Thursday, December 1

MCC Palestine Prayer Request - 1 December 2005

MCC Palestine Prayer Request

1 December 2005

Dear Friends,

Please find below information on the recent abduction of foreign workers in Iraq this week. In particular, four members from Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT)—an organization that we are close to and that we know many of you are as well—were abducted Sunday in Baghdad. Voices from Islamic communities in Iraq as well as from Muslims and Christians here in Palestine have spoken out for the release of these workers. We seldom bring these issues to the fore in sharing with you all about the situation here. But with the linkages between CPT in Palestine and Iraq being so strong and with the unfortunate linkages between the occupation in Palestine and the occupation in Iraq, we felt the need to share this with you all. Indeed it is due to such linkages that so many Palestinians are speaking out against these abductions.

We would ask that you would share this news with friends, family, and your church communities, and keep these individuals and their families in your thoughts and prayers today as you do the people of both Palestine and Iraq.


Timothy and Christi Seidel
Peace Development Workers
Mennonite Central Committee – Palestine


Jesus said: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
Matthew 5: 44 (NIV)

URGENT: Update on Four Missing CPT Members in Iraq
Press Release, Christian Peacemaker Teams

29 November 2005

CPTNet Nov 30, 2005, 1 am (Baghdad)

"Update on Missing Persons in Iraq"

We were very saddened to see the images of our loved ones on Al Jazeera television recently. We were disturbed by seeing the video and believe that repeated showing of it will endanger the lives of our friends. We are deeply disturbed by their abduction. We pray that those who hold them will be merciful and that they will be released soon. We want so much to see their faces in our home again, and we want them to know how much we love them, how much we miss them, and how anxious and concerned we are by what is happening to them.We are angry because what has happened to our teammates is the result of the actions of the U.S. and U.K. government due to the illegal attack on Iraq and the continuing occupation and oppression of its people. Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has worked for the rights of Iraqi prisoners who have been illegally detained and abused by the U.S. government. We were the first people to publicly denounce the torture of Iraqi people at the hands of U.S. forces, long before the western media admitted what was happening at Abu Ghraib. We are some of the few internationals left in Iraq who are telling the truth about what is happening to the Iraqi people We hope that we can continue to do this work and we pray for the speedy release of our beloved teammates.
"We are very worried about our four friends. We fear that whoever is holding them has made a mistake. Norman, Tom, James and Harmeet are four men who came to Iraq to work for peace and explain their opposition to the occupation. They are not spies."
- CPT Iraq Team

We can confirm the identities of those who are being held as follows:

Tom Fox, age 54, is from Clearbrook, Virginia and is a dedicated father of two children. For the past two years, Mr. Fox has worked with CPT in partnership with Iraqi human rights organizations to promote peace. Mr. Fox has been faithful in the observance of Quaker practice for 22 years. While in Iraq, he sought a more complete understanding of Islamic cultural richness. He is committed to telling the truth to U.S. citizens about the horrors of war and its effects on ordinary Iraqi civilians and families as a result of U.S. policies and practices.Mr. Fox is an accomplished musician. He plays the bass clarinet and the recorder and he loves to cook. He has also worked as a professional grocer. Mr. Fox devotes much of his time to working with children. He has served as an adult leader of youth programs and worked at a Quaker camp for youth. He has facilitated young people's participation in opposing war and violence. Mr. Fox is a quiet and peaceful man, respectful of everyone, who believes that "there is that of God in every person" which is why work for peace is so important to him.

Norman Kember, age 74, is from London, England.He and his wife of 45 years have two married daughters and a 3-year old grandson. He has been a pacifist all his life beginning with his work in a hospital instead of National Service at age 18. Before his retirement he was a professor teaching medical students at St Bartholemew's Hospital in London. He is well-known as a peace activist, and has been involved in several peace groups. For the past 10 years he has volunteered with a local program providing free food to the homeless. He likes walking, birdwatching, and writing humorous songs and sketches. In his younger days he enjoyed mountaineering.

