Signs of the Times: Spring 2001 Vol. XI, No. 2
Hebron: Caught in the Crossfire
On April 17, Hebron CPTers Anne Montgomery (Brooklyn, NY), Bob Holmes (Toronto, ON) and Rick Polhamus (Fletcher, OH), along with Palestinian commuters, were pinned down by crossfire for more that two and a half hours near Beit Jala (Bethlehem District). No one was injured.
After attending a meeting on "Escalating Nonviolence" with Israelis, Palestinians and internationals at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem, team members boarded a taxi and headed back to Hebron around 6:30pm. However, Israeli soldiers stopped all traffic on the bypass road near Beit Jala due to a clash between Palestinian gunmen and stone-throwing Israeli settlers in the vicinity.
At about 7:45pm as CPTers and Palestinians waited to resume their journey, shots began flying all around them. "We could see white sparks where the bullets struck the road," reported Polhamus. "Everyone ran to take cover."
Over the next couple hours, shooting continued from the four hilltops surrounding the area. Soldiers fired more than a hundred flares to light up the valley. By 9:15pm, heavy shelling battered the village of Beit Jala.
"There were large explosions of light," said Polhamus. "Bigger than those we've seen from the tank fire in Hebron." One Hebron commuter who runs a gift shop in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem assured team members that the shooting "usually subsides around 10:00pm."
There was a brief burst of gunfire at 10:15. Then, an Israeli military jeep passed and one of the taxis followed it. Soon, other cars began moving as well. As CPTers approached their home in the center of Hebron, several men told the taxi driver it was unsafe to proceed. Israeli tanks stationed at a confiscated Palestinian elementary school fired into the area. Team members' efforts to walk an alternate route were thwarted when tracer bullets landed nearby, so they spent the night at the home of a friend in the Palestinian-controlled part of the city.
"This was just one night for us," said Polhamus. "I just kept thinking of all the nights that shop owner has left Jerusalem at 6:00 and not gotten home until after 11:00."
Homes Demolished, CPTer Detained
Israeli bulldozers destroyed eight Palestinian homes in a single morning on April 4th -- four in the Hebron District and four in the Jerusalem area.
CPTers Greg Rollins (Surrey, BC), Rick Polhamus (Fletcher, OH), and Pierre Shantz (Waterloo, ON) arrived on the scene 15 minutes after the military began demolishing the homes of the Faraj Jaber family, the Mahmoud Borahn al Jabri family and two houses belonging to the al Fakhouri family in the Beqa'a Valley east of Hebron.
Shantz scurried onto the roof of one house in an attempt to prevent the demolition from proceeding. An Israeli Border Police officer known as "Avi" immediately pursued Shantz, kicked him, slapped him across the face and pushed him down the stairs. Polhamus sustained kicks to the shins by the same officer while attempting to photograph his treatment of Shantz. Police then detained Shantz, accusing him of "inciting a crowd." He was later processed and released with no charges filed.
Meanwhile in Anata, a Palestinian suburb of Jerusalem, the Israeli military demolished four homes including the "Peace House" of Salim Shawamreh. Jeff Halper (Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions) and Arik Asherman (Rabbis for Human Rights) parked their cars to block the path of the bulldozers and sat down on the ground but the army forcibly removed them. Then soldiers destroyed Shawamreh's home, garden and water tanks. The bulldozers plowed up the foundations as well to ensure that the home would not be rebuilt on that location again.
Shawamreh's house was a symbol of hope and determination in the movement to end home demolitions. CPTers had joined Palestinians, Israelis and internationals in rebuilding it twice after it was destroyed in 1998 and 1999. At a dedication ceremony following the second rebuilding, a sign in Arabic, Hebrew and English was placed on the door declaring the residence a "House of Peace."
Campaign for Secure Dwellings
CPT is working to double the number of North American churches partnered with Palestinian villages and neighborhoods in the Hebron District from 75 to 150 in the coming months.
Partner churches in CPT's Campaign for Secure Dwellings (CSD) covenant to: 1) respond to urgent action alerts; 2) bring compelling concerns for a just peace in the Holy Land into the worship life of the congregation; 3) plan forums, vigils and public witness events to support an end to Israeli military occupation.
Help us expand the network. Become a CSD partner church. Encourage other churches to join the campaign. Renew your congregation's commitment to CSD. Contact Rich Meyer; Tel: 219-642-3920; e-mail: email@example.com.
