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March 13th, 2015

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) REFLECTION: They seek to live freely, not to die bravely

I heard the bullet slam into the metal door up the street, and turned to look at my teammate with confusion—was that really a bullet? —when several rubber bullets came skipping up the street and stopped near my feet. At that moment, I realized that I would hate telling this story to friends in the United States.

The responses would be predictable‑“You’re crazy!” “You’re so brave!”

We were accompanying the annual Open Shuhada Street demonstration Shuhada Street, once the main market street in the old city of Hebron, is a desolate ghost town since the Israeli military closed it to Palestinians in the late 1990s, as punishment for protesting the massacre of 29 Muslim Palestinians in the Ibrahimi Mosque. Every year, Palestinians and international supporters gather to demand that the Israeli military open the street and allow Palestinians to move freely in the city. Every year, they are met by brutal, violent repression.

As I walked over to pick up the rubber bullet, I looked across the street and saw several young Palestinian men my age, trying to decide if it was worth attempting to march down the street or not. And at that moment, I understood why I would hate telling this story. The truth is, I’m actually scared of a lot of things—bullets, heights, snakes, big spiders, etc. I am very sure that I would not be out protesting if I was a young Palestinian man, growing up with constant military harassment, family arrested and tortured, friends killed, economic strangulation. I felt safer on that street because of my CPT hat and my international passport.

We can always find someone braver than us, someone who is sacrificing more. And often people do not sacrifice by choice, and they are brave because their very existence is resistance and there is no third option between resistance and death. Those of us who do not face this choice can find ourselves seeking moments of bravery, opportunities to prove our toughness by facing down the forces of violence‑the white/male/middle-class/USAmerican Savior Complex.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus is asked to come heal Lazarus. This would mean traveling to Judea, where the political leaders want Jesus dead. He holds off for a bit, but when he decides to go, Thomas says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Thomas wants to be brave. He identifies the movement Jesus is building as about bravely facing death (unlike Peter, who at other points thinks that Jesus is an idiot for saying he will die, cf. Matthew 16). Thomas sees Jesus’ death as the central focus. Thomas would do well in a conservative evangelical church.

But this is not the story in John 11. Jesus does head down to Judea, and Lazarus has been dead for four days. If the point is a brave death, Jesus could have just sat down and waited for the political leadership to show up and kill him. Instead, he weeps with his friends in the death of their friend, he goes with them to the tomb, he asks for the stone to be rolled away, he prays, and Lazarus is raised from death. And then Jesus says this: “Unbind him, and let him go.”  Jesus frees Lazarus from the power of death.

March 12th

WEST PAPUA: Indonesian police crash meeting of first AustralAsia CPTers’ delegation to West Papua



Rev. Benny Giay Moderator of the
Kingmi Church, Papua, Indonesia

 ‘Church leaders in West Papua feel as if they are surrounded by violence and cannot escape.’ Two years ago, West Papua Reverend Dr. Benn Giay wrote these words in a letter, asking if outside people of faith could accompany the church in some way.  In January 2015 three members of CPT participated in an eleven-person AustralAsia delegation to West Papua.

West Papua is located on the western rim of the Pacific; it is one half of the island of New Guinea and is close to the northern most land mass of Australia. Indonesia has occupied it since the Dutch left in 1962.

Rev Giay told us that the Indonesian transmigration program has meant that the Papuans are now only 48% of the population of their own land. Benny fears that in twenty-five years, the Papuan culture and people could be lost forever.  They have already lost much of their language and culture and have much lower standards of living.  Other people we talked to, including village elders and student nonviolent peace activists, supported these facts. They told us of the very high incidence of HIV and increasing alcohol use as well as poor access to health care especially in the remote highlands.

Violence against Papuans by Indonesian military, militia groups and police has been significant under Indonesian governance.  Indonesian authorities have killed an estimate 500,000 Papuans since 1969.

March 11th

Prayers for Peacemakers, March 11, 2015 Iraqi Kurdistan

Prayers for Peacemakers, March 11, 2015 Iraqi Kurdistan

Give thanks for the nonviolence pioneers in Iraqi Kurdistan—both natives of the region and people driven from their homes by the Syrian War and ISIS violence—who recently completed an Alternatives to Violence Training.  They will use their training to help reduce conflict within and between communities that are sharing the region and its resourcess

*Epixel for Sunday, March 15, 2015

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north
and from the south. Psalm 107:1-3


 *epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's  Revised Common Lectionary  readings.

March 10th

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) REFLECTION: Walking the broken path

The border police argued with my teammate about permission to walk the paved “settler path.”  Sound bombs and tear gas were exploding at Salaymeh, a checkpoint nearby. According to the soldiers, we could walk on the same path that the settlers could, but the boys and girls with us could only walk on the adjacent rocky path.

Palestinian children walking with CPTer
on unpaved side of road, while settler
walks on paved side

Border police uttered Hebrew words through his radio. My teammate engaged the soldier. The children looked afraid. I pulled out notebook and pen, got down on my knees, and started drawing.

“Pintemos un payaso,” I told them, knowing the children would not understand. First the head, then the nose, eyes, ears, hair. I drew a clown.

One of the girls smiled timidly and told me something in Arabic.

“No te entiendo, pero pintemos otro payaso,” “I don’t understand, but let’s draw another clown.”

I started again: head, nose, eyes, ears, hair. My drawings amused the girls. They giggled. The boys pretended not to be interested, but peeked discreetly so they could still see my art.

March 6th

COLOMBIA: After landmine kills boy, CPT Colombia receives new accompaniment request

Over a decade ago, the campesinos of Micoahumado made international headlines when they engaged in dialogue with three armed groups whose fight landed them in the crossfire: the ELN (National Liberation Army), the Colombian military, and the government-supported right-wing paramilitaries.   The dialogue–facilitated by the Catholic Church–was an almost unprecedented step towards reducing violence, promoting peace, and recovering civilian autonomy in the region. All three groups agreed to refrain from engaging each other in open combat in areas populated by civilians, and not involve civilians in their wars.  The ELN further agreed to remove existing landmines and refrain from planting new ones on Micoahumado’s lands and roads.

For the past decade, Micoahumado’s peaceful strategies had been working. Until recently.

Just the other week in a place not too far from Micoahumado, a fourteen-year-old boy, walking in the fields, stepped on a landmine.  The landmine’s explosive force tore his limbs from his body, killing him instantly.  Soon after, in Caoba (one of the ten communities that make up Micoahumado), a farmer’s cow grazing in the field wandered over a landmine. The loss of the cow was a severe blow to the farmer’s livelihood. In addition to the landmines there is now also increasing Colombian military presence in populated areas.

In the face of these re-emerging threats, the campesinos of Micoahumado are reaffirming dialogue as the most effective path to peace.  And they have requested that Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), an international organization that sends teams of peace workers into conflict areas around the world, increase their accompaniment of Micoahumado. 

March 5th

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.”