Sophia's Peace Work

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Try, Try Again

I've been traveling in the U.S. seeing family and friends and trying to work as well (it's a major crunch time for my NGO ... big reports to write and edit to meet major deadlines for our grant projects). My life for the past few weeks (besides trying to spend a little quality time with friends and family) has been about searching for an internet signal so that I can keep the lines of communication open with my co-workers. Of course I've been following the situation with my friends at the Christian Peacemaker Team since the death of Tom and the release of Jim, Norman and Harmeet. I know they are going through some major soul searching (Christians peace activists are always doing that as I found out when I stayed with them in 2004 and 2005 ... whew, what a painful but I suppose necessary process of second, third and fourth guessing yourself!). Anyway, I've attached a recent article they wrote on the subject below.

I personally would hate to see CPT go ... my boss once asked a CPT member why he thought they had been able to work in Iraq for so long without any trouble. The CPTer remarked flippantly, "I think its a testiment to our ineffectiveness." But to the families who have given their stories to CPT, to the people in detention that they have tried to help, to the American soldiers to whom they have presented a different model... I think there is no way to judge the critical assistance they have provided. There is even now a Muslim Peacekeeper Team that CPT has tried to help. And who knows what kind of effect it has for Iraqis to just meet Americans who speak to them and visit them without guns or tanks or helicopters.

The fact is that we can and may never know whether what we do is useful or not and I have come to believe that that is not really what is important at all. What is important, what is critical is that we make every effort. We try and we never, despite all the setbacks and all the terrible things that happen to sap our strength, ... we never stop trying.

What Now?
By Peggy Gish, 31 March, 2006

What now for CPT in Iraq, after a three and a half years presence and four months of dealing with a hostage situation, culminating in Tom Fox's death and the safe release of Jim, Norman, and Harmeet? The celebration of the three's release and the mourning for Tom will continue, but it is also important for CPT to make decisions about the Iraq team's future.

As part of this process of discernment, the remaining team in Baghdad has been meeting with Iraqi friends and colleagues from various religious and ethnic
backgrounds who have shared in our work and understand our goals. What we hear varies widely.

We hear the worry our friends have for us as they say, "Now that everybody knows about you, it is too dangerous for you to stay." "We are not so afraid for us, but we are afraid for you. We don't want another of you to die." "The situation in Iraq is getting worse. You should leave until there is a stable government, or until public attention on CPT subsides and then return." Another human rights colleague, however, said "I believe you are very useful here, so wonder why you would leave."

We hear differing opinions about the focus of our work. One person valued most our work with prisoners. Another said, "The most important thing you can do is to tell the truth about the situation here." Others suggest a change of location for of the focus of our work. One human rights worker suggested we focus on building bridges
between the Kurdish north and the central section of Iraq and relocate to an area near the Kurdish region to explore that possibility. Another suggested the south.

One positive voice of support for CPT to remain in Iraq came from a Christian leader who also suggested relocating temporarily to another part of Iraq to explore future direction. He wrinkled up his face in disbelief when we asked if he knows Christians in Iraq who thing our presence is making it unsafe for them. "I would feel bad if something happened to you," he said, "but I would be angry if you disappear. If you care for us just in the good times, I will forget you. If you take care of us in the bad times, I will remember you. You die when you do nothing, but live when you do something. Everyone dies, but not everyone lives."

Referring to Tom, he added, "When we lost our friend, the suffering is hard, but it gives us courage. When they bombed my church, it didn't weaken us; it made us strong. Iraq's recovery may take ten years or more. But we can't wait until the tragedy is over to work, laugh, and hope.

We are not certain where God will lead us, but we find courage and hope when our friends warn us, challenge our assumptions, or push us to be clear, while also offer their continued support and love.


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