CPT's Colombia team provides a violence-deterring presence in rural communities along the Opón River near Barrancabermeja where more than eighty formerly displaced families live under continuing threats from illegal armed groups. The following reflection was written in December.
"Upon the palms of my hands I have written your name." Isaiah 49:16
The man in the river that day was only the first. By the end of the month, there were six people dead and one disappeared. Two lived in the communities we accompany. The others just died there. I got used to scanning the river for vultures and corpses.
The first man lacked a face. Vultures had eaten it. It's awful what floating in water for several days does to a human body. The authorities never found out who he was, and buried him in the public cemetery.
I want to visit his grave. I want to tell him I'm sorry for the way he died. I want to tell him that the way his body floated on the current was graceful and gentle, and that I wasn't horrified or repulsed by him.
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you." - Isaiah 43:1-2
We lit seven candles for the six dead and one disappeared man on the day we found the last body. I made name cards for the lost men – Javier, Gabriel, Elvis, Calixto, Antonio, Alonzo.
For the man without a face I wrote "hombre desconocido" – unknown man. None of us ever knew his name, but he is not anonymous, not forgotten. His eyes were wide and bright on the day he was born. Someone once held his hand as he learned to walk. Someone picked him up and held him when he fell. He grew into adulthood and someone kissed him. Someone loved him. And right now, someone is missing him.
And even when his body is bloated and waterlogged, when his skin is gray or just gone and his bones shattered, I see Christ stepping into the water with him, wrapping his arms around what's left of his broken body and saying "This one is mine." He is claimed, his name etched on the palms of God's hands.Back to the top
Residents held their breaths in late November as a small barge travelled through the area loaded with gasoline stolen from a nearby pipeline. They believed the crew belonged to an illegal, paramilitary-connected gas cartel that operates out of nearby Barrancabermeja, a center of petroleum production. With guerilla groups and Colombian military units also present in the zone, residents feared they might get caught in the crossfire if a battle broke out.
CPTers monitored the movements of the barge and crew for several days. Then, on December 1 in Los Ñeques, the river level suddenly dropped and the barge upended, spilling thousands of gallons of gasoline into the communities' only source of potable water.
Shooting, Explosion, Assassination:
Two weeks later a small tugboat with four men on board arrived to work on the capsized barge. Shortly after midnight residents in nearby houses were awakened by gunfire and then a huge explosion which could be heard 6 miles away in La Florida.
Team members and government officials arriving on the scene the next day found the remains of the exploded tugboat. Bloodstains and mud tracks on the river bank indicated that several bodies had been dragged and dumped into the water.
In a separate attack that same morning, a worker on a nearby farm was assassinated. Both actions were presumably the work of the FARC guerillas.
Team members were present in Los Ñeques early on December 18 when two of the bodies floated to the surface of the river and were later recovered by government officials.
Disappeared and Decomposed:
Earlier in the month, a community member was "disappeared" and on December 13, team members discovered a man's body floating in the river near Los Ñeques. Because of the advanced state of decomposition, no one could not identify the body, though later tests concluded it was a different man.
CPTers feared that traumatized community members might once again decide to flee the area, becoming internal refugees from the war that continues to ravage their country. However, at the moment they are standing together in the firm decision to not be displaced by the violence around them. CPT Colombia team members wait and pray with these communities, watchful for what the war and the river will bring tomorrow.
Colombia team members, delegates and interns November - February were: Adaía Bernal (Colombia), Lisa Brightup (Wichita, KS), Michael Brown (Washington, DC), Robin Buyers (Toronto, ON), Julian Carreño (Colombia), Jenny Dillon (Washington, DC), Jim Fitz (Tiskilwa, IL), Elizabeth García (Brownsville, TX), Barb Howe (Gainesville, FL), Erin Kindy (Tiskilwa, IL), Carmen Kingsley (Elkhart, IN), Joel Klassen (Kitchener, ON), Bruce Miller (Madison, WI), Sara Reschly (Chicago, IL), Dorey Riegel (Boulder, CO), Sandra Rincón (Colombia), Pierre Shantz (Blainville, QC), Kitty Ufford-Chase (Tucson, AZ), Joshua Yoder (Elkhart, IN), Keith Young (Comer, GA), plus 12 Colombian delegates from churches in Bogotá.Back to the top
CPT's inviting partner in Colombia, the Colombian Mennonite Church, issued an Urgent Action on behalf of Ricardo Esquivia January 16. Esquivia, who is at risk of arrest and imprisonment on false charges by the Colombian government, played a key role in opening doors for CPT's work in Colombia and serves as a primary advisor for the team. The importance of his leadership for peace, especially among Colombian churches, and his commitment to nonviolence is unquestionable.
