Friday, March 24

MCC Palestine Prayer Request - 24 March 2006

MCC Palestine Prayer Request

24 March 2006

Dear Friends,

As many of you have already heard, Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) members Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember have been freed safely in Baghdad. We rejoice and are thankful to the answer to a prayer that we know has been many of yours for the past four months.

Details are still coming in, but this is what is known so far:

*All three men are in relatively good condition.
*They were freed in an intelligence-led operation spearheaded by British troops.
*The operation to free the captives was based on information from a man captured by U.S. forces only three hours earlier.
*None of the captors were present, no shots were fired and no one was injured.

Here are the developing stories from some major news outlets:

Associated Press:;_ylt=AmrYJlNlfLdrPyYD.FIWHq2s0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA2Z2szazkxBHNlYwN0bQ--
New York Times:
Washington Post:

Below is the statement released from CPT as well as a piece written recently from a Mennonite minister from Pennsylvania responding to criticisms leveled against CPT.

Thank you all for your faithful prayers and actions. We would ask that you continue to keep James, Harmeet, and Norman, the family of Tom Fox who was found murdered earlier this month, and all those still being held or detained in Iraq or anywhere else in the world in your thoughts and prayers today.


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

CPT Statement: CPTers Freed
Doug Pritchard and Carol Rose
23 March 2006

Our hearts are filled with joy today as we heard that Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember have been freed safely in Baghdad. Christian Peacemaker Teams rejoices with their families and friends at the expectation of their return to their loved ones and community. Together we have endured uncertainty, hope, fear, grief and now joy during the four months since they were abducted in Baghdad. We rejoice in the return of Harmeet Sooden. He has been willing to put his life on the line to promote justice in Iraq and Palestine as a young man newly committed to active peacemaking. We rejoice in the return of Jim Loney. He has cared for the marginalized and oppressed since childhood, and his gentle, passionate spirit has been an inspiration to people near and far. We rejoice in the return of Norman Kember. He is a faithful man, an elder and mentor to many in his 50 years of peacemaking, a man prepared to pay the cost. We remember with tears Tom Fox, whose body was found in Baghdad on March 9, 2006, after three months of captivity with his fellow peacemakers. We had longed for the day when all four men would be released together. Our gladness today is made bittersweet by the fact that Tom is not alive to join in the celebration. However, we are confident that his spirit is very much present in each reunion. Harmeet, Jim and Norman and Tom were in Iraq to learn of the struggles facing the people in that country. They went, motivated by a passion for justice and peace to live out a nonviolent alternative in a nation wracked by armed conflict. They knew that their only protection was in the power of the love of God and of their Iraqi and international co-workers. We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end.Today, in the face of this joyful news, our faith compels us to love our enemies even when they have committed acts which caused great hardship to our friends and sorrow to their families. In the spirit of the prophetic nonviolence that motivated Jim, Norman, Harmeet and Tom to go to Iraq, we refuse to yield to a spirit of vengeance. We give thanks for the compassionate God who granted our friends courage and who sustained their spirits over the past months. We pray for strength and courage for ourselves so that, together, we can continue the nonviolent struggle for justice and peace. Throughout these difficult months, we have been heartened by messages of concern for our four colleagues from all over the world. We have been especially moved by the gracious outpouring of support from Muslim brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Europe, and North America. That support continues to come to us day after day. We pray that Christians throughout the world will, in the same spirit, call for justice and for respect for the human rights of the thousands of Iraqis who are being detained illegally by the U.S. and British forces occupying Iraq. During these past months, we have tasted of the pain that has been the daily bread of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Why have our loved ones been taken? Where are they being held? Under what conditions? How are they? Will they be released? When? With Tom’s death, we felt the grief of losing a beloved friend. Today, we rejoice that our friends Harmeet, Jim and Norman have been freed safely. We continue to pray for a swift and joyful homecoming for the many Iraqis and internationals who long to be reunited with their families. We renew our commitment to work for an end to the war and the occupation of Iraq as a way to continue the witness of Tom Fox. We trust in God’s compassionate love to show us the way.

Living through the many emotions of this day, we remain committed to the words of Jim Loney, who wrote:

"With God’s abiding kindness, we will love even our enemies.

With the love of Christ, we will resist all evil.

With God’s unending faithfulness, we will work to build the beloved community."

