Christian peacemakers can make a difference, Vatican Radio told

By staff writers
April 21, 2006

Christian peacemakers can make a difference, Vatican Radio told

-21/04/06

Negative commentary on the freeing of Norman Kember and two other activists in Iraq has detracted from a serious public consideration of the role of Christian Peacemaker Teams in situations of conflict, Simon Barrow, director of the UK think tank Ekklesia, told Vatican Radio today.

Speaking to interviewer Linda Bordoni on an English-language programme called ëPeople Making Peaceí (21.50 and again Sunday 22 April at 07.00), Barrow said that civilian groups working closely with humanitarian networks and disavowing armed protection are taking a risk ñ but it is one which can build trust and cooperation in a way that the armed forces cannot.

Christian Peacemaker Teams has had 100 short- and long-term volunteers in Iraq since 2002, before the invasion and occupation of the country by a US-led coalition. It has also worked in Colombia, Israel-Palestine, Canada and the USA/Mexico and is exploring a possible role in Burundi and East Congo.

Most of its operations are small-scale and carried out beyond the glare of publicity. But the group came to global media attention when four workers were kidnapped outside a mosque in Baghdad on 26 November 2005.

The previously unknown Swords of Truth militant group killed US activist Tom Fox in March 2006. But towards the end of the same month the other three men were freed without force after a tip-off from among the kidnappers.

A media row then broke out over the appropriateness of civil peace action in a war zone, and whether adequate gratitude had been expressed by Christian Peacemaker Teams to the soldiers who freed the men ñ in fact the group issued a thank-you statement on the day of their release.

Barrow, whose independent think tank has been cooperating with CPT in recent months, said that the achievements of small-scale reconciliation initiatives in a situation fast spiralling into civil war had been ignored amidst accusations that Kember and his associates were ìnaive and foolish interlopersî in Iraq.

Ekklesiaís research showed that not to be the case, Barrow told Vatican Radio ñ which has been running for 75 years, and titles itself ìthe voice of the Pope and the Church in dialogue with the world.î

While the military admits that it can do little more than police the growing unrest in Iraq, and is itself a target for insurgents, Ekklesia says that unarmed civilians can do what Christian Peacemaker Teams has been endeavouring to do ñ to create links between Sunnis and Shias, to establish Muslim peace making initiatives in Kerbala and Najaf, to cooperate with local churches, and to highlight human rights and prisoner abuse.

Christian Peacemaker Teams brought 72 prisoner abuse cases to the attention of the authorities some four months before the Abu Ghraib scandal came to world attention, its supporters point out.

Commented Barrow: ì[CPT] was founded in 1984 and became operational in 1990. It is an ecumenical group founded by the historic peace churches ñ Mennonites, Quakers and Brethren in Christ ñ but with the involvement of Catholics and various Protestant denominations.î

He continued: ìThe group arose from one central question: ëWhat would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline and self-sacrifice to non-violent peacemaking that armies devote to war?íî

Ekklesia says that many commentators have rushed to condemn Christian Peacemaker Teams out of ignorance, or without due attention to their work. The groupís 28-day preparation programme for its long-term workers is used as a model by a number of other NGOs.

In the interview with Vatican Radio Simon Barrow points out that Christian Peacemaker Teams workers have operated without recourse to military protection both out of principle and out of practical concern not to expose others to risk or attack.

He says that what they are seeking to do is break the cycle of violence ñ as both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have urged Christians to do.

CPT is reviewing its operations in Iraq in the light of the recent kidnap situation ñ the first it has faced. Partners in the country hope that a continuation will be possible, but the group wishes to take a careful and considered decision.

Nevertheless it is actively encouraging volunteers and support for its wider activities ñ and on 21 April 2006 made a public appeal to this effect.

CPT declares: ìWhile the world has come to know of our organization because of the hostage crisis and death of Tom Fox, our violence-deterring, human rights promoting
work goes on in the Americas and Middle East. We continue to experience a shortage of full time workers willing to commit to three years of service. We are therefore calling on mature Christians with a sacrificial commitment to peacemaking to consider joining our ranks.î

Christian Peacemaker Teams says it is seeking ìto enlist the whole church in
organized, non-violent alternatives to war and places teams of trained,
peacemakers in regions of lethal conflict.î

Meanwhile, in the UK, Ekklesia has recently launched a new Internet Service Provider (ISP) called Peacenik, which is raising funds and focussing support for initiatives like CPT. Subscribers will be able to vote where the money goes.

The ëPeople Making Peaceí segment on Vatican Radioís half-hour English language feature programme can be head on the internet via RealPlayer. It broadcasts at 21.50 on 21 April and 07.00 on 22 April, and will be available to ëlisten againí for one week.

