Peacemaking

Pax Christi 'Returns to Roots'

Pax Christi International, the Brussels-based Catholic peace movement, elected a lay woman and an archbishop as co-presidents. The move to co-presidency for a position usually held by a bishop alone "returns [Pax Christi] to its roots and lifts up a model of shared leadership in the Catholic Church," according to the peace group.

Democratic Republic of the Congo's Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo and Marie Dennis, director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns in Washington, D.C., will begin their three-year tenure when current president Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem completes his term. Additionally, Pax Christi International's Secretary General Etienne de Jonghe will be succeeded by Claudette Werleigh, former prime minister of Haiti.

Monsengwo has been an outspoken critic of the Kabila government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a leader in promoting African unity and religious tolerance. Dennis has worked extensively in Latin America and Africa. She is chair of the Religious Working Group on the World Bank and IMF and was named one of Pax Christi USA's "Ambassadors of Peace."

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2007
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118 Days

On Nov. 26, 2005, four members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq—Tom Fox, James Loney, Norman Kember, and Harmeet Singh Sooden—were taken captive at gunpoint near the Umm al-Qura mosque in Baghdad by men who later identified themselves as the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. Through videos and statements sent to the Arabic-language television network al-Jazeera, the captors threatened to kill the four men unless the Iraqi government freed its prisoners and U.S. and British forces left Iraq.

On March 9, 2006, Tom Fox was killed and his body dumped in a residential neighborhood in western Baghdad. He died from gunshot wounds to his head and chest. After 118 days in captivity, Loney, Kember, and Sooden were released March 23, 2006, when intelligence gathered by British forces led to a raid on the house where the men were held. The captors had left before the soldiers arrived. No one was harmed in the extraction.

During the four months that the CPT members were held, a worldwide coalition of supporters emerged—including Palestinian children, Iraqi peace activists, and Islamic political leaders. After their release, Christian Peacemaker Teams, in consultation with Iraqi partners, decided to transfer their operation to northern Iraq. CPT—which is a program of the historic peace churches in the U.S. and Canada, including Brethren, Quaker, and Mennonite churches—currently has 190 members working on projects in Iraq, Colombia, Palestine, Canada, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and along the U.S.-Mexico border, training people of faith in the principles and practice of nonviolence to enter conflict zones and promote peace.—The Editors

We were taken one by one...an abductor at each arm, into a living room and pushed onto a couch.

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Sojourners Magazine December 2006
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'We are Still Here'

The faces of our Iraqi partners showed pain and worry in April 2006 when we asked them whether Christian Peacemaker Teams should continue to work in Iraq after Jim, Harmeet, Norman, and Tom had been taken captive and Tom had been killed. CPT’s long-term presence in Iraq began in October 2002, six months before the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. Did our presence as internationals now bring too great a risk to the Iraqis around us?

“We believe you are very useful here, but you must leave Baghdad,” they told us. “We don’t want another of you to die.” Many suggested the team relocate temporarily to another part of the country where Iraqis working with us would not have the added danger.

When the team returned to the U.S. for healing and debriefing after the trauma of our colleagues’ four months of captivity, we wrestled with the voices that called us to caution and to not risk another possible tragedy. We also took seriously our commitment as Christian Peacemakers to “devote the same discipline and self-sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war,” as stated in our pledge. Following Jesus means expecting hardship and suffering, even the possibility of death. With much soul-searching we decided that it was still important—maybe even more important—for an international peacemaking organization to be present in Iraq.

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Sojourners Magazine December 2006
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A Gateway to Humanity

I have always been uncomfortable with the designation “peacemaker.” “Makers” usually have an intimate relationship with their craft. How do I even begin to talk about the abstract notion of peace? We were just four men sitting in a room.

During our protracted captivity, Tom instigated a multifaith discussion forum as a way for us to cope psychologically. We would recall a proverb or quote and spend some time discussing its meanings and implications.

“I remember Tom for his outstanding humanity,” wrote fellow captive Norman Kember. “We often heard explosions in the city and he would pray for the victims and their families. He reminded us that our deprivations in captivity were paralleled by those in the lives of many in Iraq and the wider world. In captivity he volunteered to take on the greater discomforts.” The last of his discomforts was relinquishing his life.

