Treasure, Not Trash: Making Connections Between CPT's Projects

By Kathleen Kern

Treasure Not Trash - collage from Ferguson, Canada, Iraqi Kurdistan Colombia, PalestineSince a St. Louis, Missouri prosecutor and Grand Jury determined that Police Officer Darren Wilson killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown did not merit a trial, I have been busy tweeting #Ferguson on the Christian Peacemaker Teams Twitter account, and getting a lot of re-tweets. CPT has no people working in Ferguson and I have asked myself why I am inundating the account.

I think it has to do with the disposability of human life, with the contempt shown to Michael Brown when the authorities left his body in the street for four and a half hours and did not bother interviewing key witnesses to the shooting for weeks (until there was a public outcry). That contempt connects directly with CPT’s work in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine, with indigenous communities in North America, and with migrants in Europe. In all these cases, people in power have deemed the people we work with disposable.

IPalestine Solidarity with Fergusonf you want to drive Colombian farmers off their land so that you can make big profits with palm oil plantations, it’s okay to assault them, to threaten to rape their nine-year old daughters, to kill their animals, to burn their homes, to use the instruments of the Colombian state illegally to evict their communities’ teachers. And of course, you can do much worse.

In Iraqi-Kurdistan, our civil society partners have had to drop most of their work to focus on some of the most disposable people in the world: refugees. These refugees include those from the Yazidi community whose wives, sisters, and daughters are now held captive in ISIS brothels – women considered worthless except for sexual gratification.

And then there’s Palestine. For 19 long years, CPTers have watched the forces of military occupation say it is acceptable to arrest, jail and torture Palestinian men, women and children without due process, and destroy their homes if Israel wants their land for settlement expansion. It is acceptable for soldiers to shoot teargas at Palestinian children on their way to school and look on as settlers attack them.

Ferguson protesterIn our work with Indigenous partners, we have watched again and again, naked racism strip them of their sovereignty, strip their lands of their resources, and leave behind the toxic poisons of their industries. We have watched the government shrug as 1800 Indigenous women are reported murdered and missing.

So I think it’s all related. Mike Brown, Eric Garner, VonDerrit Myers, Tamir Rice, Tina Fontaine, Loretta Saunders, Bella Laboucan-McLean…People of color who lost their lives because here in North America, they were considered just as disposable as the people we work with in Colombia, Palestine, Lesvos, Turtle Island (North America) and Kurdistan.

The good news, of course, is that our Colombian, Indigenous, Palestinian, Kurdish, and refugee partners are revealing to the world that they are a treasure – as are the people of Ferguson. The Christian season of Advent is upon us. Let us listen.

Good hashtags to follow:

Good accounts: