As politicians and diplomats struggle to find answers to the cycle of violence in Gaza, a pioneering Christian peace activist is set to tour Britain and Ireland talking about nonviolent conflict transformation.
Gene Stoltzfus is coming over from the United States to Europe this month and will be in the UK from 16 January 2009, speaking about practical nonviolence in situations of conflict and injustice.
Mr Stoltzfus was the director of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) since its founding in 1988 until September 2004. CPT trains and places violence reduction teams in high conflict situations like Iraq, the West Bank, Colombia and various native or indigenous communities in the United States and Canada.
It came to prominence in the British and global media in 2006 and 2007, following the capture of Norman Kember and three other CPT delegation members in Baghdad. One, Tom Fox, was killed, but the others were released.
In the Americas, Teams and peacemaker delegations have worked in Chiapas, Vieques, Puerto Rico and Washington DC. Meanwhile, investigative teams have visited Chechnya, Afghanistan, Congo and the Philippines.
Stoltzfus traveled to Iraq immediately before the first Gulf War in 1991 and spent extensive time in Iraq again in 2003, consulting with Muslim and Christian clerics, Iraqi human rights leaders, families of Iraqi detainees and talking with American administrators and soldiers.
The CPT founder-director's commitment to peacemaking is rooted in his experience in Vietnam as a conscientious objector with International Voluntary Service during the US military escalation there from 1963-68.
He recalls that watching the helicopter personnel unloading their cargo of bloodied bodies in Saigon set him "on the search to make sense of life and death where the terms of survival, meaning and culture don't forbid killing. I had to ask myself," he said, "whether I was as willing to die for my conviction as the Vietnamese and American soldiers all around me were being asked to do."
His peacemaking is also solidly grounded in theology, derived from his own Mennonite peace church commitment, and the theory and practice of nonviolent action, conflict transformation, resistance and social change.
The visit coincides with the publication of it CPT's first official history, In Harm’s Way: A History of Christian Peacemaker Teams by Kathleen Kern (http://books.ekklesia.co.uk/product_info.php?products_id=2354).
Further details of the tour may be found at: http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/8278