We abhorred the thought of any payment of ransom money, taken from the impoverished in one part of the world to kill the impoverished in another. We failed the tortured Iraqi man incarcerated with us whose cries, whimpers, and terror we were only able to commit to memory.

Jim spent much time with one of our more volatile captors trying to convince him not to become a suicide bomber. He encouraged him most evenings while massaging his tense back, telling him he would make a good father.

Tom built relationships that created a sense of duty within him. He did not merely “hope for a day,” but he exercised free will—in fact, good will. In that 10-by-12-foot prison, under the constant threat of death, fettered for 23 hours a day and deprived of food, Norman, Jim, and Tom took on the responsibility for the well-being of our captors, themselves human beings under occupation. The captor we called “Uncle” responded naturally with tenderness beyond the mandate of his role when he presented us with a rose in a teacup.

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Sojourners Magazine December 2006
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True Service

In the June 2006 issue, Ched Myers wrote a warm, informative article on Tom Fox and Christian Peacemaker Teams (“The Blood of the Martyrs”). However, the last sentence of the fifth paragraph is the antithesis of Fox. Myers states, “This cloud of witnesses is the moral equivalent of those countless soldiers who have given their lives in military service.”

I’m a Vietnam infantry veteran. I woke up to my military experience in 2003. Since then I have researched war and the “reasons” for war. What I did in the military was not “service.” The military is the pawn of the mega-rich. In spite of what soldiers are told, their ultimate mission is to secure markets and resources and generate immense wealth for the few. Their main tools are death and destruction.

Service is a contribution to the welfare of others, a helpful act, a good turn. Tom Fox epitomized service to humanity. To associate his death with the military is a disservice.

Arnold Stieber
Grass Lake, Michigan

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2006
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9/11, Five Years On

We are five years away now from the incineration of the Twin Towers when, in one blow, 19 radical religious zealots with a memory for Crusades and a hatred for the United States turned the world upside down. Or we did. It’s very hard to tell five years later who really did more of the turning.

What specific concerns drove these men to the point where they would give up their own lives just to injure ours is hard to tell. Few asked, and fewer still seemed to care. In the midst of national grief—and for many, anger—all that mattered, apparently, was who to strike in retaliation. Anybody would do, it seemed. And so we did.

The world needn’t have changed the day the Towers went down or even, perhaps, with the military attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan. It certainly changed, however, on the day when, without clear proof of Iraq’s involvement, without undeniable certainty, without the approval of most of the world, the United States roared over Iraq on bombing raids and rolled into Baghdad to tear down the statue of Saddam Hussein.

On that day—not long after the whole world had grieved with us over the merciless loss of 3,000 innocent U.S. lives—the world divided in its loyalties, most of them against us.

Now the United States, once the most open country in the world, has become a country under siege. Now we make 80-year-old widows and 6-year-old boys take off their shoes in our airports to make sure they are not carrying explosives designed to harm us again. Now we have been longer at war with the ghosts of these 19 men than we were with Nazi Germany in World War II. Now we have become invaders, torturers, paranoid partners in global destabilization. The people who would “meet us with flowers singing in the streets” have left us with more than 18,000 wounded, 10,000 of them permanently disabled, and more than 2,500 dead.

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2006
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New and Noteworthy

Good News

If you’re thinking of building a housing ministry, put Making Housing Happen: Faith-Based Affordable Housing Models, edited by Jill Suzanne Shook, in your toolbox. Beginning with chapters on our national housing crisis and a biblical rationale for affordable housing, the book goes on to highlight church ministries and nonprofits that are providing affordable housing—and hope—all over the country. Bob Lupton, Mary Nelson, Millard Fuller, and other experts provide on-the-ground details. Chalice Press

Start Paddling

We all have something to give; we can do something now; and many of us will give if we’re presented with the opportunity, write Gary Morsch and Dean Nelson in The Power of Serving Others. Their little book is packed with stories from their respective careers—Morsch as founder of relief group Heart to Heart International and Nelson as a journalist. You don’t have to have money or specialized skills to help others, the authors say. Just start where you are. Berrett-Koehler Publishers

Words of Wisdom

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to take a class from Henri Nouwen on spiritual direction? Two of his former associates, Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird, have woven together Nouwen’s lecture notes, presentations, and homilies on the topic to create Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith. Nouwen’s spirit permeates the book, which is structured around 10 universal questions for living the spiritual life. HarperSanFrancisco

Singing a New Song

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Sojourners Magazine August 2006
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The Ways of Shalom

These five weeks of passages extol the depth, breadth, and living power of shalom—the biblical peace for humanity and all that lives.