23 March 2006

We have been so overwhelmed and overjoyed to have Jim, Harmeet and Norman freed, that we have not adequately thanked the people involved with freeing them, nor remembered those still in captivity. So we offer these paragraphs as the first of several addenda:

We are grateful to the soldiers who risked their lives to free Jim, Norman and Harmeet. As peacemakers who hold firm to our commitment to nonviolence, we are also deeply grateful that they fired no shots to free our colleagues. We are thankful to all the people who gave of themselves sacrificially to free Jim, Norman, Harmeet and Tom over the last four months, and those supporters who prayed and wept for our brothers in captivity, for their loved ones and for us, their co-workers. We will continue to lift Jill Carroll up in our prayers for her safe return. In addition, we will continue to advocate for the human rights of Iraqi detainees and assert their right to due process in a just legal system.

Doug Pritchard and Carol Rose are co-directors of Christian Peacemaker Teams.

A Christian Peacemaker Team member sets the record straight
Rev. David B. Miller
18 March 2006

I was in the city of Hebron in the West Bank in late November, part of a 10-person delegation sponsored by Christian Peacemaker Teams, when the chilling word came that four CPT members -- Tom Fox, James Loney, Harmeet Singh Sooden and Norman Kember -- had been abducted in Baghdad by a previously unknown group, the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. The world now knows that Fox, a Quaker from Virginia serving with CPT, was executed by his captors.

Cal Thomas decided to write about Fox's tragic death and offer his assessment of Christian Peacemaker Teams in his syndicated column published Wednesday in the Centre Daily Times. The people and motivations Thomas described were alien to what I know of CPT and those who serve with the organization.

Allow me, at this moment of grief, to set the record straight.

Thomas wrote, "That the 'peace activists' believed their brand of Christianity would trump the fanatical Muslims who regarded them as infidels and worthy of death ..."

CPT has functioned in Iraq since 2002, beginning several months prior to the U.S.-led invasion. Its work and motives have been closely watched by its Iraqi neighbors.

Seeing in CPT's approach a hope for the future of Iraqi society, in January 2005 a group of Iraqi Muslims asked if CPT would be willing to meet with them and train them for similar work. This was the beginning of the Muslim Peacemaker Team (MPT), which is seeking by nonviolent means to heal the wounds and mistrust between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish Iraqis.

CPT members and MPT members work together on a number of joint projects, including rebuilding work in the devastated city of Fallujah.

Thomas wrote, "It is also tragic because the likelihood that the presence of Fox and his colleagues would change the attitude or behavior of their captors was zero to none."

CPT members are not blind idealists. They have peered more deeply and honestly into the abyss of evil and understand the cycle of violence better than most people I know. They understand the risks involved in entering a place of violent conflict.

When Margaret Hassan, head of Care International's operations in Iraq for 12 years, was kidnapped and later killed, Fox wrote a statement of conviction that included these words: "If I am ever called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice in love of enemy, I trust that God will give me the grace to do so."

Team members did not go to Iraq to be kidnapped, but to help create, by nonviolent means, conditions of trust and hope that might thwart the cycle of violence and retribution.

CPT's motto, "Reducing Violence by Getting in the Way," has a twofold meaning -- team members "get in the way" by seeking to follow the example of Christ, who followed a path of nonviolent confrontation with evil; they "get in the way" by willingly placing themselves between those who are caught in the spiral of violence.

In Iraq and elsewhere, they have had an impact far beyond their ridiculously small numbers. They have on numerous occasions been protected by their Iraqi neighbors and friends for whom they have been a source of hope.

Thomas wrote, "Peace happens when evil is vanquished."

Many Christian Peacemaker Team members might agree with this statement on the surface. They categorically reject, however, the means Thomas would employ to this end.

Evil is not vanquished by violence. The vision and mission of CPT is grounded in the life and teachings of Jesus. He taught that evil is not overcome with evil, but with good. Those who would follow him in the world are called upon to "love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them." These were not abstractions but a clear, embodied example.

Roots of today's conflict can be traced, in part, to a Christian church that, in the Middle Ages, explained away the clear instructions of its Lord, embraced the sword as a means to end, and embarked on a lethal campaign of crusades that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Jews.

Thomas wrote, "The theology of Christian Peacemaker Teams is as wrong as its politics."

