COLOMBIA: Where two or three... or fifteen are gathered

 Just weeks after the celebration of International Women's Day, on 22 March, the Popular Women's Organization (OFP) asked us to visit the house of a friend and OFP colleague, named Iluminada.  Her neighbor, a man who identifies himself as a paramilitary, attacked and threatened her in her home.   In a demonstration of solidarity, eleven women from the OFP showed up to her house that morning, plus four CPTers.

IRAQI KURDISTAN REFLECTION: I am afraid of bombing. (And there is shelling too)

[Note: Remember to sign up for the 24-hour prayer-a-thon for peace to support displaced Colombians.  In coordination with the Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia (DOPA), the Colombia team is seeking prayers from all over the world over the course of a full day. Click here to sign up for an hour, alone or with a group, between 6:00 pm Saturday 14 April 6:00 Sunday 15 April 2012.  Light a candle, sing, meditate, read a story, or just sit quietly in the presence of God.]

Me: I like the colour blue. What colour do you like?

Boy: I like the colour black.

Boy: I like the colour yellow.

Me: I like to go walking for fun.  What do you do for fun?

Boy: I like to swim.

Girl: I like to play guitar.

Me: I am afraid of very loud thunder. What are you afraid of?

Girl: I am afraid of snakes.

Girl: I am afraid of bombing.

Teacher: (And there is shelling too)


The Iraqi Kurdistan team had made the three-hour trip to Sunneh, in eastern Iraqi Kurdistan to teach English.  Not exactly the mandate of CPT, but we see these monthly trips as a way to become acquainted with some of the eighty pupils in the school.  We would like them to be part of a video narrating their life in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, telling what it is like to be part of a village that is shelled every year from a country on the other side of the mountains.

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) REFLECTION: Holy Saturday--Entombed in Hebron

Hebron is a sacred place because of the cave/tomb of Abraham and Sarah, Rebecca and Isaac, Jacob and Leah.  Today Hebron feels entombed by the Israeli military occupation and colonization.  It is a Holy Saturday that has lasted over forty-five years.  No resurrection in sight—but somehow the winter of all hopes and dreams bears the seeds of a, maybe far off, spring of justice and freedom.  I offer two stories of occupation: one of oppression, one of hope.

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: Consider the lilies. Then consider your investments.

Consider the lilies.  They’re not lilies.  I don't actually know what they are called.  But I did consider them.  Not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these.  And there are two of them growing out of the wall on our patio, and several more out front. They thrive on nothing. No soil, no shade from the scorching sun, and they don't even seem to mind if it doesn't rain or if no one waters them for a week or more.  In fact they are they only plants we have that are still happy when my teammate Gladys returns after having been away for several days and rest of us have forgotten to look after the plants. 

IRAQI KURDISTAN REFLECTION: Ten thousand eyes were watching

An activist friend of CPT Iraqi Kurdistan once said, “Kurdish families are very connected, but also everyone knows everyone in Kurdistan. When you become an activist you have to be concerned not only about your blood connections but you have to be concerned about 10,000 people who know about you and hear everything you say and watch everything you do.

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: The journey of being women

CPT on Facebook
My body is not a battlefield!

 The Popular Women's Organization (OFP) has worked in the Middle Magdalena region since 1972.  Its members are women on a constant journey, always proclaiming and working for their rights.  When they feel their lives are at risk, they surround themselves with friends to talk about what is happening.  This is the way the leadership of the OFP responded upon learning that unidentified men had been following their friend and coworker, Shayo.  Throughout the days filled with fear and anxiety, they have not given up. 


 In 1963, Gene Stoltzfus went to Vietnam as a Conscientious Objector with IVS (International Voluntary Services.)  Six months later, when Gene unintentionally wandered into a Special Forces camp, he was welcomed as a fellow American.   He asked two men who had come in from patrol where they had been.  When they would not tell him, except to brag that they had made several kills, he found himself wondering, “If I speak some Vietnamese but can’t tell who are the VC (Vietcong), how can these men, who speak no Vietnamese, tell?”

IRAQ REFLECTION: A small miracle in Suleimaniya

The news spread through the city of Suleimaniya so quickly.  Within an hour, Kurdish news outlets let the locals know that something bad had happened.  From there, it moved even more quickly across the ocean.  By the evening of 1 March, I was shocked to read it in my Manitoba prairie city’s newspaper: “Iraqi student kills American teacher in Christians school murder-suicide. “  Along with the bare facts, the questions and rumours arose.  Why had the eighteen-year-old Kurdish boy carried a handgun to class in a Christian school in Suleimaniya and shot his teacher to death on 1 March?  Was this the consequence of religious disagreement?  Was there some other kind of conflict between the two of them?  How could a handgun have entered the classroom?

IRAQ REFLECTION: Anniversary of the Kurdish spring

 17 February 2012—a year after the Kurdish spring.  A sense of powerlessness is in the city as military and police presence builds in anticipation of possible activities on the first anniversary.  There is no clear-cut agenda for a demonstration, just calls on Facebook to gather in the square at 11:30.  All calls are faceless and a sense of uncertainty looms.

 At 10 o’clock we joined a large group, many of whom we had walked with through the streets of the old city during the Valentine’s Day witness, at the graveyard above the area where one of the young men killed during the demonstrations is buried.  It was a solemn beginning to the day, a reminder that anything can happen when things spin out of control.

Suleimaniyah one year ago

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) REFLECTION: Darkness cannot drive out darkness

Hebron’s Old City has one main street.  It connects the Ibrahimi Mosque to Bab il Balideyya, an open square next to the Beit Romano settlement and military base.  Along this cobblestone road, narrower streets branch off, meandering deeper into the Old City, intersecting with other less trafficked alleys.  At night, the Old City is dark, with only the main road lit, and there, only in scattered places.