Christian peacemakers stay committed to Iraq

By staff writers
June 19, 2006

Christian peacemakers stay committed to Iraq

-19/06/06

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), which has been actively promoting non-violence in some of the worldís hotspots for some 18 years, has confirmed that it remains committed to working in Iraq ñ having reflected on the lessons of the high-profile kidnapping of four of its members from November 2005 to March 2006.

Speaking to the BBC last week, CPT co-director Doug Pritchard said that a ìnumber of peopleî are lined up to engage in work inside Iraq. He could not reveal details for security reasons, but said that Christian Peacemaker Teams felt that it was appropriate to respond to continuing requests from Iraqi partners.

This contradicts media reports, notably one in The Sunday Times, which said that the group were pulling out following the release from captivity of CPT delegation members Norman Kember, Jim Loney and Harmeet Sooden in March 2006 ñ and the killing of Tom Fox by an armed group.

Mr Pritchard, interviewed by the BBCís Roger Boulton, said that Christian Peacemaker Teams still had significant work to do in Iraq, and though Baghdad was not a place they could return to in the short run, they had contacts in the south, east and west of the war-torn country, and would also like to return to the especially troubled north if that proved possible.

Asked about the nature of their work, Pritchard singled out the opportunity to cooperate with a Muslim Peacemaker Team, on-the-ground monitoring, and participation in local efforts to build a civil society.

He said that Christian Peacemaker Teams also wanted to continue to be able to report on parts of Iraq inaccessible to most of the media, many of whom are often confined to hotels for security reasons.

ìWe are among the few people to come to Iraq without a gun or a commercial contractî, said Mr Pritchard.

CPT, he explained, was in a position to work with local people to combat the violence ñ and felt an obligation to respond to the many local requests to stay committed to the country, rather than to heed advice to stay away from people less connected with their operations.

Though Christian Peacemaker Teams is a faith-based organisation, supported by Mennonites and other denominations, the CPT co-director stressed that spreading Christianity is not what they are there for, and that they work with people of all backgrounds.

But he said that they were able to contribute to ìa different kind of relationship between the West and Iraqî, by representing an alternative to occupation, sanctions and coercion ñ which has often been backed by the Christian rhetoric of President Bush and his supporters on the US religious right.

As for the efficaciousness of CPTís work, Pritchard stressed that ìany kind of construction of civil society is very slow after 30 years of repressive dictatorship under Saddam Hussein and now three years of war and uncertainty.î

Challenged by Boulton on the risks involved, including possible death, Pritchard responded: ìWe have always known that, in the 18 years we have been working in conflict zones (the only places where we work, in fact).î

The Baghdad kidnap drama was in fact the first major incident to hit Christian Peacemaker Teams, who stress the care and preparation they put into their work, even though they disavow military protection o the carrying of arms.

ìSoldiers take great risks, and we respect that, even though we donít think what they are doing can bring lasting peaceî, declared Doug Pritchard. Holding the conviction that non-violent alternatives are needed, ìwe feel we cannot just sit back and say that from a distance,î he added.

The CPT co-director denied that their work caused unnecessary risk to others, including the military: ìWe have never asked for that [intervention on our behalf] ñ they make their choices, whatever we ask them to do or not to do.î

He said that Christian Peacemaker Teamsí main concern was not to bring risk to Iraqis, and this influenced its careful decision-making.

Earlier this year two military analysts denied that CPT work in Iraq imperilled the military, saying that they were ìquite capableî of looking after themselves ñ contradicting other army claims.

[Also on Ekklesia: Christian Peacemaker Teams' important work goes on Jun 9, 2006 - Norman Kember talks to CPT UK about his Iraq captivity and beyond; Israelis demolish Palestinian buildings, say Christian peacemakers 08/06/06; Iraq hostage Tom Fox remembered by UK peacemakers 08/06/06; Norman Kember talks about life beyond his Iraq kidnap ordeal 07/06/06; UK Christian Peacemaker Teams meet to plan future 06/06/06; Christian Peacemaker Teams remain in Iraq with new plan; Briefing on Christian Peacemaker Teams; Christian peacemaker Norman Kember to give first major interview to the BBC ; Christian peacemakers can make a difference, Vatican Radio told; Briefing on media accusations against Christian Peacemaker Teams; Archive of comment and features on Christian Peacemaking]

Christian peacemakers stay committed to Iraq

-19/06/06

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), which has been actively promoting non-violence in some of the worldís hotspots for some 18 years, has confirmed that it remains committed to working in Iraq ñ having reflected on the lessons of the high-profile kidnapping of four of its members from November 2005 to March 2006.

