Not Even To Save Our Lives

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On a Thanksgiving
visit home two years ago to his family in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario,
Jim Loney tried to explain to his father why he wanted to go to
Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams.
He told his Dad about a grade school chum, Rick, sent to Afghanistan
with the Canadian Armed Forces, who narrowly escaped death from
a roadside bomb.

"If Rick
was being asked to risk his life as a soldier then I, as a pacifist
Christian who believes that war is not the way to peace, should
be prepared to take the same risks," he recalled trying to
reason with his father.

Jim returned
from Iraq safely, but on a return trip this year, his father's worst
fears were realized. On November 26, Jim was taken hostage in Baghdad,
along with three CPT colleagues, Harmeet Sooden, also from Canada,
Norman Kember, from England, and Tom Fox, from the U.S.

Millions of
people around the world are learning for the first time about these
peace warriors. But what few people know is that CPT members go
to conflict zones like Iraq expressly stating that if they are abducted
they do not want to be rescued by the military or any violent
means.

Claire Evans,
delegate coordinator in the organization's Chicago office, read
the following from the CPT's "Team Statement" adopted
by each team going into a conflict situation. "We reject the
use of violent force to save our lives in the event we are kidnapped,
held hostage or caught in the middle of a violent conflict situation.
We also reject violence to punish anyone who has harmed us."

Gene Stoltzfus,
a retired CPT coordinator, explained why the group's members go
out of their way to renounce violence even to save their own lives.
"We are a non-violent group. We can't preach nonviolent action
in protection of human beings and then ask it to be used on our
behalf…that would be inconsistent, inappropriate and incoherent."

Alluding to
the organization's larger strategy, the retiree who volunteered
as a civilian aid worker in Viet Nam in the mid-60's explained,
"If we would be rescued by a military or police action and
people were killed, it would set a precedent setting back the work
we do."

He explained
that CPT members, working in the nonviolence tradition and philosophy,
are prepared to accept whatever happens as a result of their actions,
all of which "becomes useful as a moral witness to point to
the larger goal we're working for — a fair and just society."

"We would
not have had the modern civil rights movement if people said, u2018it's
too dangerous to go across that bridge (the Edmund
Pettis Bridge
, in Selma, Alabama).' Danger is inherent in the
nature of non-violence."

The organization
is not relying on the fates to rescue the four held in Baghdad,
however. Family members of the hostages have thanked the Canadian
government for its efforts, CPT has appealed to its considerable
network of Sunni and Shia clerics across Iraq, appeals have been
sent out in Arabic from CPT supporters in Palestine, and already
over 200 prayer vigils and demonstrations for their release have
been held on three continents, according to the CPT website.

True to CPT's
principles, the catchphrase, "Love your Enemies; End the Occupation;
Release the Peacemakers," has been appearing on banners at
prayer vigils around the world, such as those at over a dozen churches
in Italy last Sunday where the following prayer was said: "We
pray for their kidnappers, that they may realize that violence will
not help us build a better world. We pray for our four friends,
that their faith may sustain them in these difficult times and that
they may bear witness of the Christian love for one’s enemies, as
they have always done in their activity in support of the victims
of war. We pray for all the Iraqis who have disappeared or are being
held captive, that they may soon be reunited with their loved ones.”

Yesterday,
across Canada, CBC radio listeners heard an announcer play the haunting
second movement from Henryk Gorecki's Symphony
of Sorrowful Songs
, offering it "as a public prayer"
for the four hostages.

Two years ago
on that holiday trip home, Jim Loney was not very successful explaining
why he wanted to go to Iraq. His father's response to him at the
time, quoted in an article Jim wrote was, "What can you accomplish
by going there? It’s futile. Every westerner is a target. They don’t
care who you are or why you’re there. It’s just not worth it."

Two days ago,
Jim's family wrote the following, indicating his work is having
an effect beyond Iraq, all the way to Ontario. "Our family
would like to express its deepest gratitude for the tremendous support
we have received from every corner of the world and from people
of all faiths, especially the Muslim community. We know that our
James would be overwhelmed by the grassroots support that he is
receiving. We are too. We have come to a fuller understanding of
the effect that his humanitarian work for peace has in the world."

December
10, 2005

Mike
Ferner [send him mail]
is a freelance writer from Ohio. He served as a Navy corpsman during
Vietnam and as a member of Toledo City Council. He is a member of
Veterans For Peace.
He spent time with CPT and Jim Loney on a two-month trip to Iraq
in early 2004.

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