A video shown by Al Jazeera television on Jan. 28 showed four Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) members alive in Iraq, but included a renewed death threat if the US does not release its prisoners in Iraq.
CPT has its roots in the Historic Peace Churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, and Quaker) and is an ecumenical violence-reduction program that places teams of trained peacemakers in areas of lethal conflict. It has been present in Iraq since Oct. 2002, providing humanitarian aid in the form of training and human rights documentation.
See below for another feature story, “CAMPAIGN CALLS PEACEMAKERS TO SHINE THE LIGHT IN WASHINGTON,” by Todd Flory, legislative associate at the Brethren Witness/Washington Office
The four peacemakers–Tom Fox, 54, from Clearbrook, Va.; Norman Kember, 74, from London, England; James Loney, 41, from Toronto, Canada; and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, from Montreal, Canada–have been missing since Nov. 26. A videotape in November claimed that the CPT volunteers had been taken hostage by a previously unknown group called Swords of Righteousness Brigades. Since December, when the group issued a deadline for the US to release all prisoners in Iraq or the peacemakers would be killed, nothing further had been heard from the four men.
“We are so grateful and heartened to see James, Harmeet, Norman, and Tom alive on the videotape dated Jan. 21,” said a release from CPT. “This news is an answer to our prayers. We continue to hope and pray for their release.”
“All of us in Christian Peacemaker Teams remain very disturbed by the abduction of our teammates,” the release continued. “We pray that those who hold them will host them with the grace that so many of us in CPT have received as guests in Iraq. James, Harmeet, Norman, and Tom are peace workers who have not collaborated with the occupation of Iraq and who have worked for justice for all Iraqis, especially those detained.” (For the full statement from CPT, see below.)
Church of the Brethren leaders, the Brethren Witness/Washington Office, and On Earth Peace have made statements calling for the release of the peacemakers (see http://www.brethren.org/genbd/newsline/2005/dec0505.htm and http://www.brethren.org/genbd/newsline/2005/nov2905.htm), joining other religious groups and leaders around the world including Palestinian and Iraqi Muslim leaders along with the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches in the US. Some Church of the Brethren congregations and groups also have held prayer vigils for the peacemakers.
“The first pictures since last November of the Christian peacemakers held captive in Iraq shows the four men looking haggard and gaunt,” the National Council of Churches (NCC) said in a press release. “Friends of the prisoners continue to reflect on the irony that the shadowy kidnappers selected these devout peace advocates and open critics of the Iraq war to make their point.”
Religious groups also are urging the release of journalist Jill Carroll who was captured Jan. 7 and threatened with death unless all women prisoners in Iraq are released, the NCC said. The Council of American-Islamic Relations said Jan. 19, “We…call for the immediate and unconditional release of Jill Carroll, a journalist with a well-documented record of objective reporting and respect for both the Iraqi people and Arab-Islamic culture. We ask that her captors show mercy and compassion by releasing her so that she may return to her family. Certainly, no cause can be advanced by harming a person who only sought to let the world know about the human suffering caused by the conflict in Iraq.”
CAMPAIGN CALLS PEACEMAKERS TO SHINE THE LIGHT IN WASHINGTON
By Todd Flory
In the basement of the Washington Peace Center, around a dozen Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) members and supporters gathered to worship, eat, fellowship, and review the logistics of that afternoon’s events. It was Wednesday, and the group was scheduled to protest outside of the weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin’s world headquarters in southern Maryland.
To help demonstrate its opposition to the war in Iraq, CPT held a `Shine the Light’ campaign in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19-29, in which a protest was held outside of a different war-compliance institution each day. Each session ended with a prayer vigil outside of the White House. Many supporters of the cause, including the Brethren Witness/Washington Office of the Church of the Brethren General Board, participated with CPT at various times throughout the week-and-a-half campaign.
“The Shine the Light campaign is both shining light on institutions of war and on the captives, those held captive by all aspects of war,” said Church of the Brethren and CPT member Cliff Kindy. “It’s a shine for release. As we work with issues of justice and peace, maybe what’s underneath is an issue of power; who’s in charge.”
Outside of Lockheed Martin, a mix of honks, waves, cheers, and sneers from passengers driving along the road greeted the Shine the Light campaign as its members walked solemnly in front of the corporation in a single-file line holding candles and signs. Two people walking along the sidewalk even stopped for a few minutes to join the group in the protest. “Our presence at these institutions is an invitation to those in there to come out of it, and be changed by the light,” Kindy explained.
Some of the other institutions that the campaign visited included the State Department, military recruiting offices, the Internal Revenue Service, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Pentagon. According to Kindy, the group was received with the least amount of receptiveness while visiting the Pentagon. When some members of the public stopped to talk with the CPT members, and when they all gathered together to pray, the security quintupled from five guards to 25.
Kindy believes that the public’s knowledge of and compassion toward other people and parts of the world, coupled with sociably responsible actions, could further help to bring peace to the world. “We stop paying money to the IRS, and the war stops,” he said. “The recruiters stop getting recruits, and the war stops. Lockheed Martin stops making weapons, and the war stops. If any one of them stops, the war stops. Even pulling out one of the pillars stops the war.”
–Todd Flory is a Brethren Volunteer Service worker and a legislative associate at the Brethren Witness/Washington Office.
CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKER TEAMS STATEMENT
“We are so grateful and heartened to see James, Harmeet, Norman, and Tom alive on the videotape dated Jan. 21. This news is an answer to our prayers. We continue to hope and pray for their release.
“All of us in Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) remain very disturbed by the abduction of our teammates. We pray that those who hold them will host them with the grace that so many of us in CPT have received as guests in Iraq. James, Harmeet, Norman and Tom are peace workers who have not collaborated with the occupation of Iraq and who have worked for justice for all Iraqis, especially those detained.
“We continue to believe that what has happened to our teammates is the result of the actions of the U.S. and U.K. governments in their illegal attack on Iraq and the continuing occupation and oppression of its people. We continue to call for justice and human rights for all who are detained in Iraq. The innocent should not suffer in the place of those who have done wrong.
“CPT has organized public actions for peace and justice for Iraqi detainees. This weekend major events are scheduled for Washington, D.C., Toronto, and Chicago. See http://www.cpt.org/ or http://www.cpt.org/iraq/shinethelight.php for details.
“Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has long worked for the rights of Iraqi prisoners who have been illegally detained and abused. We were the first to publicly denounce the torture of Iraqi people at the hands of US forces, long before the western media admitted what was happening at Abu Ghraib. We are among the few internationals left in Iraq working for human rights and peace. We hope that we can continue to do this work and we pray for the speedy release of our beloved teammates.
“Christian Peacemaker Teams has been present in Iraq since Oct. 2002, providing first-hand, independent reports from the region, working with detainees of both United States and Iraqi forces, and training others in nonviolent intervention and human rights documentation.”
For more about Christian Peacemaker Teams see http://www.cpt.org/.