Church leaders believe that an outpouring of international concern is the best hope for thwarting the government's plot and allowing Esquivia to continue his important work. Hundreds of faxes to Colombian authorities and foreign governments have already generated significant attention but more are needed. Please see CPT's Urgent Action web page for detailed action suggestions.Back to the top
Continuing expansion of Israeli settlements in and around the West Bank city of Hebron and construction of Israel's "Security Wall" means increasing confiscation of Palestinian land. CPT-Hebron practices nonviolent intervention and supports the efforts of Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers to stop this land theft.
In January CPT-Hebron hosted a delegation of seven Jews from New York who came to "tell Palestinians that some Jews care about them, that not all Jews are bad."
A Muslim shop owner invited us to his home for coffee. During the massacre of Jews in Hebron in 1929, his family, like many other Muslim families in Hebron, hid Jews in their home to save their lives. He went on to tell how his family has experienced continual harassment from Israeli settlers. Two years ago, settlers threw rocks through his windows, blinding his 13-year-old daughter in one eye.
We went to where "The Wall" is being built near the Kiryat Arba settlement, and saw the land which, just ten days earlier, had been confiscated from the Palestinian families with whom we would spend the night. There, near the wall intended to separate Jews and Arabs, Jews and Arabs came together and built bridges. People who are supposed to be enemies hugged and kissed each other in the midst of fear and suffering endured by both sides.
Meanwhile, the bulldozers in Hebron are busy flattening Palestinian land to build more walls.
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the knowledge and skill in the construction of
there is also the building of
what would you say
The cauliflower was delicious, but much too small. Our hosts offered it to us raw and explained that Israeli soldiers told them to harvest any produce in their fields immediately, because they would no longer be allowed on their land. We were eating the last fruits of their fields.
A road had just been bulldozed right behind a cluster of Palestinian houses near the Israeli settlement of Harsina, just east of Hebron, cutting off those small farmers from their land on the other side of the new road. Their land now is Israeli land, stolen by settlers in broad daylight as Israeli soldiers stood guard.
One farmer said he had spent fifty years planting olive trees and building up his land. Now he had lost almost everything. We watched helplessly as his land was covered with gravel.
Another 250 acres are being stolen around the Harsina settlement in this latest spasm of land confiscations. Just a few months ago settlers confiscated around 750 acres on the other side of Harsina.
This past year the Israeli military prohibited many farmers from entering their land to harvest their crops "because of security for the settlers." The produce rotted in the fields, causing about ten million dollars of loss to Palestinians around Hebron alone.
Half of the Palestinian population is already dependant on international food aid. Now these and many other families are cut off from the land that has sustained this people for centuries. One elderly farmer asked, "How will I be able to feed my family now?" A huge catastrophe is building as the Israeli government seems to be attempting to starve out the Palestinian population.
Cauliflower will never again taste the same to me.Back to the top
People need to know what is happening before they can take action!