Paul enters into this shalom when he envisions “one new humanity in the place of the two” (Ephesians 2:15). Jesus distributes its life-giving wholeness to 5,000 through an abundance of loaves and fishes. Shalom is everything that leads toward a coherent, ever-expanding community based on trust that the earth, and all that is in it, is the Lord’s (Psalm 24:1).

To live in God’s shalom is to strive for peace-giving justice while surrounded by uncertainty. Even as we live in a time of frightening unknowns, the biblical period of the judges—the last of whom is Samuel—is instructive. The judges were rulers, heroes, and defenders of monotheism after Joshua led the people into the Promised Land and before the first kings of Israel.

In these five readings from 2 Samuel, we move from an elegy for Saul into the time of David and a striving for true unity in community. Alas, David is all too human. Human kingdoms—even divinely inspired ones—are fallible. Thankfully, God is merciful. Jesus Christ is sent to embody shalom and model its ways, transforming tragedy at every turn. Then, as now, peace is possible.

Robert Roth is a writer and social activist in East Lansing, Michigan.

July 2

Cries for Help

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43

Here is how shalom begins: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! (Psalm 130:1-2).

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Sojourners Magazine July 2006
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New and Noteworthy

A Basis for Peace

The Tent of Abraham, by Arthur Waskow, Joan Chittister, and Saadi Shakur Chishti, tells the story of Abraham’s journey in the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions. We can interpret the stories as grounds for war—evidence of which is abundant—or, the authors argue, as grounds for peace. The book concludes with resources for peacemaking, including how to pitch your own Abrahamic tent—one that, like Abraham’s, is open and welcoming. Beacon Press

You Do What?

How Can a Christian Be in Politics? A Guide toward Faithful Politics, by Roy Herron, is a compact primer on all the basics: what does the Bible say about politics, and how do Christians keep from compromising their principles when they’re in office? How should we evaluate public policies? As a former minister and current state senator in Tennessee, Herron has walked both sides and lived to tell his story—which he does with flair and humor. Tyndale

Musical Oases

Eastern Mennonite University music professor Kenneth Nafziger directs the Journey Musicians through “Just As I Am,” “Rain Down,” and 16 other hymnic beauties collected on Sing the Journey. Most of the tunes—of Tanzanian, Irish, English, and Cheyenne origin, among others—are sung a cappella. Others are accompanied by rollicking piano and percussion. www.heraldpress.com

Word Made Flesh

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Sojourners Magazine July 2006
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Peace Cops?

Three years ago the United States invaded Iraq and quickly toppled the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. The Bush administration justified this act as part of the “war on terrorism,” claiming that the Iraqi government both conspired with al Qaeda, which had attacked the U.S. nearly two years earlier, and posed an imminent threat via weapons of mass destruction. To date, neither of these allegations has been sustained, and the real mastermind behind the terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden, remains at large.

In the aftermath of 9/11, a number of Christian peacemakers raised questions about the appropriateness of a “war” approach to dealing with terrorism. These concerns appear now to be spot-on. Of course, such criticisms of war can be expected from those Christians who seek to follow nonviolently the biblical call to work for justice and peace. But some prominent proponents of Christian nonviolence have considered supporting the specific alternative of a “police” approach to dealing with terrorists. As a Christian ethicist with previous experience in law enforcement, I find this curious—because little prior work has been done to explore what such a model might look like and entail, especially with regard to the use of force.

In the January-February 2002 issue of Sojourners, Jim Wallis labeled the terrorist attacks a “crime against humanity” rather than an act of war and suggested exploring a “global police,” rather than war, as a means of defending innocent lives and preventing future threats. Similarly, Christian theologian Stanley Hauerwas, in a November 2001 interview with Wallis, indicated that he “would certainly like to start envisioning the possibility of that kind of police force,” because such an operation would be a less violent option than war.

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Sojourners Magazine March 2006
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