James Loney, 41, is a community worker from Toronto, Canada. He has been a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams since August 2000, and is currently the Program Coordinator for CPT Canada. On previous visits to Iraq, his work focused on taking testimonies from families of detainees for CPT's report on detainee abuse, and making recommendations for securing basic legal rights. James was leading the November 2005 delegation in Iraq when he went missing.James is a peace activist, writer, trained mediator, and works actively with two Toronto community conflict resolution services. He has spent many years working to provide housing and support for homeless people.In a personal statement from James to CPT, he writes: "I believe that our actions as a people of peace must be an expression of hope for everyone. My hope in practising non-violence is that I can be a conduit for the transformative power of God's love acting upon me as much as I hope it will act upon others around me."

Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32 is a Canadian electrical engineer. He is studying for a masters degree in English literature in Auckland University in New Zealand to prepare for a teaching career. He enjoys art, is active in squash and worked part time as a local squash coach. His family describes him as peaceful and fun-loving and he is known to be passionate about the plight of the underprivileged around the globe. He works tirelessly in his spare time to educate and help others.

Statement of Conviction

In a "Statement of Conviction," the long-term Team members stated that they "are aware of the many risks both Iraqis and internationals currently face," and affirmed that the risks did not outweigh their purpose in remaining. They express the hope that "in loving both friends and enemies and by intervening non-violently to aid those who are systematically oppressed, we can contribute in some small way to transforming this volatile situation."

Christian Peacemaker Teams has been present in Iraq since October 2002, providing first-hand, independent reports from the region, working with detainees of both United States and Iraqi forces, and training others in non-violent intervention and human rights documentation. Iraqi friends and human rights workers have welcomed the team as a nonviolent, independent presence. CPT teams host regular delegations of committed peace and human rights activists to conflict zones, who join teams in working with civilians to document abuses and develop nonviolent alternatives to armed conflict. The CPT Iraq Team has hosted a total of 120 people on sixteen delegations over the last three years.

Christian Peacemaker Teams is a violence reduction program. Teams of trained peacemakers work in areas of lethal conflict around the world. In addition to the Iraq Team, teams of CPT workers are currently serving in Barrancabermeja, Colombia; Hebron and At-Tuwani, Palestine; Kenora, Ontario, Canada; and on the Mexico-United States border.

Project Overview

CPT in Iraq: Shifting Sands for Peacemakers
Click here for an overview of CPT program work in Iraq.

CPT Iraq in Baghdad: 07901-339-537
CPT in Canada: Doug Pritchard 416-423-5525


Statement about kidnapped CPT members by Palestinian political parties (Arabic & English)
Statement, Various Palestinian factions
30 November 2005

Following the abduction of four members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq, Palestinian political factions gathered in Hebron to issue a statement in Arabic about their experiences of seeing the CPT working in Palestine, and their personal knowledge of the three kidnapped members and their important work on behalf of the Palestinian people. Original Arabic version provided by CPT Hebron. English translation by the Electronic Intifada, posted for informational purposes.

In the name of God, the Compassionate and Merciful"O ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done."-The Holy Qur'an, 49:6The Islamic and National forces in the governorate of Hebron/Palestine express their deep regret for the kidnapping of four members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq.The Islamic and National forces in the governorate of Hebron/Palestine have had long experience confronting Israeli crimes and violations with the CPT since 1995, and wish to confirm that the members of this group have had and still have a major role in confronting Israeli crimes and violations, and in the protection of the property and the lives of the Palestinian citizens.More than once they placed themselves in front of the occupation's tanks, and they confronted Israeli occupation bulldozers with their bodies defending Palestinians' homes against destruction. They accompanied our children when they were threatened and attacked by Israeli settlers on their way to and from their schools. Because of what they were doing, the CPT members were subjected to arrest, beating and pursuit by the Israeli soldiers and settlers in more than one location in Palestine. Many of them were denied entry to Palestine, or deported by the occupation authorities because of their activities in confronting the occupation.We appeal to our brothers in the resistance and all those with alert consciences in Iraq, with whom we consider ourselves to be in the same trench confronting American aggression and occupation, to instantly and quickly release the four kidnapped persons (two Canadians, one Briton and one American) from CPT, in appreciation for their role in standing beside and supporting our Palestinian people and all the Arab and Islamic peoples.Freedom for the Iraqi and Palestinian people.Shame and disgrace on the Zionist and American occupation.

