Saturday, December 8, 2007

Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron

From the Al Ibrahimi Mosque our delegation walked through narrow lanes filled with small shops selling snacks, produce, clothing and crafts to the office of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron. This was in an "H2" area of Hebron, a district that has seen a high level of alleged human rights abuse and harrassment of locals (for independent documentation of this, click here). On the distiction between H1 and H2 military zones, click here.

At the CPT office we met Lorne Friesen (a Canadian Mennonite) for a briefing on the work of CPT, an agency committed to non-violence by "getting in the way" (an allusion to the term used to describe the first Christians in Acts 9:1-2, and the practice of nonviolent protest against injustice).

Loren referred to "the sacrament of civil disobedience." I deeply appreciate the work Loren does, and admire his passion and conviction, but could not help thinking that, in another context, his evident penchant for idealism and risk might have attracted the attention of certain overtly political organisations. Or perhaps I'm simply demonstrating my unfamiliarity with rural Canadian Mennonites.

Loren certainly had a soap box and was not afraid to use it:
  • On failure by Jewish authorities and settlers to acknowledge the full story surrounding the Jewish massacre by Muslims in 1929: "that is violence."

  • "When a Palestinian does wrong, the whole Palestinian community is blamed; when an Israeli does wrong, the whole Palestinian community is blamed."

  • "This Christmas, when you set up your nativity scenes, don't forget to install a tall concrete wall between the shepherds and the manger."

  • "Notice, in the Gospel accounts of the nativity, the census requirement to travel to Bethlehem, and the subsequent killing of the innocents. These are examples of what can happen under military occupation."

  • "Just because I have $100 to spend on souvenirs does not mean that business will get better for Palestinians."
According to Loren, CPT is active in several locations in Palestine, Iraq and Colombia. CPT was invited by Palestinians to assume a presence in Palestine in 1995. There are 44 CPT staff and about 200 "reservists" worldwide. A good team comprises between six and eight people; there are four in Hebron at present, and these will all shortly be replaced. Reservists enter on the normal three-month visa, and may experience visa problems on entry or when attempting to re-enter. For a detailed account of CPT's activities in Hebron from 1995 to 2003, click here.

Here is some of the information from the CPT website:

The Mission of CPT: "Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) offers an organized, nonviolent alternative to war and other forms of lethal inter-group conflict. CPT provides organizational support to persons committed to faith-based nonviolent alternatives in situations where lethal conflict is an immediate reality or is supported by public policy. CPT seeks to enlist the response of the whole church in conscientious objection to war, and in the development of nonviolent institutions, skills and training for intervention in conflict situations. CPT projects connect intimately with the spiritual lives of constituent congregations. Gifts of prayer, money and time from these churches undergird CPT’s peacemaking ministries."

"We believe that the mandate to proclaim the Gospel of repentance, salvation and reconciliation includes a strengthened Biblical peace witness.

"We believe that faithfulness to what Jesus taught and modeled calls us to more active peacemaking.

"We believe that a renewed commitment to the Gospel of Peace calls us to new forms of public witness which may include nonviolent direct action."

(from CPT founding conference: Techny, Illinois)

Christian Peacemaker Teams arose from a call in 1984 for Christians to devote the same discipline and self-sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war. Enlisting the whole church in an organized, nonviolent alternative to war, today CPT places violence-reduction teams in crisis situations and militarized areas around the world at the invitation of local peace and human rights workers. CPT embraces the vision of unarmed intervention waged by committed peacemakers ready to risk injury and death in bold attempts to transform lethal conflict through the nonviolent power of God’s truth and love.

Initiated by Mennonites, Brethren and Quakers with broad ecumenical participation, CPT’s ministry of Biblically-based and spiritually-centered peacemaking emphasizes creative public witness, nonviolent direct action and protection of human rights.

A strategy developed thoughtfully over the years has taught us that:
  • trained, skilled, international teams can work effectively to support local efforts toward nonviolent peacemaking;

  • “getting in the way” of injustice through direct nonviolent intervention, public witness and reporting to the larger world community can make a difference;

  • peace team work engages congregations, meetings and support groups at home to play a key advocacy role with policy makers.
Picture(from left): Archbishop Frank Carroll, Mr Keith Bray, Mr Yusef Daher, Mr Loren Friesen, Ms Valentina Magguilli (EAPPI coordinator in Jerusalem).

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