CSD Partner Churches include: Holyrood MC, Edmonton AB; Trinity United, Vancouver BC; Vancouver Friends Meeting, Vancouver BC; Altona MC, Altona MB; Bethel MC, Winnipeg MB; Breslau MC, Breslau ON; Rockway MC, Kitchener ON; Rouge Valley MC, Markham ON; St. Andrews UC, Sioux Lookout ON; Avon MC, Stratford ON; Toronto United Mennonite, Toronto ON; Tiefengrund MC, Laird SK; Shalom MF, Tuscon AZ; St. Peters By-The-Sea Presbyterian, Huntington Beach CA; La Mesa First UMC, La Mesa CA; Rabbi Margaret Holub, Mendocino CA; Lake Avenue Congregational Church, Pasadena CA; Pasadena MC, Pasadena CA; San Carlos UMC, San Diego CA; CPT-CO, Boulder CO; Tallahassee Friends Meeting, Tallahassee FL; Douglas Park COB, Chicago IL; Fox Valley CRC, Crystal Lake IL; East Bend MC, Fisher IL; Naperville UMC, Naperville IL; Southside Fellowship, Elkhart IN; College MC, Goshen IN; Assembly MC, Goshen IN; Waterford MC, Goshen IN; Eighth St MC, Goshen IN; Seniors for Peace, Goshen IN; N. Manchester COB, N. Manchester IN; Eden MC, Burns KS; Manhattan MC, Manhattan KS; Shalom MC, Newton KS; New Creation Fellowship, Newton KS; Bethel College MC, North Newton KS; Hunter Presbyterian, Lexington KY; First Congregational Church, Brimfield MA; Lexington UMC, Lexington MA; St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Baltimore MD; Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice, Ann Arbor MI; Memorial Christian Church, Ann Arbor MI; CSD Traverse City, Traverse City MI; Chapel Hill Friends Meeting, Chapel Hill NC; Binkley Baptist Church, Chapel Hill NC; Coalition for Peace with Justice, Chapel Hill NC; Haywood County Peace Fellowship, Waynesville NC; First MC, Lincoln NE; Cresskill Congregational Church, Cresskill NJ; Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Albuquerque NM; Cayutaville UMC, Alpine NY; Shalom Community Fellowship, Catteraugus NY; First UMC, Corning NY; NY Area Religious of the Sacred Heart, NY NY; Rabia Harris, NY NY; FOR worship group, Nyack NY; Rochester Area Mennonite Fellowship, Penfield NY; Rochester Committee for Middle East Peace, Rochester NY; Zion MC, Archbold OH; New Covenant Fellowship, Athens OH; First MC, Bluffton OH; Christ UMC, Kettering OH; Oak Grove MC, Smithville OH; Eugene MC, Eugene OR; Lake Oswego UCC, Lake Oswego OR; Metanoia Peace Community, Portland OR; Akron MC, Akron PA; Slate Hill MC, Camp Hill PA; Market Square Presbyterian, Harrisburg PA; Pleasant Valley UMC, Chantilly VA; Shalom MC, Harrisonburg VA; Community MC, Harrisonburg VA; Seattle MC, Seattle WA; Madison MC, Madison WI.
CPTer Anne Montgomery (Brooklyn, NY) has served with the Hebron team since 1998. During Lent, the team reflected on Mark 16:2-3: "Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, 'Who will roll away the stone from the entrance of the tomb?'"
"That question is always with us 'on the Way' toward yet another entombment of hope. But the love of the women in Mark's Gospel was stronger than death. They did what they could even in the face of a tomb imperially sealed and guarded.
In Palestine we need to believe that the tomb built of stones is empty, that the resurrected Christ walks to meet us as he did the faithful women carrying the message of life to doubting disciples.
We meet stones everywhere -- the mammoth blocks across village roads; minds petrified by fear and prejudice; the rocks of frustration in the hands of young men and children. All these are built into dividing walls enforced by the structures of domination -- geographical, legal, and military -- one people caging another in a physical and psychological prison.
Perhaps here no earthquake will shake the walls, but we can hear the gentle wind that summoned Elijah -- "Get up; walk in hope; reach out hands to remove the stones and touch one another in friendship -- Palestinians, Israelis, internationals."
The Spirit of nonviolence is gentle but persistent. It has drawn us, like the disciples before Pentecost, to meet together in Jerusalem rooms, but then to go out, to walk to checkpoints, to call forth the humanity of soldiers barring the way. We have seen the hands of Palestinian youth accomplish the "impossible" by together pushing a boulder from the barrier to their village. In that one small space and moment of time the spirit of occupation died.
When it is difficult to believe, when violence responds to violence, when newly shelled or demolished homes threaten to bury our hope, when the tomb seems to hold only death, we must listen once more for the gentle yet strong wind calling us to fidelity to the Spirit of Christ whom we meet unexpectedly "on the Way."
Like most Palestinian cities and villages in the West Bank these days, the entrance to the village of Rantis had been blocked for over a month. On March 23, the Israeli peace group, Rabbis for Human Rights, decided to unblock it. They organized 150 Israelis and internationals, including CPTers, to remove two mountains of dirt from the road into Rantis.
When the group arrived, Israeli police and soldiers were already waiting. "They let us pass," reported CPTer Greg Rollins (Surrey, BC). "They did not declare the area a 'closed military zone' or make us leave, but as soon as we started to dig, they took away all our shovels."
Undeterred, the group began using their hands to dig away the dirt. With sticks and pieces of metal they loosened rocks and boulders and rolled them away.
At one point police arrested four people including CPTers Rick Polhamus (Fletcher, OH) and Pierre Shantz (Waterloo, ON) and detained them in their jeeps. But there was not room to detain all 150, so the four were released without charges once everything was over.
In two hours the piles were down and the road to Rantis was reopened. As the group prepared to leave, the soldiers handed back their shovels.
On April 18, near the West Bank town of Nablus, CPTers once again joined a coalition of Israeli and Palestinian peace groups to clear the rocks and boulders blocking the entrance into the Palestinian villages of Bidiya and Maskha.
When Israeli soldiers arrived to disperse them, the peace workers sat down on the road and linked arms. Sixteen were dragged away and arrested including CPTers Bob Holmes (Toronto, ON) and Greg Rollins (Surrey, BC). After throwing the detainees into paddy wagons, soldiers drove them to a nearby Israeli settlement where they were questioned and released.
Organizations involved in "rolling away the stones" included three Israeli groups -- Rabbis for Human Rights, Gush Shalom, and the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace -- and the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement.
Members of CPT-Colombia engaged in a liquid-only fast throughout the period of Lent as an invitation to the various armed groups, including foreign donors, to "fast" from supplying and using all weapons and tools that promote violence and injustice.
On Ash Wednesday, team members initiated their fast with a series of vigils at the U.S. Embassy in Bogot√° to denounce the U.S. government for bringing more weapons into the country than any other supplier. They prayed and distributed leaflets explaining their witness to passersby, including one who eagerly reached out his hand through the gun hole of an armored truck. One Embassy guard frequently repositioned the team's posters when they fell over. The owner of the store where CPTers bought fresh juice declared that if he didn't have his business, he would join in the Embassy vigils.
