Think tank questions 'ungrateful peacemakers' media allegations

By staff writers
March 24, 2006

Think tank questions 'ungrateful peacemakers' media allegations

-24/03/06

The UK religious think tank Ekklesia, which works in partnership with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in the UK, has responded to continuing media criticism of Christian Peacemakers for alleged ingratitude towards those who freed Norman Kember and two Canadian colleagues yesterday, and for the supposed irresponsibility of its actions in Iraq.

Speaking to Channel 4 News in the UK, Ekklesia director Jonathan Bartley explained why accusations that the CPT hostages had exposed their rescuers to danger were inaccurate.

The organisationís workers in Iraq had explicitly stated that in the event of capture they did not wish to be freed by military action, he said.

The Christian Peacemakers took this stance because they did not want to expose others to danger, to divert resources from humanitarian work, or to create any escalation of violence, said Mr Bartley.

Instead, they were willing to lay down their lives if necessary ñ and Tom Fox had done so, he added.

But this did not mean that CPT was ungrateful to those who helped them. Both the organisation (in a statement last night) and Mr Kemberís wife (speaking today) had made statements of appreciation to the soldiers and others involved.

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There was particular gratitude that the eventual freeing of Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember had been non-violent, with no further deaths or injuries incurred.

Mr Bartley pointed out that the presence of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq was well-established and that they had maintained an almost continuous presence in Iraq since October 2002, six months before the US-led invasion. They were not ìrecent interlopersî, as some had alleged.

In advocating for human rights, he said, the organisation (an agency established through the Mennonite, Quaker and Brethren in Christ churches) had played a key role in exposing detainee abuses, four months before the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Whereas US President George Bushís invocation of God in support of the invasion had alienated Muslims and exposed Iraqi Christians to abuse, CPT showed that followers of Jesus supported peace and justice for all, and in particular Muslims, he said.

The Ekklesia director told Channel 4 that far from endangering lives, Christian Peacemakers had played a unique role in building bridges between Shias and Sunnis, something the armed forces had been unable to do.

He cited a recent demonstration which brought together people from different religious and ethnic communities, and also the role of CPT in facilitating the formation of a Muslim Peacemakers Team composed of Shias and Sunnis together.

Meanwhile Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow, who has worked for the churches ecumenically in Britain and Ireland, expressed concern about the tenor of some of the criticism.

ìWhile the humanitarian intent of the rescue operation is to be warmly welcomed, it should not be overlooked that the US and British authorities also seem to be enjoying the propaganda value of the outcome in the face of public outcry against their military strategyî, he commented.

ìIt also seems unreasonable to ignore CPTís willingness to operate without armed protection, and then accuse them of diverting resources.î

In an article published today entitled Contending the logic of violence, Mr Barrow writes: ìChristian Peacemaker Teams operate with care and consideration. They train, prepare and support people with a dedication that far exceeds the easy condemnations of their critics.î

Commenting on the apparent irony of pacifists being freed by soldiers, he observes: ìIn a world where toxic religion is fuelling both heartless jihad and gung-ho militarism it would surely be a far greater irony to deny the witness of those whose chief role is to demonstrate that human beings do not have to live in the enmity of might-is-right.î

Meanwhile, in a statement issued last night, the day of the rescue, Christian Peacemaker Teams said: ìWe 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.î

It continues: ìWe are grateful to the soldiers who risked their livesÖ As peacemakers who hold firm to our commitment to non-violence, 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.î

CPT concludes: ìWe 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.î

As an independent think tank Ekklesia has built a reciprocal relationship with Christian Peacemaker Teams in the UK, part of the organisationís international network. It shares CPTís concern to explore practical, non-violent alternatives in situations of conflict and injustice.

[Also on Ekklesia: Press briefing on released Christian Peacemakers (23/03/06); news updates on FaithInSociety; Contending the logic of violence (24/03/06) - Simon Barrow says that true Christian peacemaking cannot afford naivete; Churches urged to consider more radical peacemaking following Iraq hostage release (24/03/06); Questions asked about intelligence that preceded Christian peacemaker's release (24/03/06); Nonviolent release for Christian peacemakers (23/03/06); Press briefing on released Christian Peacemakers (23/03/06); Christians defend Iraq nonviolence tactics against critics (23/03/06); 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 - meeting in London on 30 March 2006]

Think tank questions 'ungrateful peacemakers' media allegations

-24/03/06

The UK religious think tank Ekklesia, which works in partnership with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in the UK, has responded to continuing media criticism of Christian Peacemakers for alleged ingratitude towards those who freed Norman Kember and two Canadian colleagues yesterday, and for the supposed irresponsibility of its actions in Iraq.