The Islamic and National Forces in the Governorate of Hebron:Islamic Resistance Movement/HamasPalestine People's PartyDemocratic Front for the Liberation of PalestineDemocratic Union of Palestine/FadaFatahPopular Front for the Liberation of PalestinePalestinian Liberation FrontPalestinian Popular Struggle Front

Hebron, 29 November 2005


Hebron: Palestinians offer their help to gain freedom for kidnapped CPTers

On 30 November 2005 the National and Islamic Forces in Hebron held a press conference to ask for the release of four CPTers being held by an Iraqi armed group. They released a joint statement expressing their "sorrow at the kidnapping of four of the peace advocates from the CPT in Iraq."

The first speaker was Sheikh Najib Al Ja'abri, who hosted the press conference at the Ali Baka'a Mosque in the Haret e-Sheikh neighborhood of Hebron. He spoke of his warm sense of working together with CPTers over the years. The second speaker was Abdul 'Alim Dana of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, followed by Fahmi Shahin, Coordinator of the National and Islamic Forces in Hebron, representing the Palestine People's Party.

Naim Daour, Public Relations Director for Hebron University, talked about repeated closures of the university and CPT's work to help to re-open the university. "Sometimes it is hard to tell who is working for us and who is against us, but really Christian Peacemaker Teams helps us - whoever is holding the CPTers has made a mistake." Fariel Abu Haikal, Headmistress of Qurtuba Girls' School, emphasized the difference between CPTers and the American government. "Saif al-Haq ('Sword of Justice,' the Iraqi armed group holding the CPTers) I don't know, but these problems in Iraq, they come from George Bush. He is the problem, not CPT." She described the accompaniment that CPTers have provided for teachers and students at her school, who are often assaulted by Israeli settlers from the nearby settlement of Beit Hadassah.

The last Palestinian to speak was Jamal Miqbal of Beit Ummar. Jamal and his family live in the shadow of the Israeli settlement of Karme Tzur, and the Israeli military issued a demolition order on their home. Many CPTers have stayed at their home, both in tense times when the Miqbals feared that the bulldozer would come, and in more relaxed seasons.

At the conclusion of the press conference, CPTers read this message:

"We are very worried about our four friends. We fear that whoever is holding them has made a mistake. They are four men who went to Iraq to work for peace. They oppose the occupation. They are not spies."

CPT Hebron feels deep gratitude for the efforts of these speakers, and for the organizers who worked so hard on behalf of the CPTers taken hostage in Iraq. As the participants left, one after another stopped to express their sympathy, and their hope that the hostages will soon be free.


Sunni Group Seeks Release of Five Hostages
By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press WriterWed Nov 30, 5:00 PM ET