CPTers continued their Lenten witness at various places throughout the country. On March 8 they traveled to Barrancabermeja, a city of 300,000 located in the northeastern department (province) of Santander, where assassinations and other human rights violations are rampant. In 2000, there were 567 assassinations in that city alone. Paramilitaries had recently made progressive incursions into the northeast quadrant of the city, taking over homes and neighborhoods and instilling fear in the community.
On their first night in Barrancabermeja (Barranca for short), team members were awakened by a burst of gunfire near the house of refuge for displaced families where they were staying. Jhon Jaime Camacho was shot and killed for unknown reasons by an unknown assailant. Two days later team members held a prayer vigil at the site of the murder. Announced on radio and television the evening before, the vigil drew participation from throughout the city and was covered by the local media.
Over the following weeks CPTers conducted regular street patrols throughout the city and outlying communities. As they encountered paramilitary members, Colombian soldiers, and guerrilla groups, they shared the invitation to "fast from arms."
On Good Friday CPTers concluded their Lenten witness with a "Stations of the Cross" vigil at seven sites symbolizing violence around Barranca. Thirty people representing refugee families, a local pastors' assembly and a regional development and peace program traveled from station to station to pray for peace.
The sites included an abandoned school that had become home to families displaced by paramilitary attacks; a wharf which is the departure point for rural areas experiencing numerous acts of terror by the army and paramilitaries; a dumping ground used by military and guerrilla groups to dispose of their victims' bodies; and a bridge that divides the wealthy commercial district from poor neighborhoods, symbolizing economic violence.
AMany Colombians believe that more weapons will NOT end the violence that is wracking their country," reported CPTers. "The United States and Canada fuel the bloodshed by aiding the Colombian military. But God is working redemptively through those Colombians whose hard work and resurrection faith offer a nonviolent way out of this decades-old conflict."
Members of CPT's Colombia team throughout Lent were Duane Ediger (Dallas, TX), Christine Forand (Orleans, ON), Cliff Kindy (N. Manchester, IN), and Janet Shoemaker (Goshen, IN).
By Cliff Kindy
On March 30, CPTers traveled with two European journalists and a regional peace and development worker to the abandoned village of Puerto Nuevo It√©, a riverside community in northern Antioquia province about 6 hours west of Barrancabermeja by boat. In early February all the residents of Puerto Nuevo It√© -- some 20 families -- had fled when they heard that soldiers were coming.
Team members saw evidence that army and paramilitaries had indeed ransacked the school, the cooperative store, and the town's nine houses. Graffiti on the walls was signed by the Palagua Brigade of the Colombian Army's 14th Battalion and the AUC (United Self-Defense forces of Colombia), one of the largest and most notorious paramilitary organizations.
As CPTers documented the destruction, ten members of the FARC, Colombia's largest guerrilla group, appeared. The region around Puerto Nuevo It√© is routinely patrolled by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). While many villagers accept the guerrilla presence without fear, the communities themselves are made up of civilians. One development worker explained, "These are farmers. They have children, live in houses, develop a sustainable economy. They are not armed and they do not wear camouflage military uniforms. The guerrillas are armed and uniformed. They live on the move and do not develop a local economy."
The next day as CPTers trekked into the mountains to meet with the displaced families, they ran into Major Restrepo of the Palagua Brigade in the village of Ojos Claros. They noted that many of the men in army uniforms who accompanied the officer were bearded. Afterwards they learned that Colombian soldiers must be clean-shaven and that the presence of uniformed men with beards indicates paramilitaries with the army.
Local contacts reported that the Palagua Brigade left Ojos Claros shortly after meeting with CPTers and spent two days in Puerto Nuevo It√© before leaving the area.
Five days later when CPTers accompanied some of the displaced families returning to Puerto Nuevo It√©, they found that more property had been destroyed, but the graffiti implicating specific military and paramilitary organizations had been carefully removed.
In early February, CPT issued a prayer alert on behalf of Colombian Mennonite pastor, Islandes Losada, who had been the target of repeated death threats. According to Rev. Losada, the threats ceased in late March.
"Please express my deep gratitude to the many brothers and sisters who responded with letters of support," Losada said. "They helped sustain me through very difficult times."
Rev. Losada reported that a meeting with members of one of Colombia's illegal armed groups, arranged at their request, led to their acceptance of his work and an end to the threats.
Losada told CPT that the group had been wary of his work with the Colombian Mennonite Church's "Sanctuaries of Peace" program because it put him in contact with an opposing group.
"Sanctuaries of Peace" congregations provide counsel, spiritual orientation, and travel assistance to people who want to end their participation in any armed group.
Following up the work of the Lenten Team (February-April, 2001), CPT placed a five-person team in Barrancabermeja (called Barranca for short) at the end of May to provide a violence-reduction presence with returned refugees in several remote rural communities.
Barrancabermeja is a city of 300,000 located in Colombia's northeastern Santander Department near the corners of Antioquia and Bol√≠var Departments. For many years, the Ci√©naga del Op√≥n area south of Barranca has been controlled by guerillas. Over the past two years, paramilitaries have made repeated incursions forcing the displacement of some 250 families in three communities along the Magdalena and Op√≥n Rivers.
These refugees, determined to return home to live and work in peace, have requested a nonviolent international presence for six months to help deter further abuses by armed groups.
Team members include Ben Horst (Evanston, IL), Jonathan Horst (Mt. Joy, PA), Scott Kerr (Downers Grove, IL), Carol Rose (Wichita, KS) and Pierre Shantz (Waterloo, ON).
