at all levels in the coming years.

Current regional groups include: CPT-Cleveland, CPT-Colorado, CPT-Manitoba, CPT-Northern Indiana, and CPT-Ontario.

CPT Regional groups are teams of trained CPTers often supported by other interested local people that work to reduce violence both in their local regions and by supporting or serving on already established CPT projects.

For example, CPT Cleveland originally formed to reduce violence related to drug trafficking in their neighborhood. CPT Manitoba focuses on local First Nations' issues and Colombia solidarity.

CPT regional groups engage in a variety of activities: planning nonviolent public witness and civil disobedience actions, organizing speaking tours, lobbying government officials, and serving on CPT projects.

When at least ten people from a region apply to become CPT Reservists (3-year term, 2-8 weeks service per year), CPT will work with that group to plan a regional training.

The process for becoming a CPT Reservist includes filling out a CPT Corps application as well as having a direct experience with CPT's work, usually gained by going on a CPT delegation. Participating in a delegation allows the individual and CPT to test whether this work is a good fit.

Currently, Regional Groups are in some stage of formation in Colombia and Washington, DC.

If you are interested in becoming a CPT reservist and being part of a regional group based in DC, please contact Steve Ramer at 202-328-3429; rameregan@yahoo.com.

If you are interested in forming a regional group in your area, please contact Sara Reschly at CPT: 773-277-0253; sarareschly@mindspring.com.

 

CPTers and supporters in Chicago arrested for civil disobedience opposing U.S.-led war on Iraq. Left to right: Fred Doering, Michael Goode, Liz Dyrst, Ross Hyman. Not pictured: Rich Boyd, Sara Reschly, Mark Walden.

 

 

Peace Briefs

 

 

 

CPT Flies First Class: CPT delegate Weldon Nisly (Seattle, WA) set a new benchmark in CPT by returning home from his Iraq delegation flying in first class.

This special consideration became necessary after he was injured when a tire blew and his vehicle crashed as the Amman-bound delegation neared the Iraqi town of Rutba.

First class medical attention was provided for Nisly and others hurt in the crash at a clinic in Rutba, where the children's hospital had been bombed by U.S. forces two days before. Nisly is the senior pastor at Seattle Mennonite Church.

 

 

"When the Saints Go Marchin'": The Peace and Justice Support Network of Mennonite Church USA will host a Peace Gathering, "When the Saints Go Marchin': the Civil Rights Movement as a Model for Social Transformation," in Toccoa, GA, July 1-3. Keynote speakers are Rosemarie Freeney-Harding and Vincent Harding from Denver, CO. For information and registration, visit their web site: www.peace.mennolink.org or call Leo Hartshorn at 717-399-8353.

 

 

Nonviolent Peaceforce to Go to Sri Lanka: At its Convening Event held in India in December, the Nonviolent Peaceforce elected its first International Governing Council and chose Sri Lanka as its first project site.

Sri Lanka was one of three conflict areas considered. The organization had also received invitations from Guatemala and Israel/Palestine. The pilot project is scheduled to start in late 2003.

The new International Governing Council replaces the Interim Steering Committee that has guided the development of the Nonviolent Peaceforce since its origins in May 1999.

The mission of the Nonviolent Peaceforce is to build a trained, international civilian peaceforce committed to third-party nonviolent intervention.

At the invitation of local groups, Peaceforce will deploy hundreds of peace workers to protect human rights, prevent violence, and enable peaceful resolution of conflict.

For more information, see www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org.

CPT Calendar 2003/2004

Delegations:

Colombia: May 17-29, July 19-31; September 27 - October 9, 2003.
Middle East: May 27-June 8, July 29 - August 10, September 16-28, November 20 - December 2, 2003.
Vieques: April 29 - May 5, 2003

Peacemaker Training:

Summer 2003: July 17 - August 14 (application deadline: May 1)
Winter 2004: December 27, 2003 - January 23, 2004 (application deadline: October 1)

Christian Peacemaker Congress VII:

September 25-28, 2003; Youngstown, OH; "Uniting the Races for Homeland Security and World Peace."

CPT Steering Committee Meetings:

Fall: October 30 - November 1, 2003; Northern Indiana.
Spring: March 25-27, 2004; Chicago, IL.

Letters

I have just read about Lisa Martens and the other CPT delegates traveling to Iraq. Well done! You are all showing real courage. Much more than those 'heroes' dropping bombs on innocent civilians from 10,000 ft.
Sean McDonagh
Edmonton, Canada
Hope you're all blown into tiny pieces.
Anonymous
Internet
I was so sorry to hear George Weber's death especially since I knew him as a very nice, helpful and understanding person. I wish you could send his family our deep sorrow and sadness.
Osaid Rasheed
Hebron, West Bank
Amazingly, the U.S. Navy has announced the end of its occupation of, and assault on, Vieques, Puerto Rico! Pray that the massive cleanup that will be necessary now can proceed. When the Navy pulled out of the Western end of the island, they essentially abandoned it, leaving a toxic mess and no effort or money to clean it up. I suspect it will do the same with the bombing range.
Michael Smith
Gibson City, IL
Please do not put your people between the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and the Palestinian combatants. The radicalized Palestinians often shoot at the Israelis randomly and they do not discriminate between Israeli soldiers and civilians. I salute your faith, but being stupid will get you killed with no sacrifice for Christ on the books. I don't want to see any more Christians killed in this Arab/Israeli turf war ... which is all that it is and has been since 1948. You are not in the Holy Land. God vacated this area long ago.
David Croft
Former United States Marine Corps
You people are so naive as to think you know better than the rest of us mortals. Your ilk is the reason we face the problems of today. Strength leads to peace, weakness leads to war....study history.
Anonymous
Internet
Still have much reading to do to figure out exactly what you're about, but it looks promising. I can see that at least you aren't praying for God's undying love to visit the Palestinians in the form of mass annihilation, like most Christians.
M. Johnson
Hawaii
I am a high school sophomore. In my English class, the teacher requested that we participate in the "Valentines for Vets" project, for which I would be required to write a letter to a veteran of the U.S. armed services thanking him or her for his/her service. Because, as a pacifist, I do not support the military, I asked if I could instead write a letter to a peace worker thanking that person for their work. I'd like to write to a CPTer.
Allison Boehm
Kansas
I love your web site! I am only 14 now, but I plan on applying right after college. I am glad I finally found a site for pacifist Christians to come and take action.
Kaleb Kroger
Internet

