Bogota/Chiapas /Downer's Grove /Hebron/Ottawa/Vieques: CPT and supporters begin Lent with vigils, fasts and celebrations
March 2, 2001
Bogota/Hebron/Ottawa/Chiapas/Downer's Grove: CPT and supporters begin Lent
with vigils, fasts and celebrations
Continuing a CPT tradition that has held the season of Lent up as a time to
reflect on and challenge injustice and violence, Christian Peacemaker Teams
and their supporters all over the world observed the beginning of Lent in a
variety of ways.
In Bogota, Colombia, where CPT has been invited by the Colombian Mennonite
Church to explore possibilities of setting up a project, members of
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) and Witness for Peace (WfP) held a one-hour
vigil outside the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, as employees were
arriving for work on February 26. The vigil was a recognition of US
complicity in the violence and injustice of Colombia. It included an
invitation to embassy personnel to stop carrying out the orders that result
in violence and injustice.
Participants carried posters, saying, "Eradicate addiction, not campesinos"
and "Weapons don't end violence."
As the group of eight were completing the prayer time on their knees, a
local security guard asked about the songs sung in Spanish and expressed
interest in what was happening. This is the first of a series of vigils
that will be held each Monday during Lent from 7:30 to 8:30AM.
In Chiapas, participants in CPT's February 19-March 3 Chiapas delegation
organized an Ash Wednesday public action focusing on the economic injustice
of falling coffee prices for local growers. CPT delegates traveled to a
Nestlï¿½ plant in Chiapa de Corzo, about an hour from San Cristobal, and
offered a service of prayer, song, challenge and repentance.
Nestlï¿½, a transnational corporation, has been given permission to import
coffee at low prices and this threat has caused the price of coffee grown by
local Mexican farmers to plummet. The falling prices of locally grown
coffee threaten the way of life and culture for many indigenous subsistence
farmers in Chiapas.
"Our nonviolent public witness grew out of our visits to the indigenous
communities," CPT reservist and delegation member Matthew Bailey-Dick of
Waterloo, ON, explained. "We listened to peoples' stories about violence,
poverty, and injustice, and we were compelled to respond. Since CPT has
already done a lot of work on the role of the military in Chiapas, we
decided that it would be appropriate to name economic violence as another
root of the ongoing conflict."
In Downer's Grove, IL, hundreds of members of CPTer Scott Kerr's United
Methodist Church committed themselves to giving up one meal a day during
Lent and sending the money saved to CPT. The congregation hopes to raise
5,000 dollars for CPT by Easter.
From the West Bank City of Hebron, CPTer Dianne Roe writes, "I have decided
to fast during this Lenten season, liquid only. I will break my fast only
when there are both Israeli Jews and Palestinians from the Hebron District
present at the table sharing the meal. At least one other member of the team
(Rick Polhemus) is joining in a similar fast. Other team members are either
doing a Ramadan type fast, or have said they will support Rick and me during
"I feel a deep sense of privilege to be here in the land three major
religions call Holy during this Lenten season. It is with awe and wonder
that I accept gracious invitations from both Palestinians and Israelis to
share meals and overnights. I regret, however, that during these last few
months of intifada, the breakdown of trust between Israelis and
Palestinians has been almost insurmountable, especially in the Hebron area.
In addition, road blocks, check points, terrorism, curfews, sieges, army
tanks, clashes, and closures have made movement impossible for the
Palestinians, and risky for the Israelis.
" However, peacemaking is about taking risks and crossing borders. The trust
has been built in the past because of courageous acts of Israelis and
Palestinians. We are also asking friends at home to join in some part of
the fast, and a big part of the feast."
In Ottawa, Ontario, CPT-Canada and friends gathered on Ash Wednesday to pray
for an end to Canada's violence against Mi'kmaq lobster fishers. (See
February 27 release Ash Wednesday Vigil to highlight abuses of human rights
in Esgenoopetitj.") The media did not show up for either the noon vigil
(held outside in -20 degree centigrade weather) or the 10:30 a.m. news
conference in the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.
However the participants found out later that the news conference was
broadcast in the offices of Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans
(DFO.) DFO officers have been responsible for most of the human rights
abuses that members of CPT Canada presented in their report. Participants
were also able to distribute all 1,000 fliers they had printed, due in a
large part to the efforts of CPTer Jim Loney, who came dressed up as "Lennie
In Vieques, Puerto Rico, church, environmental and political activists who
have conducted mass nonviolent resistance for years against U.S. Navy
bombing there celebrated as the Navy announced it would not resume bombing
until data on health risks to residents had been evaluated. CPT has sent
several delegations to Vieques to support these activists in the last couple
years. Staff at the Chicago office were in the process of getting together
an emergency delegation to go to Vieques the first week in March, when the
bombing was scheduled to resume. They are also celebrating.