The Popular Women's Organization (OFP) in Barrancabermeja has been targeted by paramilitaries for its humanitarian work. On May 4 the OFP learned of a military intelligence report that made reference to a plan to assassinate OFP Coordinator Yolanda Becerra Vega. CPTers stayed at three OFP safe houses for threatened families and witnessed the effects of violence in the immediate vicinity. CPT asks supporters to contact Anne Patterson -- U.S. Ambassador to Colombia; Tel: 011-571-315-2139; email AmbassadorB@PD.state.gov to voice serious concerns about the assassination threat to Yolanda Becerra Vega.
In addition, your letters to members of parliament and congress can help assure that North American training and military equipment directed for Colombia are made conditional on the ending of such abusive threats and actions. Through "Plan Colombia," the United States sends 1.3 billion dollars in mostly military aid to the Colombian government. Helicopters from Canada are also part of the package.
Pushing through brushy woods the morning of May 2, four members of a CPT delegation stooped to climb through a hole in the fence surrounding the naval base on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. They were arrested by Naval officials and held overnight at the Guaynabo federal prison on the main island of Puerto Rico.
"This is the price of freedom. This is what it takes to get recognition for the people of Vieques," said delegation member Mark Byler, lying face-down in the grass, as he was being handcuffed.
The action followed a week in which more than 175 people walked into the bombing zone to oppose the resumption of U.S. Navy practice raids on the island.
Vieques, an inhabited island of about 80 square miles, has withstood Navy bombing for decades. Since the 1999 death of civilian David Sanes by a stray bomb, local resistance to the naval presence has grown. CPT has sent six delegations over the past year to join thousands of Puerto Ricans calling for an end to military attacks on Vieques. Nearly 1200 arrests have taken place since May, 2000.
"Active Christian peacemakers and conscientious objectors to the world's military apparatus need to stand with the people of Vieques," said H.A. Penner before slipping through the fence.
CPT delegation members who entered the base were Mark Byler (Goshen, IN), Brian Ladd (Boulder, CO), H. A. Penner (Akron, PA) and Rich Williams (West New York, NJ). Other members of the week-long delegation were John Buschert (Goshen, IN), Matt Guynn (Richmond, IN), Eric Meyer (Goshen, IN) and Audrey Miller (Willington, CT).
"The air was electric!" reported CPTer Scott Kerr from the central plaza in San Crist√≥bal de Las Casas. More than 10,000 people gathered there on February 25 to greet Zapatista commanders and initiate a historic caravan to Mexico City. The massive, nonviolent mobilization calling for the recognition of indigenous rights and culture raised high hopes that a negotiated settlement to the seven year uprising was near at hand.
Mexico's President, Vicente Fox, had made substantial progress towards meeting two of the Zapatista's three conditions for renewing peace talks which broke off in 1996 -- 1) releasing Zapatista political prisoners, and 2) withdrawing the army from seven key military bases (including one at Guadalupe Tepayac where CPTers held a three-day fast and prayer vigil on behalf of 80 displaced families last January). The third condition, fulfillment of the San Andr√©s Accords regarding indigenous rights and culture, would soon come before Mexico's lawmakers.
Two CPTers accompanied members of the indigenous pacifist organization Las Abejas (the Bees) on the two-week trek to Mexico City. The journey included a three-day meeting of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) which brought together representatives of 40 of Mexico's 56 indigenous groups.
Upon reaching the capitol city, CPTers and Abejas joined members of Mexico's Movimiento por la Paz (Movement for Peace) in a 12-hour fast and vigil at the legislative building. There they prayed for passage of the law that would implement the San Andr√©s Accords.
Simultaneously, back in Chenalh√≥, Chiapas, three other CPTers joined 1500 Abejas on a 10-kilometer procession to support the same call. Their chanting voices thundered as they passed by Majom√ļt, the largest military base in the highlands where permanent concrete structures recently replaced the more temporary wood and thatch huts.
Their fragile hopes suffered a severe blow when Congress passed a variation of the law in late April. The final version of the bill removed much of the heart and soul of the San Andr√©s Accords. It does not recognize indigenous communities as legal entities (as corporations are recognized), but as entities of public interest (like people under the age of 18). It also left out key measures to implement indigenous autonomy, such as the ability to create regional alliances within a given ethnic group and the collective use and benefit from the natural resources found on indigenous land.
The changes are seen by many as a racist affront to democracy. Father Gonzalo Ituarte, Peace and Justice Vicar of the Diocese of San Crist√≥bal, sees this law as "another way that mestizos have humiliated indigenous people."
Team members working in Chiapas February through April were Fred Bahnson (Brevard, NC), Claire Evans (Chicago,IL), Scott Kerr (Downers Grove, IL), Chris Schweitzer (Siler City, NC) and Lynn Stoltzfus (Harrisonburg, VA).
The San Andr√©s Accords were the result of the first rounds of negotiations between the Zapatistas and the Mexican government under former President Zedillo. Both parties signed the agreement, which provided the framework for changing the constitution, in February, 1996.
The government then formed a special congressional commission (COCOPA) to draft legislation which would implement the accords. But the COCOPA law (proposed in November, 1996) was never introduced in Mexico's Congress, so the Zapatistas withdrew from the negotiating table.
President Fox submitted the COCOPA initiative for consideration after taking office earlier this year. At the end of April, Congress passed a version of the bill called the "Law of Indigenous Rights and Culture" which contained significant modifications to key aspects of the original agreement.
Both the Zapatistas and the National Indigenous Congress immediately rejected the law as inconsistent with the San Andr√©s Accords and therefore not in compliance with the conditions for moving ahead with the peace process.
