Churches urged to consider more radical peacemaking following Iraq hostage release

By staff writers
March 24, 2006

Churches urged to consider more radical peacemaking following Iraq hostage release

-24/03/06

Following the news that the three members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq, Norman Kember, Harmeet Singh Sooden and Jim Loney have been freed nonviolently, a former director of the group is urging churches to consider more radical peacemaking stands.

Writing for UK religious thinktank Ekklesia, which works to promote peacemaking and nonviolent initiatives and works in partnership with CPT in the UK, Gene Stoltzfus states; "People working for peace around the world, and there are millions of us, are seeking answers to the following three questions: Who carries out operations like this? Why do people do such things? What does this experience mean for the future of a nonviolent answer to terrorism?"

"There may be more than one answer to these interrelated questions, answers that will stretch our imaginations. I worked with the first question several months ago where I tried to place this incident in the world wide culture of war and terrorism."

"But that was just a start. Even if we did have incontrovertible evidence of who did this specific captive taking we still need an action plan for the whole peacemaking family, a real plan that ends captivity and releases all detainees. Our hearts tell us we need a comprehensive answer to war and terrorism that has integrity not only to respond to this incident but long into the future for our human family. Finding answers to these questions may help us complete our cautious celebration for the release of the Baghdad peacemakers."

Quoting one of Ekklesia's director Simon Barrow, Stoltzfus writes; ìChristian peace makers have great respect for those who carried out the operation to free the captives, but they nevertheless remain firmly committed to nonviolence as the only effective, long-term way to break the cycles of hatred, revenge, terror and killing which are destroying Iraq and threatening the world.î

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Said Barrow: ìMany people will continue to question the propriety of unarmed interventions in places of great danger and conflict. But Christian Peacemaker Teams have made it clear that they will not be deterred by threats or opposition. They are tough-minded people who know the situation and know what they were doing. When Jesus called on his followers to make peace, he never said it was going to be anything other than risky ñ and he paid with his life.î

"The answer that our Christian community gives to these questions has implications for all of our future and it requires our best thinking and action. In the face of overwhelming danger should peacemakers leave Iraq? Do peacemakers belong in such confusing conditions?"

Quoting the words of Jesus Christ about peacemaking in the gospels, which have inspired such figures as Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jnr he said; "I would like to invite congregations and parishes to take one or more Christian Education hours to discuss the following scripture, Matt. 5: 9-15 in the backdrop of this experience of captivity and the ongoing crisis of detainees and captives."

"Can we work to answer the question, how should Christian peacemakers place themselves into difficult situations where terrorism is rampant? Is there a more disciplined way in which peacemaker work might function more effectively in our congregation to overcome terrorism and war? These are the two questions I bring to these words from Matthew. You are invited to ask your own questions from your situation remembering that our answers have everything to do with the future of our children, our youth and students, our family life and retired people."

Similar nonviolent initiatives to those run by Christian Peacemaker Teams in hotspots around the world have received widespread praise by such people as former US President Jimmy Carter.

Gene Stoltzfus was director of Christian Peacemaker Teams until September 2004

Churches urged to consider more radical peacemaking following Iraq hostage release

-24/03/06

Following the news that the three members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq, Norman Kember, Harmeet Singh Sooden and Jim Loney have been freed nonviolently, a former director of the group is urging churches to consider more radical peacemaking stands.

Writing for UK religious thinktank Ekklesia, which works to promote peacemaking and nonviolent initiatives and works in partnership with CPT in the UK, Gene Stoltzfus states; "People working for peace around the world, and there are millions of us, are seeking answers to the following three questions: Who carries out operations like this? Why do people do such things? What does this experience mean for the future of a nonviolent answer to terrorism?"

"There may be more than one answer to these interrelated questions, answers that will stretch our imaginations. I worked with the first question several months ago where I tried to place this incident in the world wide culture of war and terrorism."

"But that was just a start. Even if we did have incontrovertible evidence of who did this specific captive taking we still need an action plan for the whole peacemaking family, a real plan that ends captivity and releases all detainees. Our hearts tell us we need a comprehensive answer to war and terrorism that has integrity not only to respond to this incident but long into the future for our human family. Finding answers to these questions may help us complete our cautious celebration for the release of the Baghdad peacemakers."

Quoting one of Ekklesia's director Simon Barrow, Stoltzfus writes; ìChristian peace makers have great respect for those who carried out the operation to free the captives, but they nevertheless remain firmly committed to nonviolence as the only effective, long-term way to break the cycles of hatred, revenge, terror and killing which are destroying Iraq and threatening the world.î

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Said Barrow: ìMany people will continue to question the propriety of unarmed interventions in places of great danger and conflict. But Christian Peacemaker Teams have made it clear that they will not be deterred by threats or opposition. They are tough-minded people who know the situation and know what they were doing. When Jesus called on his followers to make peace, he never said it was going to be anything other than risky ñ and he paid with his life.î

"The answer that our Christian community gives to these questions has implications for all of our future and it requires our best thinking and action. In the face of overwhelming danger should peacemakers leave Iraq? Do peacemakers belong in such confusing conditions?"

Quoting the words of Jesus Christ about peacemaking in the gospels, which have inspired such figures as Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jnr he said; "I would like to invite congregations and parishes to take one or more Christian Education hours to discuss the following scripture, Matt. 5: 9-15 in the backdrop of this experience of captivity and the ongoing crisis of detainees and captives."

"Can we work to answer the question, how should Christian peacemakers place themselves into difficult situations where terrorism is rampant? Is there a more disciplined way in which peacemaker work might function more effectively in our congregation to overcome terrorism and war? These are the two questions I bring to these words from Matthew. You are invited to ask your own questions from your situation remembering that our answers have everything to do with the future of our children, our youth and students, our family life and retired people."

Similar nonviolent initiatives to those run by Christian Peacemaker Teams in hotspots around the world have received widespread praise by such people as former US President Jimmy Carter.

Gene Stoltzfus was director of Christian Peacemaker Teams until September 2004

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.