If, for Thomas, commitment to obedience to the life and teachings of Jesus, even to the point of being willing to lay down one's life for another, is bad theology, he thereby judges the first 300 years of Christianity as the persistent practice of "wrong theology." It was not until gaining legal status in the Roman empire that the Christian church en masse abandoned the way of nonviolence.

Thomas appears to espouse a theology that reduces the Sermon on the Mount to nothing more than a foil to lead us to grace, one that explains away Jesus' clear instructions that his followers were called to take up the cross and follow him in the way of self-giving love, and one that reduces love of enemy to a disembodied abstraction.

Thomas wrote, "(E)vil cannot be accommodated. Evil must be defeated if peace on Earth is to exist. That Fox and his colleagues could not, or would not see this, is most tragic of all."

Thomas here serves as a propagandist for the logic of holy war. In Thomas' world view, "the other" is not someone who may carry out evil actions, but the embodiment of evil itself.

Groups (nations) that adhere to such a theology or political philosophy safeguard themselves against the "messiness" of self-criticism and easily project on their "enemy" their own motives and violence. From such a position, they easily justify whatever means they deem necessary to overcome their enemy.

Such a view corrupts the individual or nation who holds it, for it leads to the easy minimizing of such things as hundreds of dead women and children as collateral damage, to destroying a city in order to save it, and to explaining away the systematic torture and abuse of prisoners as the fault of a few bad apples.

The rule of law -- such as the Geneva Conventions -- are set aside as untenable, because the current conflict is unique. The result is a willful blindness and escalation of violence.

The question that founded Christian Peacemaker Teams in the 1980s and continues to compel those who serve with CPT is this: What would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline and self-sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war? It is a question that takes them back to their source, not as an abstract religion, but as a way to be risked and followed in the world.

The Rev. David B. Miller is pastor of University Mennonite Church in State College. In November 2005, he traveled to Israel and the West Bank with Christian Peacemaker Teams.

A CPTer Responds to Cal Thomas
Kathy Kern
20 March 2006

I am writing as a grieving colleague of Tom Fox in response to Cal Thomas' March 15 column, "Tragedy of a Peace Activist." Thomas, I believe, harbors mistaken assumptions about nonviolent movements, Christian Peacemaker Teams and Tom. 1) He says that we thought our "brand" of Christianity would "trump" fanatical Muslims. We never went into Iraq with that goal. We sought to deter violence where we could, and tell stories about ordinary Iraqi Christians and Muslims that were not making the news here. We released the report of U.S. military abuses of Iraqi detainees three months before the Abu Ghraib photos hit the media. We also worked with Iraqi human rights advocates in the development of a Muslim Peacemaker Teams. 2) Thomas' comment about peace movements rarely mobilizing to oppose dictators is historically inaccurate. Nonviolent movements in Tibet and Burma, the Philippines, Latin America and Soviet Bloc countries have courageously challenged dictatorships. CPTers and their supporters who are U.S. citizens (We have offices in Chicago and Toronto) do take a special interest in what the U.S. government is doing in the rest of the world, because it uses U.S. tax dollars to support oppressive regimes. Like Israeli and South African human rights advocates, we challenge our government when it is committing abuses that democratic societies should not tolerate; we want our government to behave as though the rest of the world is entitled to the same civil rights that U.S. citizens have. 3) Thomas' story about Charles Brown implies that CPT has had a close relationship with the Iraqi government. We intentionally work at a grassroots level on all our projects because we do not wish to be affiliated with or give allegiance to any government besides the Kingdom of God. (And many of us American CPTers were decrying Saddam Hussein’s vile dictatorship back when our government was giving him military aid.) 4) We do not believe that "evil people will be nice to us if we are nice to them." We do believe that Jesus meant what he said when he told his followers, "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked." (Luke 6:35) Christian Peacemaker Teams agrees with Cal Thomas on at least one point: "Evil cannot be accommodated. Evil must be defeated if peace on Earth is to exist." We strive with all our might to fight the Evil that says it is acceptable to bomb and torture people, that some lives are worth more than others, that we can ignore what Jesus said about treating "the least of these" as we would treat Him. In 2004, Tom wrote about confronting Evil like this: "I have visual references and written models of CPTers standing firm against the overt aggression of an army, be it regular or paramilitary. But how do you stand firm against a car-bomber or a kidnapper? Clearly the soldier disconnected from God needs to have me fight. Just as clearly the terrorist disconnected from God needs to have me flee. Both are willing to kill me using different means to achieve he same end--that end being to increase the parasitic power of Satan within God's good creation. "It seems easier somehow to confront anger within my heart than it is to confront fear. But if Jesus and Gandhi are right then I am not to give in to either. I am to stand firm against the kidnapper as I am to stand firm against the soldier. Does that mean I walk into a raging battle to confront the soldiers? Does that mean I walk the streets of Baghdad with a sign saying "American for the Taking?" No to both counts. But if Jesus and Gandhi are right, then I am asked to risk my life, and if I lose it to be as forgiving as they were when murdered by the forces of Satan. "Standing firm is a struggle, but I'm willing to keep working at it."