The constitutional reforms contained in the new act must still be ratified by a majority of the states. They are expected to face significant opposition from indigenous groups and others who say the measures are inadequate.
by William Payne
"Hey! William from CPT! How are you?" I couldn't place the young man who greeted me as I crossed the main square in San Crist√≥bal so I asked him how we knew each other.
"From X'oyep!" he replied. (X'oyep is one of the refugee camps of Las Abejas (the Bees), indigenous pacifists displaced by the war in the highlands of Chiapas.) "I am here to register for university," he said.
My confusion continued. I certainly did not recall knowing anyone from X'oyep who was at that point in their studies. "Are you from one of the original families or are you one of the displaced?" I asked.
Now he looked confused. "I'm not from X'oyep. I met you when you were fasting at the military base there."
CPT joined members of Las Abejas in an ongoing public witness campaign to denounce the continuing presence of military and paramilitary forces in the area, including a 40-day fast and prayer vigil during Lent, 2000 on the grounds of the base outside X'oyep.
I took a good look at him. "You're Juan!" I exclaimed. "You're a soldier!"
"Not anymore," he beamed. "I quit and went back to high school. If I can figure out how to pay for it, I am going to study accounting now."
Two weeks later, while waiting for a bus in the state capital, I again heard my name. A young man sitting with his friends called me over. "Do you remember me?" I had no idea who he was. "From X'oyep!"
This time I figured he must be a soldier, but I didn't recognize him. "Are you still in the army?" I asked.
"No. I quit," he replied.
"Why did you quit?"
"You said that I should," he told me.
Then I remembered him -- the quiet one with the church songbook, singing hymns to pass the time on guard duty. He quit the army only a few weeks after our Lenten vigil.
We chatted about his plans. He seemed unsure about what he should do and felt that he had limited options. He asked me what I thought he should do next. What do I counsel a poor, Christian young man who has decided that, despite his poverty, he does not want to carry a machine gun anymore? What are the options when minimum wage here is $.30/hr?
Eight members of the indigenous pacifist group Las Abejas and five CPTers met for a three-day "Encuentro" (encounter) in San Crist√≥bal, Chiapas, April 24-26, to share about the role of nonviolent action in their work. Participants charted and dramatized selected nonviolent actions from the history of each organization, discussed nonviolent movements around the world, prayed together, and reflected on stories of nonviolence in the Bible. Kryss Chupp, CPT Training Coordinator, facilitated the sessions.
Many CPT advisors in Chiapas describe the current climate as a "calm before the storm" and suggest that everyone -- the Zapatistas, the paramilitaries, the Abejas -- all need practical training in nonviolent direct action to advocate for their concerns.
CPT sent another six-person violence-reduction team to the fishing grounds off Esgeno√īpetitj (Burnt Church, NB) in the face of potential violence and human rights violations against First Nations people involved with the spring lobster fishery. Corps member Janet Shoemaker said, "Our goal is to reduce the risk of anyone being hurt this year as they exercise their right to fish. We will be visible in the community and will report widely on any abuses we observe."
Last year, in spite of the Supreme Court's "Marshall Decision" recognizing aboriginal rights to fish, the Canadian Department of Fisheries & Oceans (DFO)seized Mi'kmaq fishing boats and equipment. Police and fisheries officers harassed, beat, and imprisoned Aboriginal fishers and pressed more than 140 charges against them. During a recent court appearance, one Mi'kmaq fisher asked, "How many times do we have to come to court? The Supreme Court has already recognized we have a right to fish."
In a report entitled "Gunboat Diplomacy: Canada's Abuse of Human Rights at Esgeno√īpetitj," CPT documented 22 incidents where Mi'kmaq rights were violated during last year's fishing season. The report was released on Parliament Hill on February 28, 2001. CPT hopes that the abuse will not be repeated.
CPT Canada Coordinator Doug Pritchard, was found not guilty in New Brunswick Provincial Court on March 19 of obstruction charges stemming from a June 12, 2000, incident. The government had accused Pritchard of obstruction when he photographed the actions of Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) agents as they confiscated traps set by native fishers. However, the judge determined that Pritchard was legitimately "acting as a human rights observer" at the time.
"By this decision Judge McCarroll recognized that there is an underlying issue of human rights abuse in the DFO actions last year," commented Pritchard. "A Canadian court has acknowledged that there is a role for human rights observers."
In the same proceeding, three Esgeno√īpetitj men who refused to appear in Canada's court, were found guilty of obstruction charges leveled against them that same day and warrants were issued for their arrests.
The case of two others were adjourned until June 2001, but defendant James Ward said, "This can't be solved in the courts or on the water. Canada has to recognize our inherent and treaty rights to manage our own fishery." Canada's Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples agreed: "The courts are a cumbersome, costly and sometimes insensitive way to solve the human issues that underlie land and resource claims."
In a separate proceeding on March 13, CPTers Bob Holmes and William Payne (both of Toronto, ON) stood trial on obstruction charges stemming from a May 6, 2000 incident. They challenged the judge, saying, "We ask you to recognize and accept our attempt to stop the obstruction by the DFO of the Mi'kmaq people's right to manage their own fishery."
The officiating judge replied, "What you ask may seem a small step, but it is off a big cliff with regards to the legal consequences it would have." In rendering a guilty verdict on May 18, the judge stated that he thought Holmes and Payne "were doing more good than bad, both in the local situation and elsewhere in the world," and that he did not want to impede this work, so he granted them an absolute discharge. Another 36 people from Esgeno√īpetitj await trial on charges of illegal fishing, obstruction and assault rendered during last year's fishing season.
by Doug Pritchard
On March 31, ten CPTers and friends in Toronto inspected five downtown toy retailers to evaluate what the stores were doing to promote or discourage the spread of violent toys and games among local children. At a news conference following the inspections, participant Shannon Neufeldt said, "I was pleasantly surprised at how few guns and nasty action figures there were at the Zellers store. But the video games section was another story. Violent games were mixed in with innocuous games. The management does not enforce the Entertainment Software Rating Board's recommendations on what games can be sold to what age groups."
