Archive

March 5th, 2015

BORDERLANDS: Unidentified, but known to God; reflections of a transgender CPT delegate

 

 
 

Memorial composed of items discarded by migrants
 in desert (from 2007 delegation)

Every year, the Pima County, Arizona Medical Examiner's office receives hundreds migrants’ bodies who lost their lives in the Sonoran Desert after crossing the border from Mexico to the United States. From physical features, clothing, and other personal effects, the Medical Examiner can identify some of the migrants and return their bodies to their families. In other cases, the migrants' names remain officially unknown. The bodies of those whose identities cannot be determined are labelled with dates and names: "John Doe" or "Jane Doe," depending on the gender they are assumed to have based on the evidence of their body—or even, in some cases, a single body part.

Early in our trip, I and other members of the Christian Peacemaker Team's Borderlands delegation—twelve people who traveled from around the United States and from Atikameksheng Territory to learn about the human rights situation at the U.S/Mexico border—visited a cemetery in Douglas, Arizona. We prayed together, and left candles, paper cranes, and other tokens at the graves of a handful of unidentified migrants. Their small markers read "Unknown Woman" or "Unknown Man," gave the date their bodies were found, and sometimes listed a Medical Examiner's office reference number.

As a transgender person whose gender is often perceived incorrectly, I live every day with the reality that we can't tell a person's identity by looking at them—and it often really hurts people when we assume we can. The deeply ingrained beliefs that the characteristics of our bodies mark each of us clearly as a man or a woman, and that those are the only options, underlie much of the discrimination that trans and other gender-nonconforming people face in our lives. So I have cringed, on this trip, every time I've heard a tally of the number of male versus female migrants who have received services from an organization, or watched the gender labeling of a body by a Medical Examiner who never met the person when they were alive, never had a chance to ask them about their identity and hear them describe it for themselves. I think about the people who might be hidden or misrepresented in these numbers and labels. I imagine my body laid to rest under a headstone that reads "Unknown Woman," at the end of a lifetime spent claiming the dignity and integrity of my male, genderqueer, and trans identities.

March 4th

Prayers for Peacemakers, March 4, 2015

Prayers for Peacemakers, March 4, 2015

Pray for the campesin@s (farmers) in Micoahumado, Las Pavas, El Guayabo and other communities that are resisting forced displacement. Pray that they continue working their lands and growing with love the food that we enjoy in our tables. 

Photo: Fundación Chasquis – Contact: Regula Gattiker - Juan Manuel Peña - Ricardo Torres.

 

“A campesin@ without land is like a fish without water.”

March 3rd

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Training nonviolence pioneers to confront ISIS trauma

Throughout the last eight months the population of displaced persons in Iraqi Kurdistan has multiplied rapidly. In May 2014 approximately 200,000 Syrian refugees were living there. Now, in February 2015 the region is caring for approximately one million persons from a wide range of backgrounds: Syrians, Syrian Kurds, Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, Sunni and Shia Arabs, Ezidi/Yezidi and other minorities. The host Iraqi Kurdish population has risen to the challenge to the best of their ability: collecting goods and caring for the most vulnerable. However, the early emergency has passed and it appears that the visitors will not be leaving anytime soon. Tensions and conflicts between the various groups are beginning to rise.

One organization working in the situation is REACH (who was CPT-IK’s inviting partner in 2006).  This group, along with RDSYP, funded by Christian Aid UK, had the vision of presenting workshops to train individuals from these ethnic and religious groups to create community and understanding and reduce the potential of further violence. CPT-IK’s friend, Ann Ward, suggested that Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) would be a good experiential way to equip these persons to face the tensions in a nonviolent, compassionate way. Participants would receive training to present one day workshops to young people with the goal of providing opportunities for listening, understanding and cooperation.

Ward invited two members of CPT-IK to co-facilitate this first adventure of AVP in Iraqi Kurdistan. Two other CPTers joined the training along with sixteen persons from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds.

March 2nd

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): CPTers arrested while accompanying Palestinian kindergarteners in Hebron

On Sunday Israeli Border Police arrested two CPT members while they were walking Palestinian children from kindergarten just after noon. The CPTers were taken to the police station near the Ibrahimi Mosque, then moved to a police station in the Givat Ha'avot settlement, and finally released at 5:20 p.m. Israeli police did not press formal charges.

For several weeks, members of CPT Palestine have  accompanied children from the Al Saraya Kindergarten, who face harassment from Israeli Border Police, Israeli soldiers, and settlers during their walk to and from school every day. Part of their walk to school is on a road that the Israeli military has declared partially off-limits to Palestinians, including young children. Since CPT began accompanying the kindergarten students, border police have stopped the children several times and told them that they may not walk on the street for security reasons, but have allowed them to pass on other occasions.

 …

It is not clear if these recent provocations are a part of a larger ramping up of the occupation of the West Bank. Its not clear what will happen in the upcoming days, either for CPT or for the children of the Al Saraya Kindergarten. Please pray for everyone in the Old City of Hebron who is affected by this continual and increasing violence. 


February 26th

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Palestine team begins accompaniment of kindergarteners near Ibrahimi Mosque


The Red Crescent Kindergarten School is fully equipped for the four-year-old children who will begin their education: carpeted floors, multiple roomsfor playing and learning, as well as all the supplies needed to teach and entertain children. Most importantly, the school has caring teachers dedicated to their young pupils.