Hebron team members November - February were: Kristin Anderson (Willmar, MN), Art Arbour (Toronto, ON), Nathan Bender (Toronto, ON), Gary Brooks (Lexington, KY), Chris Brown (San Francisco, CA), Cal Carpenter (Minneapolis, MN), Cat Grambles (Waterford, CT), John Engle (Ft. Lauderdale, FL), Mark Frey (Chicago, IL), Art Gish (Athens, OH), Bob Holmes (Toronto, ON), Maureen Jack (Fife, Scotland), Diane Janzen (Calgary, AB), Bourke Kennedy (Skaneateles, NY), Mary Lawrence (Lunenburg, MA), Jerry Levin (Birmingham, AL), Barb Martens (Ruthven, ON), Rich Meyer (Millersburg, IN), Maxine Nash (Centerville, IN), Dianne Roe (Corning, NY), Greg Rollins (Surrey, BC), Harriet Taylor (Germantown, MD), Maia Williams (Dale City, VA). Hebron delegation participants were: November: Virginia Belford (Naperville, IL) Cal Carpenter (Minneapolis, MN), Walt Davin (St. Petersburg, FL), Kathleen Gale (Elmira, NY), Adah Manby (Leaf River, IL), Angela Menke, Kimberly Prince, and Megan Ramer (Denver, CO), Vanessa Owen (Englewood, CO), Scott Smith and Annaliese Watson (Tillamook, OR). February: Cynthia Burnside (Madison, WI), Victor Eyth (Mentor, OH), Laurel Dee Gugler (Toronto, ON), Sally Hunsberger (Washington, DC), Kelly McDowell (Denver, CO), Jerry Park (Mt. Rainier, MD), Arthur Stanley (Ft. Valley, VA).Back to the top
Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation (Grassy Narrows, ON) invited CPT to help avert violence when they erected a road blockade in December, 2002 to prevent corporate logging of their traditional lands. Contractors working for Abitibi-Consolidated have clear-cut large tracts of the forest, destroying the animal habitat needed for hunting and trapping to sustain their community. CPT has maintained a presence with community members at the permanent blockade and facilitated discussions to increase understanding of First Nation concerns among churches in the nearby paper-mill town of Kenora.
Despite ongoing tensions with logging giant Abitibi-Consolidated and Canadian government officials, residents of Asubpeeschoseewagong continue to move forward their own agenda for recovering their lands.
Trapline Destroyed by Clear-cutting
On February 4, 2004 the community erected a second blockade 60 km north of Asubpeeschoseewagong, stopping all logging trucks from entering the area where resident Alex Fobister traps fur-bearing animals. Fobister, whose great-grandfather, grandfather, and father trapped in the same area, holds a licence for this trapline from the same Ontario government department that licences Abitibi's logging on that land. Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation considers the logging to be a violation of Treaty #3 with Canada which guarantees them access to their traditional hunting and fishing grounds.
Proposal from Abitibi
In October, shortly after community members initiated a public action campaign urging the McClatchy newspaper chain to stop buying Abitibi newsprint, the company's General Manager Don Hopkins arrived from head office in Montreal with a one-page "Proposal for Partnership." In it, Abitibi offered to end logging within a 10 km radius of the small Grassy Narrows reserve and to consult on further logging within the next 10 km radius. Hopkins said, "We never intended to hurt your community...we want a partnership with you."
Community members pointed out that Abitibi is already obliged to consult on any logging which affects Aboriginal peoples, but this has never been done adequately. The community's traditional land use area is 6,500 sq. km., but Abitibi's proposal ends its logging in only 300 sq. km. Furthermore, the agreement would be valid for only 5 years. Residents are currently discerning how to respond to this proposal.
Building Log Homes
Meanwhile, in the face of an acute housing shortage, the community imported a mill and began harvesting logs on their traditional lands for use in constructing new cabins for reserve residents. When asked why the community started this project, Robert Williamson replied, "When you see a beaver building a lodge, do you question why he does it?" "The key," Williamson says, "is actually believing it is our right, and feeling comfortable using what is ours to use."
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Clear-cut logging, approved by the Ontario government, violates Treaty #3 between Canada (including the provinces) and the people of Asubpeeschoseewagong. Call on the governments of Canada and Ontario to stop this destruction of Grassy Narrows' means of livelihood.
Rt. Hon. Paul Martin, Prime Minister of Canada
Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario
Canadian residents also contact your MP, and MPP (Ontario). Please copy any correspondence to CPT Canada. See CPT's Urgent Action web page for more details.
