Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Advent Wednesday #2

Christian Peacemakers Teams

Tonight people around the world are hoping, praying, and appealing for the safe release of four peace activists taken hostage in Iraq. There is new hope as the deadline for meeting the terms of their release has been extended.

Nearly two years ago, in January 2004, I read about Christian Peacemakers Teams (CPT) in the United Church Observer, and then explored the CPT website (which seems to be burdened down with traffic these days). The Observer article was a series of excerpts from e-mails home by CPTer Allan Slater, "a retired farmer from near London, Ont." I was struck by the following sidebar to the article:
Delayed destruction

I, the old farmer, am enjoying traveling through the irrigated lands between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers where every last square inch of land is utilized.

Then I see a tank that sits smashed and burned in the corner of a field. It is one of many that were destroyed in a rich farming area south of Baghdad. Oily goo spreads on the plowed ground and an oil slick darkens the irrigation ditch.

A much greater danger lurks invisibly around that tank. The American military now coats its armour-piercing bombs and artillery shells with depleted uranium to make them harder and more deadly. Depleted uranium is a toxic heavy metal and produces low-level radiation.

The poisons from that tank are now in the food chain, absorbed by edible plants and stored in people's livers. Depleted uranium is a weapon of mass destruction.
From the rest of the article, I gathered that Mr. Slater's team spent much of their time meeting with Iraqi people who were seeking information about missing relatives, or trying to get permission to visit relatives in prison; and then, meeting with military officials on their behalf. He mentioned a car-bombing scene he had witnessed, as well as some gunfire outside on the street in the middle of the night, which turned out to be celebrations of an Iraqi football victory.

Some excerpts from a bulletin insert provided by CPT (pdf), and available at the United Church of Canada website:
CPT initiated a long-term presence in Iraq in October 2002, six months before the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion in March of 2003. The primary focus of the team for 18 months following the invasion was documenting and focusing attention on the issue of detainee abuses and basic legal and human rights being denied them. The current focus has expanded to include efforts to end occupation and militarization and to foster non-violent and just alternatives for a free and independent Iraq.

[. . .]

CPT does not advocate the use of violent force to save lives of its workers should they be kidnapped, held hostage, or caught in the middle of a conflict situation.

We ask that you:
  • Pray for the people of Iraq, for military personnel, for the insurgents and for peace workers; and
  • Remember that insurgents in Iraq have kidnapped at least 235 foreigners, killed nearly 40 and some are yet missing.
  • Be open to the nudging of your own conscience. What might be the next step in your life to contribute to peace?
[. . .]

Christian Peacemakers Teams (CPT) is an organization committed to reducing violence by "Getting in the Way"--challenging systems of domination and exploitation as Jesus Christ did in the first century.
I admire the courage and convictions of these people. I am not strictly anti-war; as I explained to Ruth, I believe that by the time a war is underway, those who would solve things by peaceful means must have missed a lot of opportunities. Still, we must continue to hope and work for peace in every situation, even when it seems to be too late.

CPT asks us: "What might be the next step in your life to contribute to peace?"

I ask, "Could it be something close to home?"

More about that in a later post. Meanwhile, your comments are welcome, as always.


Madcap said...

It made me sick to read about the depleted uranium. How can they do that? Doesn't anyone in that chain of manufacture have a conscience? I mean, I too can see war under some circumstances, but to use a metal that continues the destruction years and years after the conflict...

Christmas is hardly a time of peace in many families, mine included. Our peace project is very close to home indeed.

Anonymous said...

You seem to be suggesting that there is mainstream church support for the Christian Peacemaker Teams and their actions. CPT is a program of Brethren, Quaker and Mennonite churches. What the main churches are saying is that they would like to see the hostages released unharmed.