Christians defend Iraq nonviolence tactics against critics

By staff writers
March 23, 2006

Christians defend Iraq nonviolence tactics against critics

-23/03/06

Worldwide coverage of the release of three Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq has provoked an immediate debate about nonviolent tactics in the face of war and terror. But CPT has strongly defended the integrity of its operations against claims of naivete and irresponsibility.

And supporters of the Christian Peacemakers say that their critics are often ignorant of their methods, motives and achievements

The BBC website online has been overwhelmed with messages expressing happiness at the outcome of a multilateral forcesí action freeing 74-year-old Briton Norman Kember and Canadians Jim Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden, all CPT volunteers in Baghdad.

However a large number of visitors have also criticised Christian Peacemaker Teams, alleging that their actions in highlighting detainee abuses and opposing the occupation and military action have been ìfoolishî.

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Peter Thompson of Howden writes: ìI think that it is legitimate to question why these people where there in the first place. They have put many peoplesí lives at risk by their actions.î

And a correspondent from Wales ads: ìit is perhaps rather ironic that Mr Kember was saved by the very troops that he was protesting against - 'peace activists' should stay away. There is nothing useful they can do there and they are only a hindrance to our troops.î

Director of the Christian thinktank Ekklesia, which works in partnership with CPT and advocates nonviolence, defended the tactics of Christian peacemakers on BBC televison's News 24, World Service and Radio 5 Live.

"It should be remembered that Christian Peacemakers were in Iraq before the invasion, and have a track record of resolving conflict at a time when many are suggesting that Iraq is on the verge of civil war" Jonathan Bartley said.

"Christian peacemakers have worked successfully to empower the the Iraqi people to make peace themselves, at a time when the US and UK governments appear powerless to do so."

Christian Peacemaker Teams says that it is vital that people working for nonviolent solutions in situations of conflict show the same courage and resolve as the military do. The difference, they say, is that violence is ultimately part of the problem and so cannot be part of the solution.

Felicity Wormwood from London responded to critics on the BBC comment board: ìI doubt that a 74-year-old man who went as a peacemaker to a country battered by war and insurgency made the decision out of ënaiveteí. I find it much more likely that Mr Kember knew and accepted the risks he faced as a Christian from a ëcoalitioní country in Iraq. I am profoundly Ö humbled to see someone willing to risk their life to put their faith into action rather than just words.î

Talking to the BBC at lunchtime today, Canon Andrew White, Anglican vicar of Baghdad, said that the situation regarding security and hostage taking in Iraq has been getting progressively worse.

While declining to condemn Christian Peacemaker Teams for their presence, he said that the freeing of the three indicated the necessity of military force, adding that the country ìwas no place for lone rangers.î

However well-known Methodist preacher and broadcaster Rob Frost, who interviewed his friend Norman Kember on Premier Radio before his Iraq trip, denied that the CPTer was naÔve and forthrightly commended his courage.

He said ìI congratulate him for goingÖ it can bring hope and build bridges that armed force cannot bringÖ The news media often do not cover those personal [initiatives]î

Christian Peacemaker spokesperson Peggy Gish, who also writes for Ekklesia, told the BBC World At One Programme: ìAll of us on the Iraq team have taken a great risk ñ but we still look back on our work as very important.î

She continued: ìI donít think we have been irresponsible. There are people being killed and tortured in Iraq Öon a daily basis. We are reporting human rights abuses, and we believe that when governments and agencies are watching and acting [on these], this reduces the amount of violence going on.î

Concluded Ms Gish: ìWe are all very excited and deeply grateful that [our friends] have been restored to us. But we continue to mourn the loss of Tom Fox.î

She said that it was unfair to say that the CPTers had put the lives of others at risk, since the Team has repeatedly said that it does not want violence used to release its captives. That was also a pledge made by Kember, Loney, Sooden and Fox.

Christian Peacemaker Teams has welcomed the fact that no-one was killed or injured in the multilateral operation which freed the hostages.

Commented Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow: ìIt is not surprising that Christian Peacemaker Teams have been criticised for their actions. Nonviolence in situations of war and terror is a risky business. But the critics are often ill-informed about the care CPT takes in its operations.î

He added: ìWithout CPT and people like Norman, Jim, Harmeet and Tom, the world would not have known so soon about Abu Ghraib. This is a fact the media often overlook. The way of Christ is to repay evil with good ñ a baffling but vital thing to do in a world torn apart by hatred.î

Ms Gish said that following the release of their three colleagues and the death of Tom Fox there will be a careful further evaluation of Christian Peacemaker Teamsí work in Iraq.

[Also on Ekklesia: FaithinSociety blog news updates; Christians urge love of enemies in face of hostage crisis 23/03/06; Joy as Christian Peacemakers are freed in Iraq 23/03/06; Exploring Christianity and violence; CPT comment following the death of Tom Fox March 13. Christian Peacemaker Teams home page.]