Abitibi-Consolidated makes paper with wood clear-cut from Grassy Narrows' traditional land. The McClatchy Company publishes a dozen U.S. Newspapers on Abitibi newsprint. Representatives of Grassy Narrows First Nation want to meet with McClatchy officials to discuss their situation. Please support such a meeting by:
Mr. Gary B. Pruitt, President and CEO
Asubpeeschoseewagong team members November - February were: Tricia Brown (Newberg, OR), Scott Kerr (Downer's Grove, IL), JoAnne Lingle (Indianapolis, IN), Lisa Martens (Winnipeg, MB), Jessica Phillips (Encinal, TX), Doug Pritchard (Toronto, ON), Matt Schaaf (Winnipeg, MB), and intern Jeff Thiessen (Winnipeg, MB).Back to the top
Mohamoud huddles beneath two blankets at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. U.S. soldiers raided his home by mistake last September. Ayia weeps for her imprisoned brothers and their now-homeless wives and children. She has not seen them since June and cannot get permission to visit. CPTers in Iraq have heard many such accounts and have witnessed how these patterns of abusive behavior fuel support among ordinary Iraqis for insurgency attacks on Coalition Forces.
In response, CPT-Iraq launched the Campaign to Ensure Justice for Iraqi Detainees. Team members compiled a 16-page report based on 72 cases of Iraqi citizens who were detained and imprisoned by U.S. forces between May and December of 2003.
The report identifies numerous violations of human rights guaranteed to detainees and their families under the Geneva Conventions and related international law, including:
Copies of the report were presented to officials at the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad who have denied that violations are taking place, or that the Conventions apply to these detainees.
CPT's report is receiving increasing attention from the media and from elected officials in the U.S. and Canada. In January, shortly after the report was issued, CPA head Paul Bremer announced that 500 Iraqi detainees would be released. General Ricardo Sanchez, head of U.S. Forces in Iraq, promised an inquiry into human rights abuses and prisoner living conditions at Abu Ghraib penitentiary. CPT will continue to monitor these developments.Back to the top
In hopes of gaining greater access to detainees held by U.S. forces, three Iraqi human rights lawyers from the Organization of Human Rights (OHR) tried to open conversations with Colonel Nate Sassaman at the military base near Balad on January 12. They asked CPTers to accompany them. During the meeting, the lawyers raised concerns about abusive actions on the part of soldiers from Sassaman's unit last November. (His troops opened fire on a car carrying six Iraqi civilians, which then burst into flames. When one passenger tried to escape from the car, a soldier chased him down and threw him back into the burning vehicle. All six Iraqis died in the attack.)
The day right after the January 12 meeting, Sassaman's unit staged a pre-dawn raid in the village of one of the OHR lawyers, Mohannad, who was present at the meeting. Mohannad, his five brothers and about 15 others were detained.
Later that morning, Mohannad's father and OHR lawyer Sami Al Azawi, who also attended the meeting, went to see Colonel Sassaman about the detainees. Sassaman refused to deliver the epilepsy medications or warm clothes they brought for those in detention.
Mohannad and his brothers were released at 9:00 p.m. that same night. They will not discuss the details of their detention publicly for fear of further reprisals from U.S. Soldiers.Back to the top
Reservist Jane MacKay Wright (Providence Bay, ON) serving with CPT's Iraq team sent the following message to the Chicago office on February 10.
Around 9 o'clock last evening we welcomed into the team apartment two men whom Stewart Vriesinga had met earlier in the day. They introduced themselves as resistance fighters and Cliff Kindy, Peggy Gish, Stewart and I had a long conversation talking about their problems and Iraq's problems.
One man spoke very good English saying he had spent time in New Zealand. Later they led us to believe one of the men was carrying a bomb on his body and was supposed to do a suicide mission against U.S. soldiers that night. They spoke often of their hatred for Americans and that all Americans are in danger in Iraq.