In 2000, the kindergarten had ten teachers and ninety students, but now only has three teachers and fifteen students. The school is in a particularly vulnerable location: immediately adjacent to the Ibrahimi Mosque and the Tomb of the Patriarchs, which is surrounded by Israeli Border Police. Due to constant soldier and settler harassment, parents in the nearby neighbourhoods are hesitant to send their children to the school. In response to this harassment and the effect it has had on the school children, the principal of the Red Crescent Kindergarten asked CPT to begin escorting the children to and from school.

One form of structural violence that the four-year-olds must face on their way to school is a divided path by the Ibrahimi Mosque. On one side of a tall fence is a wide, paved path for Israeli settlers, and on the other is a narrow, rocky path for Palestinians.  Israeli Border Police have recently begun to deny these kindergarten students the right to walk on the “settler path.”

February 25th

Prayers for Peacemakers, 25 February 2015

Prayers for Peacemakers, 25 February 2015

Pray for the people of Hebron.  25 February 2014 marks the twenty-first anniversary of the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, when a U.S.-born Israeli settler murdered twenty-nine Muslim men and boys while they prayed there. The Israeli military killed and injured dozens more Palestinians in the demonstrations that followed, imposed a strict 100-day curfew, and, among many more punitive responses on the Palestinian population of Hebron began a process that led to illegally restricting them from accessing Shuhada Street.  This week, there will be several nonviolent demonstrations protesting the closing of Shuhada Street. Pray for the safety of demonstrators, as Israeli soldiers will likely respond with tear gas, sound bombs, and violent arrests. Pray for the safety of all people in the Old City, as Israeli military oppression brings collective punishment to shop owners, families, and young children. Pray for the CPT Hebron Team who will be in the demonstrations.

 *Epixel for Sunday, March 1, 2015
 For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard
when I cried to him. Psalm 22:24
 
 *epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's  Revised Common Lectionary  readings.

February 24th

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): First of Open Shuhada Street actions kicks off on 20 February 2015

 

Despite the heavy snow and the cold weather, Palestinians of Hebron gathered on Friday 20 February to remember those killed in the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre and demand the opening of Shuhada Street.

On 25 February 1994, Baruch Goldstein, a US-born Israeli settler, walked into the Ibrahimi Mosque and murdered 29 men while they prayed.  Israeli forces killed an additional 29 Palestinians during demonstrations, and subsequently restricted Palestinian access to Shuhada Street, a major market street in the Old City.  Shuhada Street has been permanently closed to Palestinians since 2006.  Palestinians in Hebron live with the effects of these actions every day.

February 23rd

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: Justice favors the powerful


It was my second accompaniment since I began work in Colombia. Tito had been on the receiving end of a severe beating two years ago and was headed down the river to El Peñon for a court hearing of his case. As we settled into the community boat that would take us to El Peñon, an hour and a half away, Pierre filled me in on Tito’s case with the comment, “It’s crazy, really. If it was Tito who beat them up, he’d already have been tried and sentenced.”

As much as I know that this is true, and accepted it as he said it, a little piece of me still felt surprised. Why should this be true? When I consider the principle of the law, everything feels clear cut to me. If one person assaults another, the perpetrator must face the legal consequences of those actions, regardless of who they are. Why should the process change, become longer or shorter or more or less vigorous? The law is clear: physically and violently assaulting someone is wrong. Why, if this were Canada…

And it is this thought that stops me in my tracks, because I know that the reality of a broken justice system is true both here in Colombia and in my own country. The law favours certain people in both places. It favours the influential, the rich, those with resources.  Above all, it favours the powerful, be it power of connections, money or skin colour.

February 20th

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): They uproot a tree…we plant ten

On 3 February 2015, community members planted ninety olive trees next to the Qurtuba School in the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood of Al-Khalil (Hebron), located between Israeli settlements. The Palestinian Association for Voluntary Work planned the action, also involving the Hebron Defense Committee, Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, the Ibrahimi Khalil Society and Administration of Youth. Students from at least two universities were there, including the Al-Quds Open University in Hebron and the American School of Palestine in Ramallah. Participants wore T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan for the action, “they uproot a tree… we plant ten.”

This plot of land formerly belonged to a local family, who transferred it to the school after settlers uprooted the trees that used to grow there, six years ago and three years ago. Local residents are aware that settlers will attempt to undo the work of the planting. However, the action demonstrates the determination of the community to remain in their homes and neighbourhood. A community leader said, ‘We are staying here, and the settlers must move.’

February 18th

Prayers for Peacemakers, February 18, 2015

Prayers for Peacemakers, February 18, 2015

Pray for Las Pavas community in Colombia. Pray for the land and crops of these campesinos (farmers) that are under the threat of Aportes San Isidro palm oil company. The company has installed fences within the campesinos land, creating physical obstacles that impede their access their own lands. Pray that the Collective Reparation Process that the Colombian government has offered this community as a way to compensate victims of the armed conflict becomes an immediate reality. Pray for the campesinos that work the land and allow us to have food on our tables.  

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Photo: Aportes San Isidro palm oil company has installed this gate five times, even after municipal authorities have declared illegal and removed it. Somehow, the gate has been put back time after time. Follow this link to learn more about this situation

“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8:15)