Speaking to the BBC last week, CPT co-director Doug Pritchard said that a ìnumber of peopleî are lined up to engage in work inside Iraq. He could not reveal details for security reasons, but said that Christian Peacemaker Teams felt that it was appropriate to respond to continuing requests from Iraqi partners.

This contradicts media reports, notably one in The Sunday Times, which said that the group were pulling out following the release from captivity of CPT delegation members Norman Kember, Jim Loney and Harmeet Sooden in March 2006 ñ and the killing of Tom Fox by an armed group.

Mr Pritchard, interviewed by the BBCís Roger Boulton, said that Christian Peacemaker Teams still had significant work to do in Iraq, and though Baghdad was not a place they could return to in the short run, they had contacts in the south, east and west of the war-torn country, and would also like to return to the especially troubled north if that proved possible.

Asked about the nature of their work, Pritchard singled out the opportunity to cooperate with a Muslim Peacemaker Team, on-the-ground monitoring, and participation in local efforts to build a civil society.

He said that Christian Peacemaker Teams also wanted to continue to be able to report on parts of Iraq inaccessible to most of the media, many of whom are often confined to hotels for security reasons.

ìWe are among the few people to come to Iraq without a gun or a commercial contractî, said Mr Pritchard.

CPT, he explained, was in a position to work with local people to combat the violence ñ and felt an obligation to respond to the many local requests to stay committed to the country, rather than to heed advice to stay away from people less connected with their operations.

Though Christian Peacemaker Teams is a faith-based organisation, supported by Mennonites and other denominations, the CPT co-director stressed that spreading Christianity is not what they are there for, and that they work with people of all backgrounds.

But he said that they were able to contribute to ìa different kind of relationship between the West and Iraqî, by representing an alternative to occupation, sanctions and coercion ñ which has often been backed by the Christian rhetoric of President Bush and his supporters on the US religious right.

As for the efficaciousness of CPTís work, Pritchard stressed that ìany kind of construction of civil society is very slow after 30 years of repressive dictatorship under Saddam Hussein and now three years of war and uncertainty.î

Challenged by Boulton on the risks involved, including possible death, Pritchard responded: ìWe have always known that, in the 18 years we have been working in conflict zones (the only places where we work, in fact).î

The Baghdad kidnap drama was in fact the first major incident to hit Christian Peacemaker Teams, who stress the care and preparation they put into their work, even though they disavow military protection o the carrying of arms.

ìSoldiers take great risks, and we respect that, even though we donít think what they are doing can bring lasting peaceî, declared Doug Pritchard. Holding the conviction that non-violent alternatives are needed, ìwe feel we cannot just sit back and say that from a distance,î he added.

The CPT co-director denied that their work caused unnecessary risk to others, including the military: ìWe have never asked for that [intervention on our behalf] ñ they make their choices, whatever we ask them to do or not to do.î

He said that Christian Peacemaker Teamsí main concern was not to bring risk to Iraqis, and this influenced its careful decision-making.

Earlier this year two military analysts denied that CPT work in Iraq imperilled the military, saying that they were ìquite capableî of looking after themselves ñ contradicting other army claims.

[Also on Ekklesia: Christian Peacemaker Teams' important work goes on Jun 9, 2006 - Norman Kember talks to CPT UK about his Iraq captivity and beyond; Israelis demolish Palestinian buildings, say Christian peacemakers 08/06/06; Iraq hostage Tom Fox remembered by UK peacemakers 08/06/06; Norman Kember talks about life beyond his Iraq kidnap ordeal 07/06/06; UK Christian Peacemaker Teams meet to plan future 06/06/06; Christian Peacemaker Teams remain in Iraq with new plan; Briefing on Christian Peacemaker Teams; Christian peacemaker Norman Kember to give first major interview to the BBC ; Christian peacemakers can make a difference, Vatican Radio told; Briefing on media accusations against Christian Peacemaker Teams; Archive of comment and features on Christian Peacemaking]

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