Critics of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq accused of being ill-informed

By staff writers
April 16, 2006

Critics of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq accused of being ill-informed

-16/04/06

The sometimes heated discussion about the role of Christian Peacemaker Teams in conflict zones such as Iraq has continued over the Easter weekend, following Baghdad kidnap victim Norman Kemberís first full-length interview on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday (15 April 2006).

Speaking last night in a debate and phone-in on BBC Radio 5 Live with Royal United Services Institute spokesperson Amyas Godfrey, Jonathan Bartley of the UK religious think tank Ekklesia offered a robust defence of the role and work of CPT.

Mr Bartley, who has first-hand information about the way Christian Peacemaker Teams operates, told the programme that media hostility towards Dr Kember had been significantly stoked by the way the kidnap story had been interpreted by the military and by ill-informed commentary.

The Observer newspaper today (16 April) reports Ekklesiaís discovery that when the head of the British Army, General Sir Mike Jackson, made a media statement about the supposed lack of gratitude shown by Norman Kember towards his rescuers, he was unaware that Christian Peacemaker Teamsí had made a public expression of thanks on the day of their release. It was posted on their website.

When Ekklesia talked to the Ministry of Defence press office, they conceded that this was the case but were unable to offer an explanation of the oversight or further comment. Mr Kember confirmed his ìcontinued thanksî to the men who freed him in his interview with the BBCís Fergeal Keane yesterday.

Speaking on the BBC 5 Live Steve Nolan programme, Jonathan Bartley of Ekklesia rebutted widespread allegations that Christian Peacemaker Teams has been naÔve and ill-prepared. He pointed out that CPT had a long-term commitment to peacebuilding and violence reduction in Iraq which predated the 2003 allied invasion.

He said that in-depth preparation and careful security protocols were involved in CPTís operations, and that they had succeeded in fostering cooperation between Sunnis and Shias in ways the military were unable to ñ in the face of an occupation which had escalated tension and division inside the country.

CPT had also uncovered 72 examples of prisoner abuse 4 months before the Abu Ghraib scandal came to light, he remarked.

Mr Bartley said that it was untrue to claim that CPTís workers brought risk on soldiers who freed them, in the end without violence. He cited defence expert Colonel Michael Dewar as confirming this point in a BBC Radio 2 broadcast - on 28 March 2006.

Far from bringing risk to those they worked with, Christian peacemakers explicitly sought to operate without armed protection in order to reduce tension and minimise danger to others, commented Bartley. They went out of their way not to cause harm to others.

Before the November 2005 kidnapping, which left American Tom Fox dead and three other members of a short-term delegation (including Dr Kember) incarcerated for four month, CPT had been operating for three years with nine teams and 100 workers without incident, said the Ekklesia director ñ ìa point ignored by the criticsî.

However, Captain Godfrey of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) maintained that CPT workers in Iraq had been ìnaÔve at best and completely irresponsible at worstî.

While conceding that ìthere is a right for people promoting peace to goî to a place like Iraq, he claimed that non-violent activists ìstill expect to be rescuedî by the army if they got into trouble.

When it was confirmed that CPT volunteers specifically ask the military not to intervene on their behalf, and sign contracts stating this, Godfrey replied that the services have an ìobligationî to do so ñ a decision which the peace workers point out is beyond their control as well as against their expressed intentions.

The RUSI spokesperson also suggested that Christian Peacemaker Teams had inadequate links with NGOs in Iraq and lacked Arabic language skills ñ both points which Bartley says are ìdemonstrably untrueî.

Captain Godfrey additionally criticised CPT for its use of translators, saying that this made them targets. However the translator accompanying the four CPT delegates abducted outside a Baghdad mosque was not harmed in the incident.

On the 5 Live programme, Jonathan Bartley regretted that peace workers were being singled out for criticism ñ in ways which journalists, construction workers, aid agency staff and other civilians had not been.

Commented Ekklesiaís Simon Barrow after the programme: ìRUSI is a highly respected organisation and Amyas Godfrey is listed by them as an expert on defence policy, military operations and current military issues relating to the UK Armed Forces. It is puzzling, therefore, that, while publicly criticising the group, he actually appears to know little of CPT and its work. It would be good to find out from the Institute where these misperceptions have come from.î

In a separate development, Channel 4 television news said last night that it had acquired an ìinternal documentî which shows that Christian Peacemaker Teams are ìactively recruitingî to send another team to Iraq.

But Ekklesia has pointed out that the 11 April document is in fact publicly available, and concerns a general desire to expand CPTís role in a number of contexts if personnel are willing and resources allow.

Christian Peacemaker Teams spokesperson Doug Pritchard confirmed to the BBC yesterday that the organisationís Iraq work is currently under review. There is a desire to continue in Iraq if possible, but only after careful thought and discussion.

A CPT UK representative told Ekklesia that Channel 4ís claim to have an internal memo was ìa bit odd, considering that the article is linked to from a big headline on the front page of the public CPT site.î

The BBC interview with Norman Kember will be available for a week on their internet webcast 'listen again' service.

[Also on Ekklesia: Army chief spoke without knowledge on alleged Kember ingratitude -28/03/06; What Norman said - from Iraq captive Kember's BBC interview 15/04/06; Entombed Iraq captive Jim Loney talks of Easter Hope 15/04/06; Kember notes irony of non-violent release by soldiers 15/04/06; Kember still evaluating Christian peacemaker's role in Iraq 15/04/06; Christian peacemaker Norman Kember to give first major interview tomorrow 14/04/06; CPT in Iraq: What now? 04/04/06 - Peggy Gish reflects on the future of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq. Briefing on media accusations against Christian Peacemaker Teams - detailed background; Contending the logic of violence - Ekklesia's Simon Barrow says that true Christian peacemaking cannot afford naivete]

Critics of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq accused of being ill-informed

-16/04/06

The sometimes heated discussion about the role of Christian Peacemaker Teams in conflict zones such as Iraq has continued over the Easter weekend, following Baghdad kidnap victim Norman Kemberís first full-length interview on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday (15 April 2006).

