Muslims urge release of Christian peacemakers missing in Iraq
Palestinian Muslims have called for the release of the four Christian peacemakers who were abducted in Iraq at the beginning of the week.
It comes after the Arabic news service Al-Jazeera aired video footage from a previously unknown militant group showing the four kidnapped peace activists, alongside a statement from the group calling them 'spies'.
However, the Palestinian Muslims have suggested publicly that such allegations are mistaken and point out that the peacemakers vigorously opposed the invasion of Iraq.
At a press conference yesterday the National and Islamic Forces in Hebron also asked for the release of the four members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) being held by an Iraqi armed group.
They released a joint statement expressing their "sorrow at the [disappearance] 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 neighbourhood of Hebron. He spoke of his warm feelings about 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 it. "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 missing in Iraq. As the participants left, one after another stopped to express their sympathy, and their hope that the four peace activists will soon be free.
CPT is a partner of Ekklesia. You can read Ekklesia's briefing on Christian Peacemaker Teams here