Jim Loney returned from the internet and joined the conversation which became more rambling on their part. We did various things to sympathize with the men. Stewart served tea and cookies. Cliff introduced the subject of nonviolent resistance and offered the men the videotape series, A Force More Powerful.
Later the man who spoke English changed the tone, told us to put our tea glasses on the table, and pulled a gun on us. He said the other man was planning to blow up our whole building in 15 minutes. It was 10:35 p.m. Later he indicated if we gave them all our money, they would show leniency. He kept saying they have information that there is a lot of money in the house.
The two men tied up the hands of the CPT men behind their backs with computer mouse cables and made them sit in a row on hardback chairs. They decided not to tie the hands of the women but made us sit together on the couch.
Then they demanded money. The man with the knife and maybe the bomb followed me into a bedroom and retrieved the household kitty. Various of the CPT men offered cash from their pockets. Jim said he thought he had money in a drawer in his room, so the knife/bomb man and I went to look but found none.
Then there was general discussion about where more money may be. The two men counted the money over and over and kept asking for more. They moved to the door, warning us that they would be watching the building and if we called the police they would destroy the building or shoot us.
At last we heard the outer door slam shut at 11:10 p.m. After the men fled, building guards chased them for two blocks.
They took about $800 in U.S. dollars and dinars, two cameras, a laptop computer, and two telephones.
When we debriefed the incident, we felt there was no bomb on the man, or that it was not set to go off. Everyone slept soundly the rest of the night, and our team activities continue as normal.
Peace be with you, and nonviolence works!Back to the top
Is this what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? THIS is the kind of fasting I desire: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke. Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your wound will quickly be healed. The ancient ruins will be rebuilt, and the foundations restored. – Isaiah 58:5-6, 8, 12
CPT in Iraq appeals to the worldwide church to join a Fast for Justice and Healing throughout Lent.
No one knows how many Iraqis are being detained. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) is able to provide names and locations for 13,000 detainees, but human rights organizations estimate that there are over 18,000.
It is time to ask for miracles. It is time to empty ourselves and beg for God's mercy and compassion. It is time to proclaim a fast – a "day acceptable to the Lord."
We fast to set the oppressed free and to break the yokes of injustice that keep thousands of Iraqis imprisoned without due process. We fast to become more vulnerable to God's presence as we seek ways to reduce the fear, violence, and injustice that imprison all of us. We fast to seek the miracle of forgiveness, peace, and healing from all the terrors of war.
CPT members in Iraq will fast and engage in daily public witness in Baghdad.
We invite you to JOIN THE FAST:
In the spirit of Isaiah, take actions to BREAK EVERY YOKE:
Iraq team members November 2003 - February 2004 were: Matt Chandler (Springfield, OR), Le Anne Clausen (Mason City, IA), Peggy Gish (Athens, OH), Cliff Kindy (N. Manchester, IN), Jim Loney (Toronto, ON), Jane MacKay Wright (Providence Bay, ON), David Milne (Belleville, ON), Anne Montgomery (New York, NY), Kathie Namphy (Palo Alto, CA), Maxine Nash (Centreville, IN), Sheila Provencher (South Bend, IL), Allan Slater (Lakeside, ON), Stewart Vriesinga (Lucknow, ON), Rose and Haven Whiteside (Tampa, FL). Delegation participants were: November: Daniel Burns and Peter De Mott (Ithaca, NY), Laurie Hadden (Markham, ON), Charlie Jackson (San Antonio, TX), Jeff Leys (Greenfield, WI). January: Abe Friesen (Morden, MB), David Hilfiker (Washington, DC), Michele Naar-Obed (Duluth, MN), Kathleen O'Malley (Albuquer-que, NM), Jocelyn Perry (New York, NY), Patricia Ruble (Alexandria, VA), Mary Anne Tangney (Dundas, ON). February: Bill and Jean Basinger (Des Moines, IA), William Burke (Portland, ME), Christie Goering Schmid and Ryan Schmid (Seattle, WA), Bob Holmes (Toronto, ON), Kara Speltz (Oakland, CA), Dana Visalli (Winthrop, WA).Back to the top
After 16 years as director of Christian Peacemaker Teams, Gene Stoltzfus is retiring from the position at the end of August 2004. Gene was named the first coordinator of CPT in 1988. Under his leadership CPT has developed from just a gleam in the eye of a small but visionary band of peace church activists to a respected and widely recognized leader in nonviolent peacemaking.