Tragedy of a peace activist
Cal Thomas15 March 2006

The death of "peace activist" Tom Fox, and the threatened execution of the three others held with him in Iraq, is doubly tragic.
It is tragic whenever an innocent person is murdered. It is also tragic because the likelihood that the presence of Fox and his colleagues would change the attitude or behavior of their captors was zero to none. That the "peace activists" believed their brand of Christianity would trump the fanatical Muslims who regarded them as infidels and worthy of death meant Fox and the others would either be used for propaganda purposes by the enemies of freedom, or made to sacrifice their lives like animals on an ancient altar in the furtherance of the fanatics' dream of a theocratic state. In this instance they were used for both.
The activists' motive was exposed in a statement from Christian Peacemaker Teams, under whose auspices Fox and the others traveled to Iraq. Spokeswoman Jessica Phillips said, "We believe that the root cause of the abduction of our colleagues is the U.S.- and British-led invasion and occupation of Iraq."
Strange thing about these peace movements: they rarely mobilize to oppose the killing, torture and imprisonment practiced by dictators. It is only when their own country attempts to end the oppression that the activists become active against America, not the initiators of evil. Peace, like happiness, is a byproduct, not a goal that can be unilaterally attained. Peace happens when evil is vanquished.
The theology of Christian Peacemaker Teams is as wrong as its politics. The statement about Fox's death claimed he had a "firm opposition to all oppression and the recognition of God in everyone." Perhaps if Christian Peacemaker Teams had gone to Iraq during Saddam Hussein's murderous regime, or to China while Mao Tse-tung was slaughtering millions, or to Moscow while Josef Stalin practiced genocide on his people, or to any number of other capitals of carnage, they might be taken more seriously, though under those regimes they might have disappeared much quicker. Was God "in" these mass murderers, or was it Lucifer?
A far more credible and compelling insight about peace activism and its consequences comes from Charles M. Brown, who was 19 when he fought in Operation Desert Storm, a conflict that repelled Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. When Mr. Brown returned home, he worked in homeless shelters operated by liberal Catholic Worker activists and gravitated toward their position against U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq for failing to comply with its promises to cease hostilities.
Mr. Brown says he traveled to Iraq in 1998 to see the effects of sanctions. He says he made two speaking tours of college campuses to denounce sanctions. When he tried to return to Iraq with a Chicago group called "Voices in the Wilderness," Mr. Brown says he was told by Iraqi government officials he could not speak about Saddam's "horrendous human-rights record, [his] involvement with weapons of mass destruction [or] the dictatorial nature of the regime. We were allowed to speak only of one thing: the deprivations suffered by ordinary Iraqis under the sanctions regime."
Mr. Brown says he realized this was pure Ba'ath Party propaganda: "As I came to see this as a complicity and collaboration with one of the most abusive dictatorships in the world, I tried to get the rest of my group to acknowledge that our close relationship with the regime damaged our credibility. I failed to persuade them, so I quit." His "Confessions of an Anti-Sanctions Activist," published in the summer 2003 issue of Middle East Quarterly, is sober reading for people who believe the United States is the problem and that evil people will be nice to us if we are nice to them.
It is too bad Tom Fox and his three colleagues did not have an epiphany similar to that of Charles Brown.
Peace "activism" may make its practitioners feel good, or validate their belief they are doing the will of God. But evil cannot be accommodated. Evil must be defeated if peace on Earth is to exist. That Fox and his colleagues could not, or would not see this, is most tragic of all. Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.


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