“We must be prepared to risk as much in our work as soldiers do in war.” Whatever the wording, this is an old sentiment among peacemakers, though most of us aren't put to the test.
For Christian Peacemaker Team members, though, the saying reflects daily experience as well as core beliefs. I say this from having seen CPT in action in Occupied Palestine.
My wonderful friend Kathy Kern, based in a Mennonite household in Webster, travels globally on CPT missions (here the word doesn’t have the odor of “crusade”). For a long time she lived with other CPTers in the middle of Hebron. And I do mean the middle: the group rented an upper-floor apartment above the main market street, down a few doors from a small but well-armed “settlement” of far-right Israeli Jews whose stated objective was to take all of the city and region from the 150,000 Palestinians there.
The Hebron settlers were clearly as dangerous as they were fascistic, but Kathy and the team didn’t give in to fear. Their purpose was simply to put themselves between warring factions to calm things down, if possible. Just as important, they bore witness to what was happening to Palestinians in Hebron every day: the full catalogue of oppression and humiliation. And with emails and webpages, op-eds and lectures, they let the whole world know.
Last week four CPT members - Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney, Norman Kember, and Tom Fox - were abducted in Iraq. Their captors probably don’t know how CPT has kept faith with the Iraqi people throughout the war (and through the preceding “cold war” of lethal US sanctions). Or how the group played a decisive role in revealing the crimes at Abu Ghraib, among other places. Or how the Baghdad-based team made it a point to live among the oppressed and help shoulder their burdens. (One photo now circulating of Tom Fox shows him cleaning up debris in the streets of Fallujah after the brutal, practically indiscriminate US military attack on that city.)
The captors probably, perhaps understandably, are filled with hatred toward the US, and the CPTers could be facing torture or death. Thus people worldwide are demanding that the four be released unharmed – maybe “praying for” is better than “demanding,” given CPT’s special devotion to prayer in its active, nonviolent, in-the-trenches form.
You can add your name to a petition for their release at www.freethecpt.org, and you can find all sorts of relevant information at www.cpt.org.