Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A book is a book is a book, pt. 3 - Perhaps the behavior of certain Protestant denominations is simply a case of a mainline cart being pulled by a mule team of fringe Protestant religious organizations, chief among them being the Christian Peacemakers. A program of Brethren in Christ, Quaker and Mennonite churches, the Chicago-based Christian Peacekeepers dedicate themselves to demonstrating the same discipline and self-sacrifice as military personnel in pursuit of non-violent peacemaking, and maintained a presence in Iraq since October of 2002. (By the time coalition forces invaded Iraq, the mission of the Christian Peacemakers was to “investigate allegations of Iraqi detainees being held without cause by U.S. and Iraqi forces.”)

On November 26, 2005, a team of Christian Peacemakers was captured by a group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness Brigade, and were held hostage under the threat of death unless all Iraqi prisoners were freed from detention. After a nearly four month ordeal, three of the four Christian Peacemaker Team members – Canadians Harmeet Singh Sooden and Jim Loney and Briton Norman Kember – were “freed” from captivity. (The body of the fourth hostage, 54 year-old Tom Fox of Virginia, was found in Baghdad on March 9, 2006. According to Associated Press reports, the corpse was found with “gunshots to his head and chest and signs of torture.”) On March 23, 2006, the Christian Peacemakers released a statement celebrating the “release,” along with making clear their mindset regarding America’s venture in Iraq.

Harmeet, Jim and Norman and Tom were in Iraq to learn of the struggles facing the people in that country. They went, motivated by a passion for justice and peace to live out a nonviolent alternative in a nation wracked by armed conflict. They knew that their only protection was in the power of the love of God and of their Iraqi and international co-workers. We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end.

Today, in the face of this joyful news, our faith compels us to love our enemies even when they have committed acts which caused great hardship to our friends and sorrow to their families. In the spirit of prophetic nonviolence that motivated Jim, Norman, Harmeet and Tom to go to Iraq, we refuse to yield to a spirit of vengeance.
Interestingly, it was not until 9:00 p.m. of that evening that the Christian Peacemakers would acknowledge that their three compatriots were rescued by coalition military forces, not “released” as was widely reported by several media outlets. (Acting on information provided by a U.S. detainee, a force comprised of British Special Air Services commandos, U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces stormed a home in a rural area northwest of Baghdad just before sunrise on the 23rd.) But even in acknowledging that it took military force to effect the return of the three Peacemakers, they had to default to the supposed wisdom of nonviolence in the face of abject evil by commenting “As peacemakers who hold firm to our commitment to nonviolence, we are also deeply grateful that they fired no shots to free our colleagues.”

It is equally interesting that according to reports from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, one of the hostages, James Loney, hid his homosexuality from his captors out of concern that it would make him “more vulnerable,” as Doug Pritchard, co-director of the Christian Peacemakers put it. Mr. Pritchard went on to add “It’s a sad reality around the whole world today that gays and lesbians are more vulnerable to violence than straight people.” It is astounding that the same activist who was willing to serve in Iraq as a “human shield” in opposition to the 1991 Gulf War, felt that he had to remain “in the closet” in order to preserve his life in Iraq once he was captured.

And in so doing, Mr. Loney was making a tacit admission that our adversaries in Iraq are far less civil than the general population in either Canada or the United States. Indeed, if a citizen of either country had to hide their sexual orientation, especially in order to stay alive, the brigades of the outraged would send up a cacophony of voices making the same claims as Mr. Pritchard. The sad irony is that Mr. Loney and his Christian Peacemaker compatriots worked against the interests of free and open Western nations in an effort that would only strengthen the hand of lawless organizations such as the one that captured them in the first place.

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