[Also on Ekklesia: Peace workers hold a key to Iraq solution, says think tank 17/04/06; Clarification sought from army chief on false Kember snub allegation 16/04/06; Critics of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq accused of being ill-informed 16/04/06; 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]

Christian peacemakers can make a difference, Vatican Radio told

-21/04/06

Negative commentary on the freeing of Norman Kember and two other activists in Iraq has detracted from a serious public consideration of the role of Christian Peacemaker Teams in situations of conflict, Simon Barrow, director of the UK think tank Ekklesia, told Vatican Radio today.

Speaking to interviewer Linda Bordoni on an English-language programme called ëPeople Making Peaceí (21.50 and again Sunday 22 April at 07.00), Barrow said that civilian groups working closely with humanitarian networks and disavowing armed protection are taking a risk ñ but it is one which can build trust and cooperation in a way that the armed forces cannot.

Christian Peacemaker Teams has had 100 short- and long-term volunteers in Iraq since 2002, before the invasion and occupation of the country by a US-led coalition. It has also worked in Colombia, Israel-Palestine, Canada and the USA/Mexico and is exploring a possible role in Burundi and East Congo.

Most of its operations are small-scale and carried out beyond the glare of publicity. But the group came to global media attention when four workers were kidnapped outside a mosque in Baghdad on 26 November 2005.

The previously unknown Swords of Truth militant group killed US activist Tom Fox in March 2006. But towards the end of the same month the other three men were freed without force after a tip-off from among the kidnappers.

A media row then broke out over the appropriateness of civil peace action in a war zone, and whether adequate gratitude had been expressed by Christian Peacemaker Teams to the soldiers who freed the men ñ in fact the group issued a thank-you statement on the day of their release.

Barrow, whose independent think tank has been cooperating with CPT in recent months, said that the achievements of small-scale reconciliation initiatives in a situation fast spiralling into civil war had been ignored amidst accusations that Kember and his associates were ìnaive and foolish interlopersî in Iraq.

Ekklesiaís research showed that not to be the case, Barrow told Vatican Radio ñ which has been running for 75 years, and titles itself ìthe voice of the Pope and the Church in dialogue with the world.î

While the military admits that it can do little more than police the growing unrest in Iraq, and is itself a target for insurgents, Ekklesia says that unarmed civilians can do what Christian Peacemaker Teams has been endeavouring to do ñ to create links between Sunnis and Shias, to establish Muslim peace making initiatives in Kerbala and Najaf, to cooperate with local churches, and to highlight human rights and prisoner abuse.

Christian Peacemaker Teams brought 72 prisoner abuse cases to the attention of the authorities some four months before the Abu Ghraib scandal came to world attention, its supporters point out.

Commented Barrow: ì[CPT] was founded in 1984 and became operational in 1990. It is an ecumenical group founded by the historic peace churches ñ Mennonites, Quakers and Brethren in Christ ñ but with the involvement of Catholics and various Protestant denominations.î

He continued: ìThe group arose from one central question: ëWhat would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline and self-sacrifice to non-violent peacemaking that armies devote to war?íî

Ekklesia says that many commentators have rushed to condemn Christian Peacemaker Teams out of ignorance, or without due attention to their work. The groupís 28-day preparation programme for its long-term workers is used as a model by a number of other NGOs.

In the interview with Vatican Radio Simon Barrow points out that Christian Peacemaker Teams workers have operated without recourse to military protection both out of principle and out of practical concern not to expose others to risk or attack.

He says that what they are seeking to do is break the cycle of violence ñ as both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have urged Christians to do.

CPT is reviewing its operations in Iraq in the light of the recent kidnap situation ñ the first it has faced. Partners in the country hope that a continuation will be possible, but the group wishes to take a careful and considered decision.

Nevertheless it is actively encouraging volunteers and support for its wider activities ñ and on 21 April 2006 made a public appeal to this effect.

CPT declares: ìWhile the world has come to know of our organization because of the hostage crisis and death of Tom Fox, our violence-deterring, human rights promoting
work goes on in the Americas and Middle East. We continue to experience a shortage of full time workers willing to commit to three years of service. We are therefore calling on mature Christians with a sacrificial commitment to peacemaking to consider joining our ranks.î

Christian Peacemaker Teams says it is seeking ìto enlist the whole church in
organized, non-violent alternatives to war and places teams of trained,
peacemakers in regions of lethal conflict.î

Meanwhile, in the UK, Ekklesia has recently launched a new Internet Service Provider (ISP) called Peacenik, which is raising funds and focussing support for initiatives like CPT. Subscribers will be able to vote where the money goes.

The ëPeople Making Peaceí segment on Vatican Radioís half-hour English language feature programme can be head on the internet via RealPlayer. It broadcasts at 21.50 on 21 April and 07.00 on 22 April, and will be available to ëlisten againí for one week.

[Also on Ekklesia: Peace workers hold a key to Iraq solution, says think tank 17/04/06; Clarification sought from army chief on false Kember snub allegation 16/04/06; Critics of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq accused of being ill-informed 16/04/06; 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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