Christians defend Iraq nonviolence tactics against critics

-23/03/06

Worldwide coverage of the release of three Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq has provoked an immediate debate about nonviolent tactics in the face of war and terror. But CPT has strongly defended the integrity of its operations against claims of naivete and irresponsibility.

And supporters of the Christian Peacemakers say that their critics are often ignorant of their methods, motives and achievements

The BBC website online has been overwhelmed with messages expressing happiness at the outcome of a multilateral forcesí action freeing 74-year-old Briton Norman Kember and Canadians Jim Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden, all CPT volunteers in Baghdad.

However a large number of visitors have also criticised Christian Peacemaker Teams, alleging that their actions in highlighting detainee abuses and opposing the occupation and military action have been ìfoolishî.

Related Articles

Peter Thompson of Howden writes: ìI think that it is legitimate to question why these people where there in the first place. They have put many peoplesí lives at risk by their actions.î

And a correspondent from Wales ads: ìit is perhaps rather ironic that Mr Kember was saved by the very troops that he was protesting against - 'peace activists' should stay away. There is nothing useful they can do there and they are only a hindrance to our troops.î

Director of the Christian thinktank Ekklesia, which works in partnership with CPT and advocates nonviolence, defended the tactics of Christian peacemakers on BBC televison's News 24, World Service and Radio 5 Live.

"It should be remembered that Christian Peacemakers were in Iraq before the invasion, and have a track record of resolving conflict at a time when many are suggesting that Iraq is on the verge of civil war" Jonathan Bartley said.

"Christian peacemakers have worked successfully to empower the the Iraqi people to make peace themselves, at a time when the US and UK governments appear powerless to do so."

Christian Peacemaker Teams says that it is vital that people working for nonviolent solutions in situations of conflict show the same courage and resolve as the military do. The difference, they say, is that violence is ultimately part of the problem and so cannot be part of the solution.

Felicity Wormwood from London responded to critics on the BBC comment board: ìI doubt that a 74-year-old man who went as a peacemaker to a country battered by war and insurgency made the decision out of ënaiveteí. I find it much more likely that Mr Kember knew and accepted the risks he faced as a Christian from a ëcoalitioní country in Iraq. I am profoundly Ö humbled to see someone willing to risk their life to put their faith into action rather than just words.î

Talking to the BBC at lunchtime today, Canon Andrew White, Anglican vicar of Baghdad, said that the situation regarding security and hostage taking in Iraq has been getting progressively worse.

While declining to condemn Christian Peacemaker Teams for their presence, he said that the freeing of the three indicated the necessity of military force, adding that the country ìwas no place for lone rangers.î

However well-known Methodist preacher and broadcaster Rob Frost, who interviewed his friend Norman Kember on Premier Radio before his Iraq trip, denied that the CPTer was naÔve and forthrightly commended his courage.

He said ìI congratulate him for goingÖ it can bring hope and build bridges that armed force cannot bringÖ The news media often do not cover those personal [initiatives]î

Christian Peacemaker spokesperson Peggy Gish, who also writes for Ekklesia, told the BBC World At One Programme: ìAll of us on the Iraq team have taken a great risk ñ but we still look back on our work as very important.î

She continued: ìI donít think we have been irresponsible. There are people being killed and tortured in Iraq Öon a daily basis. We are reporting human rights abuses, and we believe that when governments and agencies are watching and acting [on these], this reduces the amount of violence going on.î

Concluded Ms Gish: ìWe are all very excited and deeply grateful that [our friends] have been restored to us. But we continue to mourn the loss of Tom Fox.î

She said that it was unfair to say that the CPTers had put the lives of others at risk, since the Team has repeatedly said that it does not want violence used to release its captives. That was also a pledge made by Kember, Loney, Sooden and Fox.

Christian Peacemaker Teams has welcomed the fact that no-one was killed or injured in the multilateral operation which freed the hostages.

Commented Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow: ìIt is not surprising that Christian Peacemaker Teams have been criticised for their actions. Nonviolence in situations of war and terror is a risky business. But the critics are often ill-informed about the care CPT takes in its operations.î

He added: ìWithout CPT and people like Norman, Jim, Harmeet and Tom, the world would not have known so soon about Abu Ghraib. This is a fact the media often overlook. The way of Christ is to repay evil with good ñ a baffling but vital thing to do in a world torn apart by hatred.î

Ms Gish said that following the release of their three colleagues and the death of Tom Fox there will be a careful further evaluation of Christian Peacemaker Teamsí work in Iraq.

[Also on Ekklesia: FaithinSociety blog news updates; Christians urge love of enemies in face of hostage crisis 23/03/06; Joy as Christian Peacemakers are freed in Iraq 23/03/06; Exploring Christianity and violence; CPT comment following the death of Tom Fox March 13. Christian Peacemaker Teams home page.]

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.