CPTer Jim Loney reported, "The manager at Wal-Mart was open to our comments. But he did not even know there was a rating system for video games."
Both Wal-Mart and Zellers were issued a "Notice of Toxicity" because of the high level of violent content in their stores.
CPTer Bob Holmes, while inspecting the toy tanks and grenades in a Toys R Us store, rated in the middle, said, "I'm just back from a war zone in Palestine. These are the same weapons that we saw every day on the streets. These are not toys. These are not for children."
In contrast, the Toys Toys Toys store had no violent video games and very few violent action figures or videotapes. They were given a "Certificate of Encouragement" as the store doing the most, among the five stores inspected, toward creating a violence-free shopping environment.
CPT has led inspections of toy stores in numerous communities across Canada and the U.S. through the "Violence is Not Child's Play: 500 Churches for Change" campaign. CPT believes that "if 500 churches across the continent make this concern a priority, we can change the culture of children's toys forever." Two hundred churches and individuals have already received campaign packets to help them organize inspections and public witnesses in their communities. For information contact coordinator Kathy Railsback; Tel: 206-361-9176; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Gretchen Williams
CPT Reservists Gretchen Williams and Carl Meyer traveled to the Pine Ridge Reservation near Porcupine, South Dakota, March 20-23. They were invited by contacts CPT had made in 1999 during a 6-month encampment on LaFramboise Island, Pierre, SD, in support of Lakota people who were resisting a transfer of tribal lands to the state. On March 22, the Army Corps of Engineers held environmental hearings on the Mitigation Act, the relevant legislation. CPT called on the Corps of Engineers to take a moral stand against the land transfer.
At Pine Ridge I learned that what the Lakota people want most is that I listen carefully with all my intelligence and respect as they speak. It is impolite to hold constant eye contact with the speaker, but rather I should look into the distance or away as he speaks and to listen with my heart. It is impolite to interrupt with questions; rather listen, share, and later return to the topic in an indirect fashion.
In greeting we shook hands. The handshake is a manner of "touching flesh," rather than a way of showing strength and firmness.
As we drove along the highway I noticed two large piles of clothes about 20 feet in diameter and 6 feet high. "Rummage," I was told. Native communities are offended that privileged people donate their cast off, used up, broken down, worn out stuff.
I noticed that the Lakota people usually refer to themselves as Indians, not Native Americans. Carl shared that, when he was on La Framboise Island with the CPT team, those involved in the Peace Encampment didn't consider themselves to be any sort of "American" anything.
The Lakota people would rather that we people of privilege come and learn their stories and think about what we, as descendants of people who took all their resources, might be called to do.
In this issue of Dialogue we share an exchange between CPTer Kathy Kern who has worked with CPT in Hebron since 1995 and a concerned reader about CPT's work in the Occupied Territories and the most recent Intifida (Palestinian uprising).
Mr. Burnat: I'm aware of your positions regarding Israeli and settler violence and abuse against Palestinians. What exactly is your position on the Palestinian Intifada?
Kathleen Kern: The organization as a whole has not issued a "position" as such on the current Intifada. We support both Israelis and Palestinians who are working nonviolently to challenge Israel's massive confiscation of land and expansion of settlements in the Occupied Territories. We are working with Israelis and Palestinians who reject violence in general and believe that the violence against Palestinian civilians is not given the same attention as that against Israeli civilians.
Mr. Burnat: Is (and was) the Intifada an act of nonviolent "witness?"
Kathleen Kern: Intifada means "shaking off" in Arabic. In both the past and current Intifadas, most of the resistance involved calling strike days, boycotting Israeli products, networking with Israelis who supported an end to the Occupation, refusing to pay taxes and in general refusing to cooperate with the military authorities. None of that is as exciting to the average cameraman as photos of youth throwing stones, so the stone throwing is the visual image that most western people associate with the Intifada.
Mr. Burnat: Is stone throwing (whether by hand or by slingshot) consistent with the views of CPT regarding nonviolent protest? A stone is a stone is a stone, whether it's heaved at the son of Israeli parents or heaved at Israeli civilians, or heaved at a CPT member by a Jewish settler, and for whatever reasons. Of course, as to the Intifada there is the matter of Palestinian use of live fire, molotov cocktails and mortars.
Kathleen Kern: No, stone throwing is not consistent with nonviolence. We do not support it on a philosophical level and have told people doing it that we think it is counterproductive. However, it is frustrating that so much attention is focused on stone throwing when there has been an exponentially greater number of people killed and maimed by bullets and shelling than there have been people killed or seriously injured by stones. The day after the first serious shooting at the Israeli settlement of Gilo from the Palestinian village of Beit Jala and the subsequent retaliation, there was a picture of a little Israeli girl in the Jerusalem Post holding bullets she had found in her living room. In one of the Palestinian papers, there was a picture of a little Palestinian girl holding two tank shells peering through the hole that had been blasted into the side of her house. I thought those two pictures captured the reality of the situation.
Mr. Burnat: On one hand I read from CPT: "we have consistently used and advocated nonviolent means of resisting violence and injustice. We believe that the only solution to violence is the provision of justice." But I also read a number of articles by CPT characterizing the Intifada as nonviolent. Is this the position of CPT?
