Current Concerns
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April 19, 2014
The monthly journal for independent thought, ethical standards and moral responsibility The international journal for independent thought, ethical standards, moral responsibility,
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Current Concerns  >  2006  >  No 7, 2006  >  “Getting In the Way” [printversion]

“Getting In the Way”

The Mission of Christian Peacemaker Teams

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT, www.cpt.org) arose from a call in 1984 for Christians to devote the same discipline and self-sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war. Enlisting the whole church in an organized, nonviolent alternative to war, today CPT places violence-reduction teams in crisis situations and militarized areas around the world at the invitation of local peace and human rights workers. CPT embraces the vision of unarmed intervention waged by committed peacemakers ready to risk injury and death in bold attempts to transform lethal conflict through the nonviolent power of God’s truth and love.

Initiated by Mennonites, Brethren and Quakers with broad ecumenical participation, CPT’s ministry of Biblically-based and spiritually-centered peacemaking emphasizes creative public witness, nonviolent direct action and protection of human rights.

A strategy developed thoughtfully over the years has taught us that:

  • trained, skilled, international teams can work effectively to support local efforts toward nonviolent peacemaking;
  • “getting in the way” of injustice through direct nonviolent intervention, public witness and reporting to the larger world community can make a difference;
  • peace team work engages congregations, meetings and support groups at home to play a key advocacy role with policy makers.

Current Violence Reduction Projects

Arizona – a seasonal presence along the Arizona/ Mexico border since 2004. As part of a campaign to challenge U.S. immigration policies that result in hundreds of migrant deaths in the desert every summer, team members conduct cross-border prayer vigils, remain alert to vigilante threats and monitor border patrol officers’ treatment of migrants.

Colombia – a continuing presence in the Magdalena Medio region since February 2001. Team members support Christians working for a peaceful end to Colombia’s 40-year-old civil war through public prayer, fasting and nonviolent action. Activities include accompanying communities along the Opón River formerly displaced by paramilitary violence and responding to widespread killings and huge infusions of foreign military aid.

Iraq – a Baghdad-based presence since October 2002. Team members accompanied the Iraqi people through the U.S.-led 2003 war and continue during the post-war occupation to expose abusive acts by U.S. Armed Forces and support Iraqis committed to nonviolent resistance.

Palestine – a continuing presence in the Hebron District (West Bank) since June 1995. Team members stand with Palestinians and Israeli peace groups engaged in nonviolent opposition to Israeli military occupation, collective punishment, settler harassment, home demolitions and land confiscation.

How You Can Participate

  • Peacemaker Delegations – Short-term teams (5-14 days) travel to crisis settings to protect human rights, engage in public peace witness, and report to home churches.
  • Peacemaker Corps – Teams of trained peacemakers carry out CPT’s violencereduction ministry at home and abroad. Corps members commit to full-time service for three years.
  • Action Alerts & Campaigns – The worldwide Church supports CPT’s ministry through public prayer, fasting and nonviolent action in response to specific crises:
    – Urgent Actions & Prayer Alerts urge supporters to take specifi c action on behalf of threatened individuals and communities.
    – Campaign for Secure Dwellings (CSD) works to stop the demolition of Palestinian homes by Israeli authorities. (see box)
    – Adopt-a-Detainee Campaign (2003-2005) sought justice for Iraqis detained without charge by U.S. Forces.
    – Violence Is Not Child’s Play: 500 Churches for Change challenges retailers marketing violent toys to children. (1997–1999)

Campaign for Secure Dwellings in Hebron

Since June 1995, a Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) has worked at violence reduction in Hebron in the occupied West Bank. From initial work on the streets in the city, we came to know the extent of the violence of demolitions to Palestinian homes by the Israeli military. We also met and began working with Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers. They identified home demolitions as one of the most damaging and indefensible human rights violations of the occupation. Starting in late 1997, in cooperation with the Palestinian Land Defense Committee, Rabbis for Human Rights, and the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, we initiated the Campaign for Secure Dwellings (CSD) to stop home demolitions, particularly in and around Hebron.

