Would you be willing to face an army? Colin Lowther and Liz Waid look at peacemaking teams.
Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Colin Lowther.
And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.
“One of the most powerful experiences I had in CPT was in Hebron. The CPTers, along with Palestinians, jumped in front of the Israeli soldiers. They stepped in front of the guns with their arms in the air. They were yelling, “Do not shoot! Do not shoot! This is a nonviolent march!” And they stopped the Israeli soldiers from firing on this crowd.”
Mark Fry volunteers with an organization called Christian Peacemaker Teams or CPT. He told about this experience in the Middle East in a CPT video. CPT works around the world to help bring peaceful solutions to violent conflict. Fry is one of about 250 people who work with CPT. Most of them are volunteers - they do not get paid. But they believe their work saves people’s lives. Today’s Spotlight is on the organization Christian Peacemaker Teams or CPT.
CPT is a nonprofit organization that is based in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. They began work in 1984. CPT’s goal is to bring peace by following the teachings of Jesus Christ. The CPT website explains:
“Our experience is that violence can be decreased with the witness to peace, truth, love and justice. The willingness to give life instead of taking life has great power to change. Jesus Christ demonstrated this when he sacrificed himself for others.”
CPT ‘gives life’ by supporting people in conflict areas. They often do this by going to those places, and being with people in danger. CPT only enters an area when local people ask them to come. These may be groups of indigenous, or native, people in the Americas. Or they may be communities in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo or the Philippines. CPT does most of their work in the countries of Colombia, Iraq, and the Palestinian territories.
As an international presence, CPT volunteers decrease the chance of violence. Sometimes they just do very simple things like walk along with farmers who are trying to farm in conflict areas. Just the presence of a volunteer from CPT can protect the farmer. If a community is experiencing violence, they can ask CPT to come as observers. The CPT volunteers are from outside the community. They can help keep the situation calm. Then the two sides can come together. Kim Lamberty was part of a CPT team in Colombia. She reported in a CPT video:
“In Micoahumado there were armed battles in the middle of the town. The community brought in CPT to observe. Then they were able to talk with all of the armed people. The community moved the guns to the outside of their town and in some cases moved them out completely. Then they could stay in their communities and try to build a life there as a community.”
The presence of people from outside also shows that the world is watching. People are less likely to be violent or unjust in front of the world. Jonathan Brenneman told Spotlight a story about this. He was volunteering with CPT in the Palestinian Territories. One day the Israeli military closed off part of the city. The children were at school on one side of this checkpoint. But their houses were on the other side. The school children and teachers could not get home. The head of the school, the principal, asked for CPT to help him. Brenneman explains what happened next:
“When school was over, the principal gathered all the children together. He led them toward the closed checkpoint. Israeli soldiers stopped us. They would not let the children near the checkpoint. Then, the principal started talking to the soldiers. My part of the plan was to get my camera out and film everything. The principal wanted the soldier to know that the outside world was watching him. Finally, the soldier showed the children down a side street. He opened a locked gate, and permitted the children, teachers, and CPT volunteers through. The principal’s plan worked. And, I was able to provide local media with the story. They spread the story throughout the area.”
CPT also works for peace in other ways. They support groups and individuals that need help against a more powerful group. CPT also works to spread awareness, like Jonathan Brenneman did. This informs many more people about the conflict. Or they may attend meetings about issues such as indigenous peoples’ rights to land and resources. By attending, they can support and encourage the indigenous people. They sometimes have to find a way to help in very difficult situations.
For example, in New Brunswick, Canada, there was a conflict between the native Mi’kmak people and a large company. The company wanted to remove oil from the ground. But doing this would have bad results for the people who lived there. People also disagreed about who had rights to the land and the oil in it. The Mi’kmak claimed that the land belonged to them. Many people were very upset in this situation. People were worried that it was going to become violent. The Mi’kmak invited to support a peaceful solution. Micheal Polera was one of the CPT volunteers who came to New Brunswick. He found that the situation was very difficult. So Polera found a special way to support this process. He told Spotlight:
“My experience involved a great deal of prayer. As an observer, there was not much chance to really take action. So I began stepping outside the lines and praying. I prayed in public, usually silently. Such actions felt important and calming to me. People began noticing me. They even thanked me for bringing in a different energy.”
Working in conflict areas can be dangerous. CPT volunteers have been kidnapped, and even killed. The people who work for CPT know this, but they think that peace is worth the risk. And CPTers know that local people in areas of conflict are doing the most difficult work. Tarek Abuata is a Co-ordinator for CPT. We finish our program with his words:
“CPT is part of a peacemaker team or a congress. But the real non-violence peacemakers are the communities who we are visiting who are doing the work.”
The writer and producer of this program was Rena Dam. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Teams for Peace’.
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