An influential Sunni clerical group called Wednesday for the release of five Westerners taken hostage in a grim revival of the kidnappings that shook Iraq last year, saying they should be freed on humanitarian grounds.
The Association of Muslim Scholars is believed to have contacts with some Sunni insurgent groups and has helped mediate the releases of other captives in Iraq.
The five include four aid workers from the group Christian Peacemaker Teams — Tom Fox, 54, of Clearbrook, Va.; Norman Kember, 74, of London; and James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, of Canada — and German archaeologist Susanne Osthoff, 43.
The association said freeing Osthoff would recognize Germany's "positive" stand toward Iraq. Germany strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Osthoff and her Iraqi driver were seized Friday and were later pictured in a videotape blindfolded on a floor, with militants armed with a rocket-propelled grenade standing beside them.
In the northern city of Mosul, the head of the regional antiquities department, Muzahem Mahmoud al-Zawbai, said he warned authorities Osthoff was not safe and that he could not be responsible for her security due to insurgent activity. It was unclear if the authorities relayed the warning to Osthoff, who was working to renovate an historic house.
Stephan Kroll, an archaeologist at Munich's Ludwig-Maximilian University, where Osthoff studied, said she had told colleagues she was worried "something could happen to her."
Osthoff said she had been "stopped and held" on several occasions by unidentified groups seeking money, Kroll said. "She said she always got away because she could speak Arabic and because she told them she was on a humanitarian mission."
Kroll said Osthoff left the institute in 1991 without completing her master's degree and had "very limited expertise" as an archaeologist. He said he doubted reports that antiquities smugglers could have kidnapped her because she was disturbing their work.
University staff and friends pleaded with Osthoff not to go back to Iraq, but "she never listened. She went her own way," Kroll said. "She thought it was her mission to help the people."
The statement from the Muslim clerics said Osthoff was married to an Iraqi Muslim, "who is a member of the Shammar tribe from Mosul." The tribe, one of Iraq's largest, includes Shiites as well as Sunni clans. Vice President Ghazi al-Yawer is a senior Shammar figure.
The kidnappers have threatened to kill Osthoff and her driver unless Germany halts contacts with the Iraqi government. German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed in a speech before parliament Wednesday that her government would "not let ourselves be blackmailed" by militants.
Germany's ZDF television broadcast pictures of German Ambassador Bernd Erbel meeting with the Association of Muslim Scholars on Monday in Baghdad.
The ZDF report said there were indications the kidnappers were Sunnis linked to the former ruling Baath party, but did not identify the source of its information.
The four Christian aid workers were taken captive Saturday and appeared in a video broadcast Tuesday by Al-Jazeera television. A previously unknown group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness Brigade claimed they were spies.
The aid group they belonged to dismissed the allegation.
"These accusations are made routinely in these cases, without evidence of any kind and simply a justification for holding foreign nationals," Robin Buyers, a coordinator for Christian Peacemaker Teams, said Wednesday.
In urging the men's release, the Association of Muslim Scholars said freeing them would recognize their "good efforts in helping those in need."
Iraqi police suspect the kidnappings may be part of an insurgent plan to sow disorder ahead of Dec. 15 elections, but U.S. officials have refused to speculate about the motive.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Wednesday there was "no information to suggest that these (abductions) are connected."
"Our embassy officials are working closely with Iraqi officials and officials from other missions whose citizens are being held to locate and secure the release of these individuals," he said.
Some security experts believe the spate of kidnappings may be due to lax security. Although many foreigners were taken hostage last year, abductions tapered off after the fall of the insurgent bastion Fallujah to a U.S.-led assault in November 2004.
"It depends on availability of victims for kidnapping. People might have lowered their guards," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at the RAND Corp. in Washington.
Insurgents may also be mixing up their tactics to draw attention, turning to kidnappings after an intense period of car bombings and suicide attacks, he said.
"Kidnappings of Iraqis have continued and never stopped," and the latest snatching of Westerners "may be the result of carelessness" in security, agreed Joost Hiltermann of International Crisis Group based in Amman, Jordan.
Another terrorism expert, Evan F. Kohlman, said the abductors may be seeking ransom.
"These are not hardcore insurgent groups," he said. "The more publicity they get about kidnapping, the better chance to make money."
Associated Press writers Stephen Graham in Berlin; Maggie Michael in Cairo, Egypt; Rob Gillies in Toronto; and Sindbad Ahmed in Mosul contributed to this report.


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