Upgrading your computer? If your old desk-top's processor is 300MHz or higher, please consider donating it to the CPT office. Any laptop capable of running Windows 98 would help our on-site project work. Thanks.

Credits

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 10,000 copies of Signs of the Times.

The work of CPT is guided by a 14-person STEERING COMMITTEE: Bob Bartel, Paul Dodd, Bill Durland, David Jehnsen, Cliff Kindy, Susan Mark Landis, Lee McKenna, Maxine Nash, Orlando Redekopp, Hedy Sawadsky, Muriel Stackley, John Stoner, Rick Ufford-Chase, Brian Young.

STAFF: Gene Stoltzfus - Director/Program Coordinator; Kryss Chupp - Training Coordinator/Colombia Project Support; Claire Evans - Personnel Coordinator/Delegation Coordinator; Mark Frey - Administrative Coordinator; Sara Reschly - Training and Regional Group Development; Rich Meyer - Hebron Project Support/ CSD; Kathie Uhler - CSD; Bob Holmes - Pastoral Support; Doug Pritchard - CPT Canada Coordinator.

CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKER CORPS: Kristin Anderson, Chris Brown, LeAnne Clausen, Claire Evans, Mark Frey, Bob Holmes, Barbara Howe, Diane Janzen, Kathleen Kern, Scott Kerr, Cliff Kindy, Erin Kindy, Jerry Levin, JoAnne Lingle, Lisa Martens, Rich Meyer, Anne Montgomery, William Payne, Jessica Phillips, Rick Polhamus, Sara Reschly, Sue Rhodes, Dianne Roe, Greg Rollins, Matt Schaaf, Pierre Shantz, Carol Spring, Charles Spring, Kathie Uhler, Stewart Vriesinga, Keith Young.

RESERVE CORPS: Jane Adas, Scott Albrecht, Nait Alleman, Art Arbour, Fred Bahnson, Matthew Bailey-Dick, Nina Bailey-Dick, Benno Barg, Nathan Bender, Christy Bischoff, Lisa Brightup, Paul Brohaugh, Gary Brooks, Ellis Brown, Tricia Brown, Chris Buhler, Judith Bustany, Robin Buyers, Pat Cameron, Bob Carlsten, Elluage Carson, Cat Grambles, David Cockburn, Dan Dale, Rusty Dinkins-Curling, Bill Durland, Genie Durland, Korey Dyck, Duane Ediger, John Engle, John Finlay, Jim Fitz, Christine Forand, Alyce Foster, Angela Freeman, Lorne Friesen, Ron Friesen, Art Gish, Peggy Gish, Dorothy Goertz, Amy Gomez, Michael Goode, Jesse Griffin, Matt Guynn, Shady Hakim, Carol Hanna, Wes Hare, Anne Herman, Donna Hicks, Ben Horst, Tracy Hughes, Cole Hull, Maureen Jack, David Janzen, Rebecca Johnson, Kathy Kamphoefner, Kathie Kampmann-Namphy, Joanne Kaufman, Bourke Kennedy, Joel Klassen, Mary Lawrence, Wendy Lehman, Gerry Lepp, Gina Lepp, Sis Levin, Jim Loney, Jan Long, Reynaldo Lopez, Krista Lord, Murray Lumley, Barb Martens, Elayne McClanen, Patty McKenna, Diego Méndez, Carl Meyer, Bruce Miller, Cynthia Miller, Marilyn Miller, Robin Miller, David Milne, Phyllis Milton, Bob Naiman, Paul Neufeld Weaver, Henri Ngolo, Wanda Ngolo, Pieter Niemeyer, Germana Nijim, Reuben Penner, Paul Pierce, Jane Pritchard, Kathy Railsback, Vern Riedeger, Carol Rose, Jim Roynon, Jacqui Rozier, Stepheni Sakanee, Jim Satterwhite, Eric Schiller, Betty Scholten, Chris Schweitzer, Janet Shoemaker, Allan Slater, Char Smith, Jerry Stein, Harriet Taylor, Kurtis Unger, Matthew Wiens, Dick Williams, Gretchen Williams, Doug Wingeier, Jane MacKay Wright, Joshua Yoder, Mary Yoder.

ASSOCIATES/VOLUNTEERS: Building Manager: Paul Becher; PLUS the indispensable team of Chicago volunteers that makes our newsletter mailings possible!