Speaking last night in a debate and phone-in on BBC Radio 5 Live with Royal United Services Institute spokesperson Amyas Godfrey, Jonathan Bartley of the UK religious think tank Ekklesia offered a robust defence of the role and work of CPT.

Mr Bartley, who has first-hand information about the way Christian Peacemaker Teams operates, told the programme that media hostility towards Dr Kember had been significantly stoked by the way the kidnap story had been interpreted by the military and by ill-informed commentary.

The Observer newspaper today (16 April) reports Ekklesiaís discovery that when the head of the British Army, General Sir Mike Jackson, made a media statement about the supposed lack of gratitude shown by Norman Kember towards his rescuers, he was unaware that Christian Peacemaker Teamsí had made a public expression of thanks on the day of their release. It was posted on their website.

When Ekklesia talked to the Ministry of Defence press office, they conceded that this was the case but were unable to offer an explanation of the oversight or further comment. Mr Kember confirmed his ìcontinued thanksî to the men who freed him in his interview with the BBCís Fergeal Keane yesterday.

Speaking on the BBC 5 Live Steve Nolan programme, Jonathan Bartley of Ekklesia rebutted widespread allegations that Christian Peacemaker Teams has been naÔve and ill-prepared. He pointed out that CPT had a long-term commitment to peacebuilding and violence reduction in Iraq which predated the 2003 allied invasion.

He said that in-depth preparation and careful security protocols were involved in CPTís operations, and that they had succeeded in fostering cooperation between Sunnis and Shias in ways the military were unable to ñ in the face of an occupation which had escalated tension and division inside the country.

CPT had also uncovered 72 examples of prisoner abuse 4 months before the Abu Ghraib scandal came to light, he remarked.

Mr Bartley said that it was untrue to claim that CPTís workers brought risk on soldiers who freed them, in the end without violence. He cited defence expert Colonel Michael Dewar as confirming this point in a BBC Radio 2 broadcast - on 28 March 2006.

Far from bringing risk to those they worked with, Christian peacemakers explicitly sought to operate without armed protection in order to reduce tension and minimise danger to others, commented Bartley. They went out of their way not to cause harm to others.

Before the November 2005 kidnapping, which left American Tom Fox dead and three other members of a short-term delegation (including Dr Kember) incarcerated for four month, CPT had been operating for three years with nine teams and 100 workers without incident, said the Ekklesia director ñ ìa point ignored by the criticsî.

However, Captain Godfrey of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) maintained that CPT workers in Iraq had been ìnaÔve at best and completely irresponsible at worstî.

While conceding that ìthere is a right for people promoting peace to goî to a place like Iraq, he claimed that non-violent activists ìstill expect to be rescuedî by the army if they got into trouble.

When it was confirmed that CPT volunteers specifically ask the military not to intervene on their behalf, and sign contracts stating this, Godfrey replied that the services have an ìobligationî to do so ñ a decision which the peace workers point out is beyond their control as well as against their expressed intentions.

The RUSI spokesperson also suggested that Christian Peacemaker Teams had inadequate links with NGOs in Iraq and lacked Arabic language skills ñ both points which Bartley says are ìdemonstrably untrueî.

Captain Godfrey additionally criticised CPT for its use of translators, saying that this made them targets. However the translator accompanying the four CPT delegates abducted outside a Baghdad mosque was not harmed in the incident.

On the 5 Live programme, Jonathan Bartley regretted that peace workers were being singled out for criticism ñ in ways which journalists, construction workers, aid agency staff and other civilians had not been.

Commented Ekklesiaís Simon Barrow after the programme: ìRUSI is a highly respected organisation and Amyas Godfrey is listed by them as an expert on defence policy, military operations and current military issues relating to the UK Armed Forces. It is puzzling, therefore, that, while publicly criticising the group, he actually appears to know little of CPT and its work. It would be good to find out from the Institute where these misperceptions have come from.î

In a separate development, Channel 4 television news said last night that it had acquired an ìinternal documentî which shows that Christian Peacemaker Teams are ìactively recruitingî to send another team to Iraq.

But Ekklesia has pointed out that the 11 April document is in fact publicly available, and concerns a general desire to expand CPTís role in a number of contexts if personnel are willing and resources allow.

Christian Peacemaker Teams spokesperson Doug Pritchard confirmed to the BBC yesterday that the organisationís Iraq work is currently under review. There is a desire to continue in Iraq if possible, but only after careful thought and discussion.

A CPT UK representative told Ekklesia that Channel 4ís claim to have an internal memo was ìa bit odd, considering that the article is linked to from a big headline on the front page of the public CPT site.î

The BBC interview with Norman Kember will be available for a week on their internet webcast 'listen again' service.

[Also on Ekklesia: Army chief spoke without knowledge on alleged Kember ingratitude -28/03/06; What Norman said - from Iraq captive Kember's BBC interview 15/04/06; Entombed Iraq captive Jim Loney talks of Easter Hope 15/04/06; Kember notes irony of non-violent release by soldiers 15/04/06; Kember still evaluating Christian peacemaker's role in Iraq 15/04/06; Christian peacemaker Norman Kember to give first major interview tomorrow 14/04/06; CPT in Iraq: What now? 04/04/06 - Peggy Gish reflects on the future of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq. Briefing on media accusations against Christian Peacemaker Teams - detailed background; Contending the logic of violence - Ekklesia's Simon Barrow says that true Christian peacemaking cannot afford naivete]

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