Kathleen Kern: Speaking mostly from the perspective of having been in Hebron October 2000 through January 2001, I can tell you that there were between 20-50 boys out of a population of 130, 000 Palestinians who regularly showed up at the designated venue every day to throw stones at soldiers. There are probably smaller numbers than that doing the shooting, the molotovs etc. I can't say exactly because our primary contacts are with the hundreds of people who are resisting nonviolently. We have very little connection with the Palestinian Authority and almost none with the militant groups.
Middle East Delegations: July 27 - August 8; November 16-28
Chiapas Delegations: July 18-30; November 19 - December 1
Esgeno√īpetitj Project: Spring 2001 - New Brunswick
CPT Sunday: August 5
Peacemaker Congress VI: September 20-23 - Joyfield Farm, N. Manchester, IN
Application Deadline: October 1 for Chicago Peacemaker Training
CPT Steering Committee Meetings: October 18-20 - Harrisonburg, VA
Peacemaker Training: July 21-22 - Cleveland, OH; December 27, 2001 - January 23, 2002
Delegations to Vieques, PR and Colombia to be announced.
TIKKUN Editor Threatened -- Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the progressive Jewish magazine TIKKUN recently received death threats from an irate reader who wrote: "You subhuman leftist animals, you should be all exterminated..." According to TIKKUN staff, "This is not a lone crank, but part of a larger systematic and planned assault." CPT is familiar with the pattern, having received threats of a similar nature both in Hebron and Chicago. TIKKUN has received awards for presenting information about Israel and the Palestinians not available elsewhere in the American media. Contact: TIKKUN, 2107 Van Ness Ave., Suite 302; San Francisco, CA 94109; Web Site: www.tikkun.org; subscription information: 800-395-7753.
Tax Day Penny Poll -- On April 15, CPT supporters and the Lancaster area "Taxes for Life" committee co-sponsored a tax day "penny poll" in front of the Lancaster, PA post office. Passersby were offered ten pennies to divide according to how they would prioritize federal government expenditures. The 130 people who participated allotted only 6.3% for military spending, currently 33% of the budget.
Puerto Rican Mennonites on Vieques -- Delegates at the 53rd Annual Puerto Rico Mennonite Assembly voted to oppose further U.S. military exercises on Vieques Island and seven church leaders planned to join in nonviolent resistance to renewed Navy maneuvers. Gilberto Perez, Peace and Justice Coordinator for the conference, wrote in an April 3rd letter, "We acknowledge that we have been slow to react and recognize that our silence has supported oppression of our sisters and brothers in Vieques." He credited a meeting with participants of CPT's January delegation at a San Juan Mennonite church as a key factor in the decision.
Every Church A Peace Church (ECAPC) -- 110 participants gathered for an inaugural conference in Duluth, MN, April 27-28 to explore the question: "What if every church lived and taught as Jesus lived and taught?" CPT Steering Committee chair John Stoner (Akron, PA) and Cindy Pile (Oakland, CA) from the anti-nuclear group Nevada Desert Experience addressed a crowd representing 20 religious traditions. Web Site: www.ecapc.org.
ELF Trial -- On March 27 CPTers Matt Guynn (Richmond, IN) and Jane Wright (Toronto, ON) stood trial in Ashland County, WI on charges stemming from a January 14 civil disobedience action at the site of the U.S. Navy's Project ELF facility. The ELF (AExtremely Low Frequency" ) transmitter signals submerged submarines making it the trigger for a first-strike nuclear weapons strategy. Wright and Guynn were both found guilty of trespassing and fined $212. In his closing remarks, Guynn invited the judge to find them not guilty: "I stand before you, a messenger of life and the abundance of creation. I ask you to act in support of life. In the last 10 years, there have been more than 540 arrests at the ELF installation. This is a movement. Come and be part of it."
Air Show Charges Dropped -- The trial of 21 people who sang and prayed under the wing of an A-10 Thunderbolt at a Hamilton (ON) Air Show in June, 2000, was scheduled to start May 1, 2001. However, CPTers Krista Lord and Jim Loney were among those informed that the charges against them had been dropped. The case against another 15 nonviolent resisters who held a "die-in" on the road outside the show grounds was expected to proceed.
War College Vigils -- CPT supporters continue monthly vigils at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA where Israeli military officers receive training. CPT Reservist Elayne McClanen writes, "This is the 50th birthday year for this College of Warfare studies, and we seize this opportunity to call for nonviolence in public policy, global peace service training and specifically creation of a peace college."
Peacemaker Congress VI: A "four-day taste of glory divine" is how one participant describes the Christian Peacemaker Congress sponsored by CPT and New Call to Peacemaking. This year's Congress will unite Christian peacemakers from across the continent at Joyfield Farm, North Manchester, IN, September 20-23, 2001. Featured speakers C. T. Vivian, a veteran advocate for racial and economic justice, David Waas, professor emeritus of world and African history at Manchester College, and Dianne Roe, long-time CPTer with the Hebron project will guide participants in reflecting on "Sustainable Peacemaking: Building Connections for Change." Inclusive worship, organic food, engaging workshops, gutsy action and peacemaking stories from around the world await you. For information and registration contact CPT at 312-455-1199; e-mail: email@example.com.
CPT Sunday: CPT invites congregations and meetings to celebrate "CPT Sunday" on August 5, 2001 or another Sunday as appropriate to reflect on and support active peacemaking. Worship materials focused on stopping the spread of violent toys are available from the CPT office or our Web Site: www.cpt.org.
Summer Action Opportunities: Look for CPT-sponsored workshops, displays and public witness events at Mennonite and Church of the Brethren conferences in Baltimore, MD (July 1-4), Nashville, TN (July 3-7) and Abbotsford, BC (July 11-14). Conduct toy store inspections as part of CPT's "Violence Is Not Child's Play" campaign in Nashville and Abbotsford; join a march and prayer service to oppose the death penalty in Tennessee; experience simulations of Palestinian life under Israeli Occupation in Baltimore. Contact CPT for information.
