I have been contemplating what to say about the US election. Today I got a fund-raising letter from Christian Peacemaker Teams. I paste it below, aside from their request for funds. They have received some of my donation dollars but I am not in the business of raising funds for anyone. To reflect on peacemaking on this day that has aroused so much violent rhetoric is not a bad idea.
Today, in the U.S., there’s an election happening, and no matter who wins the day, it won’t be a peacemaking revolution. As peacemakers around the world, we want to be taking action for peace, today and every day.
Well today, we have something special for you. Jim Loney, one of four CPTers held captive for 118 days, 10 years ago in Baghdad, has written to all of you, our beloved CPTers and peacemaking supporters. We’ve included here for you Jim’s reflections on peacemaking.
We invite you to support all of our CPTers still working for peace today, 10 years later.
Now, grab a cup of coffee, and scroll down to Jim’s letter. You’ll be glad that you did.
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the One Blue Earth Home,
It is with joy that I greet thee on this day. Joy, because, very simply, it is good to be alive.
It has been ten years since Tom Fox, Norman Kember, Harmeet Singh Sooden and I were kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents while on a CPT delegation in Baghdad. Ten years since Tom was separated from us and murdered. Ten years since our paradoxical release by American and British Special Forces.
Norman and I recently agreed to participate in a documentary series about kidnappings that will air on Netflix come December. My interview was at the end of February, Norman’s on March 23, the very day of the tenth anniversary of our release.
During my interview, I was challenged by the director. Nonviolence is a laudable principle, he said, and certainly no one should ever start a war, which is exactly what the United States and Britain did by invading Iraq. The occupation that followed was a moral and humanitarian catastrophe. But, according to his sources, the men who kidnapped us had kidnapped and killed others. He wanted to know: what do you do when things spiral out of control, and ruthless bad men use and kill innocents with impunity?
His implication was clear: violence is sometimes necessary.
Violence does indeed face us with necessity. The first necessity is to challenge and stop acts of harm. The second is to offer protection. The inescapable question is what by method do we seek these things.
The problem with the method of violence, I told the director, is that it perpetuates the very thing it seeks to stop and prevent. Violence is cyclical, an ever-escalating spiral of death and retribution. You throw a stick, I throw a rock. You shoot a gun, I fire a missile. Violence is like using gasoline to put out a fire. It can only give you more of the same.
I believe the only thing that stops violence is the no of nonviolence. The beautiful no that Tom gave to the world with his life. No, I will not kill. My body broken for you. The violence stops with me.
Barbara Deming gave us the image of two hands to help us understand how we can meet the necessity of action that violence imposes on us. With one hand, we speak with force, seeking to protect. “No! Stop!” we say, arm extended long and palm facing outward. With the other hand we offer invitation. “Come, let’s work together to find another way,” reaching softly with palm facing up.
CPT is an experiment in responding to violence with the two hands of nonviolence. One hand employs the tools of human rights documentation, public witness, and community organizing to say “La! Basta! No more violence!” The other reaches with the power of listening, dialogue and collaboration in search of creative alternatives. Partnered with local peacemakers in Palestine, Kurdish Iraq, Colombia and on Turtle Island, we are working for a transformed world with the two hands of nonviolence. More so now than ever, our Blue Earth Home is in need of this experiment. Will you lend us your hand?