Speaking to Channel 4 News in the UK, Ekklesia director Jonathan Bartley explained why accusations that the CPT hostages had exposed their rescuers to danger were inaccurate.

The organisationís workers in Iraq had explicitly stated that in the event of capture they did not wish to be freed by military action, he said.

The Christian Peacemakers took this stance because they did not want to expose others to danger, to divert resources from humanitarian work, or to create any escalation of violence, said Mr Bartley.

Instead, they were willing to lay down their lives if necessary ñ and Tom Fox had done so, he added.

But this did not mean that CPT was ungrateful to those who helped them. Both the organisation (in a statement last night) and Mr Kemberís wife (speaking today) had made statements of appreciation to the soldiers and others involved.

Related Articles

There was particular gratitude that the eventual freeing of Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember had been non-violent, with no further deaths or injuries incurred.

Mr Bartley pointed out that the presence of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq was well-established and that they had maintained an almost continuous presence in Iraq since October 2002, six months before the US-led invasion. They were not ìrecent interlopersî, as some had alleged.

In advocating for human rights, he said, the organisation (an agency established through the Mennonite, Quaker and Brethren in Christ churches) had played a key role in exposing detainee abuses, four months before the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Whereas US President George Bushís invocation of God in support of the invasion had alienated Muslims and exposed Iraqi Christians to abuse, CPT showed that followers of Jesus supported peace and justice for all, and in particular Muslims, he said.

The Ekklesia director told Channel 4 that far from endangering lives, Christian Peacemakers had played a unique role in building bridges between Shias and Sunnis, something the armed forces had been unable to do.

He cited a recent demonstration which brought together people from different religious and ethnic communities, and also the role of CPT in facilitating the formation of a Muslim Peacemakers Team composed of Shias and Sunnis together.

Meanwhile Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow, who has worked for the churches ecumenically in Britain and Ireland, expressed concern about the tenor of some of the criticism.

ìWhile the humanitarian intent of the rescue operation is to be warmly welcomed, it should not be overlooked that the US and British authorities also seem to be enjoying the propaganda value of the outcome in the face of public outcry against their military strategyî, he commented.

ìIt also seems unreasonable to ignore CPTís willingness to operate without armed protection, and then accuse them of diverting resources.î

In an article published today entitled Contending the logic of violence, Mr Barrow writes: ìChristian Peacemaker Teams operate with care and consideration. They train, prepare and support people with a dedication that far exceeds the easy condemnations of their critics.î

Commenting on the apparent irony of pacifists being freed by soldiers, he observes: ìIn a world where toxic religion is fuelling both heartless jihad and gung-ho militarism it would surely be a far greater irony to deny the witness of those whose chief role is to demonstrate that human beings do not have to live in the enmity of might-is-right.î

Meanwhile, in a statement issued last night, the day of the rescue, Christian Peacemaker Teams said: ìWe 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.î

It continues: ìWe are grateful to the soldiers who risked their livesÖ As peacemakers who hold firm to our commitment to non-violence, 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.î

CPT concludes: ìWe 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.î

As an independent think tank Ekklesia has built a reciprocal relationship with Christian Peacemaker Teams in the UK, part of the organisationís international network. It shares CPTís concern to explore practical, non-violent alternatives in situations of conflict and injustice.

[Also on Ekklesia: Press briefing on released Christian Peacemakers (23/03/06); news updates on FaithInSociety; Contending the logic of violence (24/03/06) - Simon Barrow says that true Christian peacemaking cannot afford naivete; Churches urged to consider more radical peacemaking following Iraq hostage release (24/03/06); Questions asked about intelligence that preceded Christian peacemaker's release (24/03/06); Nonviolent release for Christian peacemakers (23/03/06); Press briefing on released Christian Peacemakers (23/03/06); Christians defend Iraq nonviolence tactics against critics (23/03/06); 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 - meeting in London on 30 March 2006]

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.