Gene says, "I expect to continue peacemaking work for as long as I am given energy. I look forward to handing over these responsibilities and renewing my energy to push ahead the work of cooperation, truth-telling and revolutionary love which has come to characterize the spirit of CPT."
The Steering Committee plans to fill the position with two co-directors . Send comments about the transition process to:
A steadily swelling stream of visitors and inquirers from around the world contact CPT seeking advice, encouragement, training and support for engaging in peacemaking ministries very kindred to that of CPT.
In January, representatives from the World Christian Frontiers (WCF) in Korea spent four days with CPT during our winter training in Chicago. WCF has projects in East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq and is currently exploring other program areas. In September, two delegates from the Italian-based group, Operation Dove, which has had projects in Bosnia, Gaza and Congo, spent a week with CPT and participated in our Peacemaker Congress in Youngstown, OH. Other inquiries come from the Asian subcontinent, Africa and South American countries.
CPT wants to respond to these requests in a manner that creates strong local teams of trained and disciplined peace warriors. Part of this response will include strengthening our training component so that modules can be developed for settings outside North America. We will also need to cultivate our skills in listening to Christian groups seeking help for growth in very different contexts. Beginning efforts to encourage peace teams in diverse settings also requires money.
In the last issue of Signs of the Times I spelled out our need for healthy financial support during the holiday season in order to meet our budget. We are enormously pleased to report a generous outpouring of contributions that set records in both December and January. Thank you for sending us so many of those wonderful tiny envelopes with your checks. This kind of response encourages us to keep talking and pressing ahead with the formation of Christian peacemaking teams that may some day span the globe.
Seven participants completed CPT's winter training December 27, 2003 - January 23, 2004.
The group kicked off the new year by performing a "Public Security Inspection" at a local Toys R Us store in response to concerns that violent toys and video games pose a security risk to communities. Inspectors donned lab coats and posted warning labels on toy weapons and action figures that glorify war.
Participants celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday with prophetic street theater and birthday cake in downtown Chicago. The witness included sending a small delegation to deliver CPT's "Report and Recommendations on Iraqi Detainees" to the offices of Illinois Senators Durbin and Fitzgerald.
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CPT's email news network began to post releases from Haiti in January 1994. Since then, more than 3000 articles, updates and reflection pieces have been posted to CPTnet, an average of 25 postings every month. Currently about 1500 people receive reports directly from editor Kathy Kern (Webster, NY).Back to the top
Over 1,000 people caravanned to the Kansas State Capitol building in Topeka on January 27 to urge passage of a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to get driver's licenses. Nine CPTers responded to an emergency call to provide accompaniment on buses that came from across the state to attend the rally. Organizers from Sunflower Community Action feared that Immigration authorities might stop vehicles and detain undocumented passengers. The day progressed without incident.Back to the top
Eighteen CPT Corps members and Reservists, along with more than a dozen delegation members and other CPT supporters, joined ten thousand people to vigil at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, home of the School of the Americas (SOA), on November 23, 2003.
Reservist Charles Spring held a cross bearing the name David Guzman, a farmer that CPT's Colombia team accompanied on numerous occasions. He was threatened and eventually "disappeared" by paramilitary forces whose ranks include retired army officers trained at the school, now called the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC).
Three-time CPT delegate Scott Diehl (Burlington, IA) and Kathy Kelly (Chicago, IL), CPT trainer and co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness, were among those who crossed the property line. Both were later sentenced to three months in federal prison.
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On December 12, Corps member Sheila Provencher (South Bend, IN), Iraq delegate Pat Basler (Webster, WI), and Wisconsin grandmother Muriel Fitzgerald stood trial in Federal court on charges of trespassing. The three were part of a group of 13 who approached the Navy's ELF (Extremely Low Frequency) transmitter on August 9, 2003 to inspect the site for connections to weapons of mass destruction. The transmitter sends communication signals to nuclear-armed Trident submarines.
