COLOMBIA REFLECTION: The journey of being women

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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.

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: Mark 5:21-29—Only one hope

Colombian social organizations led by women are always the most vulnerable and least heard.  Sometimes I wish God's justice came swiftly and unquestioned the way Jesus dispensed it in Mark 5:21-29.  I see women who denounce the perverse and announce that which gives life, that which is to be enjoyed and shared with others.  Others today may be touched by the mantle that thousands of years ago reached out to a woman condemned by doctors and society to remain sick and excluded all her life.  We cannot ignore this story in our culture that silences women's voices—a society that chooses to isolate women because women don't live up to its standards.  It is a culture that constantly represses and trivialises the work of hundreds of mothers, sisters, sisters-in-law, and daughters.  At end of the day we hear these voices calling, "There is only one hope to see a different tomorrow."

IRAQ REFLECTION : It takes a village

The multicolored van wove its way along the rocky dirt road, and gently up a hill. Looking ahead I could see them -- twenty five or so young children dressed in their school uniforms, standing in front of the building, swarming about their two teachers. As they spied our vehicle (not terribly hard to do), they began to jump up and down, jog in place, and wave to us.

IRAQ REFLECTION: Christmas in Kirkuk.

Sun, clear sky and a little mild weather made it seem like spring in the winter. The situation in the streets was normal; traffic was light, making for an ordinary day!! This was the situation on 26 Dec. 2011 when the CPT team arrived in Kirkuk to accompany the Christian community for the day. 

IRAQ REFLECTION: From Here to Where?

 It is late afternoon. The sun has disappeared. It is fairly cold. We are seated on benches in front of a home in the Makhmoud refugee camp in northern Iraq, speaking with Josef and Armeena. About two years ago, they were part of a delegation of about forty-six persons who formed a Peace Brigade. They had intended to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and deliver a letter to him simply explaining that this group, and the Kurdish people, were not terrorists. They wanted peace. They wanted what all of us want (and many of us expect) -- our basic human rights. Mr. Erdogan refused to meet with them. Instead, the group was arrested, tried and sentenced to ten to fifteen years in prison. Josef and Armeena fled. Ten of the group remain in prison today.


“CPT!  CPT!  Come, come!  The soldiers have a man!”  Her voice startled me.  Jean, Rosie, and I had been on afternoon patrol, but I had lagged behind to look at a few shops in Hebron’s Old City.  Though I did not know the woman requesting my presence, she knew who I was because of my red hat and gray vest bearing the Christian Peacemaker Team logo.  I was alone, inexperienced in the field.