Today the Campaign for Secure Dwellings continues this effort by matching churches and groups in North America /Europe with individual Palestinian families and neighborhoods whose homes are threatened with demolition. Through CPT visit reports, the North American / European CSD partners can understand in a personal way the vulnerability of Palestinian families facing this threat and are motivated to work for change in the home demolition policy of the Israeli government. Palestinian CSD partners are encouraged with the knowledge that there are people in North America /Europe who know of their danger and care enough to work on their behalf.

To reach our goal of secure dwellings for all in this land, we need the help of many congregations across North America and Europe to influence national foreign policy toward greater respect for human rights and international law.

Please help:

We invite you to form a Campaign for Secure Dwellings partner group in your congregation. You will be matched with a specific neighborhood or village in or around Hebron facing home demolition, land confiscation or other threats to the security of families. You will receive reports of life in this area, notes from visits of CPT team members to families, and occasional Urgent Action appeals.

To join or for more information, see www.cpt.org or contact the CSD coordinators:
Kathie Uhler, OSF, St. Anthony Convent, 190 Prince Street, New York NY 10012
e-mail: kathieuhler(at)earthlink.net

Frequently asked questions about CPT 

Is CPT a missionary organization? 

No. CPT is a peacemaking organization focussed on reducing violence and protecting human rights in conflict zones. CPT does not participate in any missionary activities. Christian Peacemaker Teams was founded in 1984 by three historic peace churches, Mennonite, Church of the Brethren and Quaker, and now enjoys support and membership from a wide range of Christian denominations, including Catholics, Baptists and Presbyterians. While CPTers have chosen to follow Jesus Christ, they do not proselytize. 

What qualifications do CPT personnel have? 

CPT members bring a wide variety of experience to their work. Members include clergy, teachers, social workers, homemakers, engineers, writers, administrators and others from many different walks of life. „Prospective members first participate in a short-term delegation, then attend a month-long, live-in training program. CPT‘s training has been used as a model by other peace teams. Short-term delegations receive extensive written and verbal orientation, which includes security briefings, before leaving home. Whether as delegates, volunteers or members of the Peacemaker Corps, CPTers enter this work with a deep spiritual grounding and commitment to nonviolence. All applicants submit a personal statement and sign a statement of responsibility in which they agree that they accept the risks involved in entering a confl ict zone. 

How many people are in CPT? 

CPT has 36 full-time peacemakers and 152 part-time volunteers who serve in violencereduction projects around the world. These are supported by a 15-member Steering Committee whose members represent several churches. Christian Peacemaker Teams maintains offi ces in Chicago, Illinois and Toronto, Ontario. Full-time members serve for three years, and part-time members serve at least two weeks a year for three years. 

What good can you do in a two-week trip? 

CPT attempts to send several short term delegations each year to project areas. These delegations are an important short term encouragement to local people who are often overworked or face a crisis. In Haiti, the Middle East and Mexico, these delegations have led to long term projects. Short term delegations can sometimes engage in important dialogue or nonviolent witness that might be diffi cult or impossible for a long term team to do. Finally, delegates provide important advice for ongoing program activities because of the fresh eyes and ears that participants bring to the situation. When they tell their stories back home they augment the voices for justice. 

Who pays for CPT?
Where do you get your money? 

CPT does not accept money from any government or governmental agency. CPT is funded by donations from individuals, churches and church congregations. CPT volunteers pay their own expenses while serving on CPT projects. Gifts of prayer, money and time undergird the work of Christian Peacemaker Teams. 

Who are your teams accountable to? 

The CPT Steering Committee (SC) is made up of representatives from each of the four supporting denominations (Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada, Church of the Brethren, Friends United Meeting) and sponsoring groups (Every Church a Peace Church, On Earth Peace, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, and the Society of St. Basil). The SC is divided into a program committee, a personnel committee and a fi nance and administration committee.