Provencher was also charged with "interference" because she did not provide the arresting officer with a government-issued ID. Instead, she gave him a hand-made badge on which she identified her name as "Child of God" and her social security number as "Psalm 27." In challenging the assertion that she had presented false identification, Provencher said: "What is our most true identity? We are interdependent children of God. If we could realize that, how could we ever hurt each other again?"
All three were found guilty of trespass and fined $150, but the interference charge was dismissed. The remaining defendants are scheduled to appear in court on February 20, 2004.Back to the top
Full time Corps member, Sue Rhodes, of Bath, England, died of cancer on November 30, 2003. She served with the Hebron project since the summer of 2002.
"I will miss the energy and wisdom Sue brought to CPT, and how she fussed over each of us as if we were her children," said teammate Greg Rollins.
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About 25 Iraqis and internationals gathered at the Al Wathba water treatment plant in Baghdad on January 10 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of George Weber's death. Weber was killed in an automobile accident north of Basra January 6, 2003, during a CPT delegation. The group erected a memorial sign next to a tree planted by an earlier delegation. The sign read: "Tree of Life, in honor of CPT Reservist George Weber, 1930-2003, and CPT presence here during ‘Shock and Awe,' March-April 2003."Back to the top
Iceland Churches Host CPTer: Lutheran churches in Iceland invited Reservist Mary Lawrence (Lunenburg, MA) to speak about CPT's work in Hebron at several events in December. During her visit, Lawrence was invited to have tea with Iceland's President, Olafur Grimsson. The President noted that strong ties between Iceland and Israel held up well until a few years ago. Now, Icelanders in general have greater sympathy for the Palestinian situation. Iceland National radio broadcast an interview with Lawrence on the evening news, and the two Reykjavik newspapers featured CPT work in Hebron.
Canada Pension Plan invests in weapons: The investment board of Canada Pension Plan (CPP), to which all Canadian workers are required to contribute, has more than $2.4 billion (Cdn) invested in military contractors. The Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade produced a report, Operation Embedded Complicity, and developed an online petition to oppose investment in war. See coat.openconcept.ca.
Citizen Inspectors Acquitted: "Citizen weapons inspectors" arrested for entering the property of Alliant TechSystems Corporation in Edina, Minnesota last April were found not guilty of trespassing on October 17. Defendants successfully established that Alliant's manufacture of weapons, which contain radioactive depleted uranium, is illegal under International Law. Therefore, the jury concurred that the defendants actions were a justified attempt to prevent a crime against humanity.
Regehr Appointed to Order of Canada: Ernie Regehr, Executive Director and co-founder of Project Ploughshares, was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, one of the country's highest civilian honours. Regehr (Waterloo, ON), a friend of CPT, is one of Canada's most respected voices on international disarmament and peace.
CPTer Receives Japanese Award: Reservist Peggy Gish (Athens, OH) received the Yoko Tada Human Rights award for work with CPT in Iraq at a ceremony in Tokyo on December 18, 2003. A Tokyo journalist nominated Gish for the award after interviewing her in Amman, Jordan during the bombing of Iraq last March. The award sponsors consciously chose to recognize someone working on Iraq issues in hopes of mobilizing Japanese public opinion against sending troops to support the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Japan's government later sent the troops.Back to the top
In the Iraq team's May 6, 2003 release, "Not a Priority," Corps member Lisa Martens (Winnipeg, MB) related the anger of the parents of four-year-old Ali, who suffered brain damage when a cluster bomb he touched in his Baghdad neighborhood blew up. U.S. Army personnel would not clean up or even cordon off sites of unexploded weapons left by the former Iraqi regime and coalition forces, citing lack of orange caution tape among other reasons. Martens' report ended by saying, "God help me, I would like to shut with bright colored tape the mouths of Major Colin Mason, Lieutenant Wheeler, Jay Garner and several others, and sit them down in Ali's room for a while to listen."
