The Blood Of The Martyrs

We have assumed the name of peacemakers, but we have been, by and large, unwilling to pay any significant price,” Daniel Berrigan wrote in the wake of the 1968 Catonsville Nine anti-war protest. “And because we want peace with half a heart and half a life and will, the war continues, because the waging of war, by its nature, is total—but the waging of peace, by our own cowardice, is partial.”

It is a haunting indictment. But over the last quarter century, some North American activists have been experimenting with bolder—and higher risk—strategies of nonviolent witness, from prayerful trespassing into high security military bases to accompaniment work in war zones. Careful preparation has become part of the work, as is the consciousness that many around the world routinely face these risks.

On the forefront of this work is Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), founded in 1988 by activists from the historic peace churches (Mennonite, Quaker, Brethren) intent on intensifying Christian nonviolent resistance to war and injustice. Their teams have been present in hot spots around the world. In Iraq, CPT members are the only unarmed international workers left outside the “Green Zone.” In 2004, they helped expose the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. This winter, however, the moment arrived that had long been dreaded.

On Nov. 26, 2005, four CPT members were abducted in Iraq by a group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. Despite an unprecedented international outcry, including public appeals from significant Muslim leaders, on March 9 Virginia Quaker Tom Fox’s body was found on the streets of Baghdad. Two weeks later the other three—Toronto Catholic Worker Jim Loney, 41, Cansadian Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, and British Baptist Norman Kember, 74— were freed in a bloodless military action by Coalition troops, after almost four months in captivity.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2006
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