Weaving Peace: A peace gathering sponsored by On Earth Peace Assembly (cosponsored by CPT) will weave together the formation and witness of present day peacemaking in an intergenerational way July 4-7 at the Aukerman Homestead in Union Bridge, MD following the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference. Contact: 410-635-8704; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Researchers and Translators Needed: Do you have e-mail and access to the web? Volunteer for CPT from where you are! Help expand the work of peacemaking by translating CPT materials into Spanish or researching outlets for information, prayer support, or letter writing on topics such as Middle East peace, Colombia, violent toys, spirituality and worship for sustained peacemaking, etc. Contact email@example.com; check out our Web Site at www.cpt.org.
My 16 year old daughter says we should move the UN headquarters to Jerusalem. Perhaps Jerusalem could be made an international city, setting an example for tolerance and peace!
The enclosed check represents a portion of war tax for 2000. I applaud the courage and work of CPTers.
I am one of the Arab Americans who reads with respect of your activities in the occupied lands in Palestine. Unfortunately I did not yet see about your good work on television to inform the American public about the injustice happening in Israel against the Arab Palestinians. Why should the U.S. support Israel?
I can't decide which aspect of your activities is worse; your naivete, your totally self-serving concept of "justice," or your simple ignorance of fundamental facts. You are not peacemakers; you are apologists for causes, many of which have violence, terrorism and murder as part of their core beliefs and practices. Your hypocrisy is exceeded only by your self-righteousness.
We arrested one of your people today at Camp Garcia [Vieques, PR]. If this is a nonviolent way of trying to get the Navy off government land I don't believe it. We had more Navy personnel wounded by people throwing rocks, bottles, etc.
Special thanks to:
Velma Schmidt (80) from the Bergthal Mennonite Church in Pawnee Rock, KS for making and donating 23 armbands for CPT teams. Red armbands are an important part of every CPTer's "uniform."
Paul Becher from Church of the Brethren in Chicago and his outstanding crew, James Garrison and Jed Schrock, for countless hours spent restoring, renovating and reconstructing CPT's office and guest house.
Signs of the Times is produced four times a year. Batches of 10 or more are available to institutions, congregations, and local groups for distribution. Any part of Signs of the Times may be used without permission. Please send CPT a copy of the reprint. Your contributions finance CPT ministries including the distribution of 9000 copies of Signs of the Times
The work of CPT is guided by an 11-person STEERING COMMITTEE:
Bob Bartel, Paul Dodd, Pat Hostetter Martin, Cliff Kindy, Nancy Maeder, Orlando Redekopp, Hedy Sawadsky, Mary Scott Boria, Muriel T. Stackley, John Stoner, Dorothy Jean Weaver. STAFF: Gene Stoltzfus - Director, Claire Evans - Administrative Coordinator, Kryss Chupp -Training Coordinator (Chicago, IL); Jan Long - Personnel Coordinator (Blacksburg, VA); Rich Meyer - Campaign for Secure Dwellings Coordinator (Millersburg, IN); Doug Pritchard - CPT Canada (Toronto, ON). CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKER CORPS: Rick Carter, Claire Evans, Anita Fast, Matt Guynn, Bob Holmes, Kathleen Kern, Scott Kerr, Cliff Kindy, Natasha Krahn, JoAnne Lingle, Anne Montgomery, William Payne, Rick Polhamus, Dianne Roe, Greg Rollins, Pierre Shantz, Janet Shoemaker, Lena Siegers, Lynn Stoltzfus.
Jane Adas, Nait Alleman, Art Arbour, Amy Babcock, Fred Bahnson, Matthew Bailey-Dick, Nina Bailey-Dick, Benno Barg, Nathan Bender, Jeremy Bergen, Jamey Bouwmeester, Grace Boyer, LuAnn Brooker, Gary Brooks, Ellis Brown, Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, Chris Buhler, Judith Bustany, Pat Cameron, Bob Carlsten, David Cockburn, Rusty Dinkins-Curling, Duane Ediger, John Finlay, Christine Forand, Ron Forthofer, Angela Freeman, Mark Frey, Ron Friesen, Pierre Gingerich, Dorothy Goertz, Michael Goode, Shady Hakim, Wes Hare, Anne Herman, Esther Ho, Tracy Hughes, Cole Hull, Rebecca Johnson, Kathy Kamphoefner, Joanne Kaufman, Bourke Kennedy, Erin Kindy, Joel Klassen, Brian Ladd, Mary Lawrence, Wendy Lehman, Gerry Lepp, Gina Lepp, Jim Loney, Reynaldo Lopez, Krista Lord, Murray Lumley, Lisa Martens, K. Elaine McClanen, Diego M√©ndez, Carl Meyer, Rich Meyer, Bryan Michener, Marilyn Miller, Frank Moore, Scott Morton-Ninomiya, Bob Naiman, Paul Neufeld Weaver, Pieter Niemeyer, Paul Pierce, Doug Pritchard, Jane Pritchard, Randy Puljek-Shank, Kathy Railsback, Sara Reschley, Vern Riedeger, Carol Rose, Jim Satterwhite, Matt Schaaf, Carleta Schroeder, Chris Schweitzer, Mary Alice Shemo, John Sherman, Jerry Stein, Harriet Taylor, George Weber, Dick Williams, Gretchen Williams, Doug Wingeier, Jane Wright, Joshua Yoder, Keith Young.
Ben Horst, Jonathan Horst.
Isobel McGregor, Denise Voth (Canada); Daniel Rempel (Web Master); PLUS the indispensable team of Chicago volunteers that make our newsletter mailings possible!