I see that a call to action did occur, except that you requested members send orange tape to Congress as a political statement. I was asking for your help, and I gave clear instructions as to how your organization could take direct action that would eliminate the dangerous UXO that is still being cleaned up. Instead I got orange tape and a written flogging. I didn't realize the body of Christ had a political arm.
You would be better to refrain from attacking individual low level officers (and fellow Christians). Often we are torn between a trichotomy of what are orders, what is best, and what is ethical.
What disappoints me most is that I prayed and sang hymns with what I thought were kindred spirits, only to be ambushed on the web later. Next time instead of a prayer vigil, I would prefer a kiss on the cheek.
When I give presentations, I tell audiences that U.S. personnel in Iraq are great people, and those who clean up ordnance put themselves at great risk. The Iraqi regime left lots of ordnance behind in the past years. Since 1991, Canada, the U.S. and Britain, have spent billions of taxpayers' money on weapons, leaving more ordnance behind. Yet policymakers do not fund clean up efforts quickly.
I think it's the responsibility of taxpayers to bring about life-giving changes in policy by whatever nonviolent means possible, including by influencing Congress. And it's the responsibility of policymakers to make sure ordnance gets cleaned up, and the responsibility of weapons manufacturers who made money on selling the ordnance, and the responsibility of army personnel on all sides and of all ranks who put the ordnance there. People are free and able to make choices according to their consciences.
To me, to follow the example of Christ means to be loving and constructive, and to be angry at injustice.
Harold Jantz, Manitoba: In every conflict the worst we can do is demonize those we oppose. This is as great a risk for Christian pacifists as it is for anyone else. I applaud Martens for accepting the rebuke from Captain Wheeler.
Daniel Bull, Montclair, NJ: Are "low level" officers responsible for their actions? The term "trichotomy" has a spiritual meaning denoting the three-part division of humans into body, spirit, and soul. Following orders trumps what may be thought best and what is ethical every time. Following orders is definitely in the "body" category, and is very often damaging to the spirit, and perilous to the soul.
Sue C. Wheeler, Lansing, MI: I'm puzzled that CPT doesn't follow Captain Wheeler's suggestion for cleaning up the ordnance. Instead they ask Congress to ask for more military funding for soldiers to clean up ordnance! Wouldn't it be interesting to hear how many CPT supporters withhold taxes, and so sidestep the responsibility?
Frank Moore, Chiang Mai, Thailand: There are CPTers and supporters who withhold their income taxes so that their money won't go to national defense. That in itself doesn't deprive them (or Canadians or other citizens) from criticizing how the U.S. wastes its defense spending.
Linda Wolfgang McGlaughlin, York, PA: "Cleaning up" ordnance is not equal to tossing them into a trash bag, but is instead a dangerous job of disarming them prior to their disposal. So, if Captain Wheeler suggested that the NGOs might do this job, either he is suggesting they help dispose of them after they are disarmed, or else he is wishing an explosive experience on them.
Phyllis Bixler, Springfield, MO: Any government that drops bombs on another country has the moral obligation to disarm and dispose of them before they kill or maim children, farmers, or others who might come upon them. It is also in that govern-ment's self-interest to do so if it expects the receivers of such weapons to view it in a favorable light.
David Cockburn, CPT Reservist, Taunton, UK: The principle should be similar to "the polluter pays" - the militaries that used such hardware should clear it up, very rapidly, and put their own forces at risk doing this, not other groups, and in particular not civilians.Back to the top
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The work of CPT is guided by a 15-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), 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, Le Anne Clausen, Claire Evans, Mark Frey, Elizabeth García, Barb Howe, Diane Janzen, Kathleen Kern, 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: 125 Reservists from 24 U.S. states, 4 Canadian provinces, Bahrain, Colombia, Israel, Philippines, and the United Kingdom supplement the work of the full time Peacemaker Corps.
SUPPORT STAFF includes: Doug Pritchard (Canada office); Kryss Chupp and Gene Stoltzfus (Chicago office)Back to the top