Christian Peacemaker Teams activists face Israel military aid vigil charge
Members of the group that British Christian peace activist Norman Kember was with when he was taken hostage in Iraq late last year have been told by a judge in the USA that they must appear in court on 14 September 2006 ñ following a protest about American involvement in the military assaults on Lebanon.
At the end of July, Chicago police arrested six Christian Peacemaker Teams members as they appealed peacefully for an end to United States military aid to Israel at the office of US Senator Dick Durbin.
More than forty-five CPT affiliates, Christian Peacemaker Teams training participants and supporters gathered for prayer outside the Israeli Consulate, then walked a mile through downtown Chicago to the Federal Building, making the connection between Israel's military actions and US military aid to Israel.
Participants in the peaceful vigil carried large ëStopí signs and a banner that read, "USA Stop Funding Israeli Aggression."
Activists said that they also deplored Hezbollahís rocket attacks which have killed civilians in Israel ñ but that the focus of their protest was on the militaristic policy of a nation state supported by their country.
Prayers of confession and songs of peace echoed through the Federal Plaza as the six member delegation made its way into the office of Senator Durbin, a ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The group expressed their concerns to the Senator's Chief of Staff, asked that the Senator take a public stand regarding US military aid to Israel, and said they were prepared to wait in the office until receiving a response from the Senator.
Group members prayed and quietly read the names of civilians killed in Gaza over the past month while waiting for a reply from the Senator's Washington DC office. A short time later, the local Chief of Staff insisted that the group leave or he would have them arrested.
The delegation continued in prayer until Homeland Security agents took them into custody and turned them over to Chicago Police on charges of criminal trespass. The six spent up to eleven hours in jail. A judge told them they must appear in court in September.
Those arrested were Jason Arndt (Gary, IN), John Funk (Armstrong, BC), Abigail Ozanne (Falcon Heights, MN), Jessica Phillips (CPT Personnel Coordinator, Chicago, IL), Howard Taylor (Wentworth, NH), and Shirley Way (Stanley, NY.) Other members of the training group who participated in the witness were Michele Braley and Nils Dybvig (Minneapolis, MN) and Joel Gullege (Chicago, IL).
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) seeks to enlist the whole church in organized, nonviolent alternatives to war and places teams of trained peacemakers in regions of lethal conflict. Originally a violence-reduction initiative of the historic peace churches (Mennonite, Church of the Brethren and Quaker), CPT now enjoys support and membership from a wide range of Christian traditions.
The group came to international attention in November 2005 when four members of a short term delegation in Iraq were kidnapped by militants. One, American Tom Fox, was killed. The other three ñ Canadians Harmeet Singh Sooden and Jim Loney and Briton Norman Kember were freed after a security tip-off to the SAS enabled them to be released without the use of force.
[Also on Ekklesia: Christian Peacemaker Teams' important work continues - by Norman Kember; Kember still evaluating Christian peacemaker's role in Iraq; Norman Kember talks about life beyond his Iraq kidnap ordeal; Christian peacemaker Norman Kember to give first major interview; Briefing on media accusations against Christian Peacemaker Teams; Army chief spoke without knowledge on alleged Kember ingratitude; Briefing on Christian Peacemaker Teams; Colonel Collins' attack on Kember misplaced, say Christian peacemakers; Norman Kember returns home to cheers and also smears]