In the beginning was the first President Bush and the first war with Iraq, a conflict that forced many Americans to search for Kuwait on their globes and in their atlases. But it also put a fledgling organization called Christian Peacemaker Teams on the map. Now the United States is again at war in Iraq, and CPT is again offering witness to nonviolence. But big changes are happening at CPT. Gene Stoltzfus, the organizations only director, stepped down Aug. 31 after 17 years of guiding a prophetic but idealistic dream into a pioneer model of faith-based nonviolent action.
"Im thankful I was able to come along at a time when there was a minority in our churches who felt deeply about this," he said. "I believe that the thirst and the hunger in the world for alternatives for problem solving is so wide and so deep that people are prepared to go beyond convention."
CPTs genesis came 20 years ago, when the U.S.-Soviet Cold War was playing out in growing conflicts throughout Central America. In a 1984 address at an international Mennonite gathering in France, Ron Sider, founder of Evangelicals for Social Action and author of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, called for mobilizing thousands of people who would risk death to position themselves between warring factions around the globe. "Unless we are ready to die developing new nonviolent attempts to reduce international conflict, we should confess that we never really meant the cross was an alternative to the sword," Sider said.