By Ruth Wilde, CPT UK Outreach Worker
11th March 2018 – Mothering Sunday
Thank you for welcoming me to your church today. I am here to talk about Christian Peacemaker Teams. I normally wear a t-shirt that says Christian Peacemaker Teams on it, to remind you of the name of our charity, but I’ve forgotten it today, so I’ll keep repeating the name instead! I have also brought some newsletters, books and other things with me, so please come and find me after the service if you’re interested in knowing more.
Christian Peacemaker Teams is a charity which came out of a call in the Mennonite Church in North America in the 1980s – a call for people to engage in active peacemaking which would be as dedicated and as risk-taking as when people are prepared to die for war. This developed into what are now five main projects around the world where we have a presence.
In Israel/Palestine, we work alongside Palestinian children and walk them safely through armed checkpoint upon checkpoint. We also do international observation and advocate for Palestinian justice. In Colombia, we work alongside indigenous people who are struggling to keep their land and ways of life in the face of corporate interests and an indifferent and often hostile government. In Canada, we also work alongside indigenous people who are fighting the government and corporations who want to profit from their traditional land and destroy their way of life. We always use nonviolent methods to fight for justice. In Iraq, we work in Kurdistan, with Kurdistani people in the mountains. These people are bombarded- literally- from all sides- by Iraq, Iran and Turkey. It’s a dangerous place to be but we’re there. Finally, we work with refugees on the island of Lesvos, Greece, where we have a partner called Pikpa who house and care for mainly refugee children without families, who have come alone and left everything behind. We always and only work with partners on the ground in these places- partners who have invited us to come and help.
As it’s Mothering Sunday, I’ve been asked to link this talk about Christian Peacemaker Teams to the theme of ‘mothers’. So I’m now going to ask you to imagine being a mother in several situations related to places where we work…
Imagine being a mother whose son, as young as 12, has been imprisoned indefinitely for throwing stones at an Israeli soldier; imprisoned by a paranoid country which treats some people differently to other people; a country which is paranoid because it is afraid of terrorism. Your son was angry at the injustice of treating people differently and so he threw stones in anger. He is now in an adult prison with some very dangerous men at the age of 12, and he could be there for many years. This would never be allowed for an Israeli child. Imagine being that mother.
Imagine being a mother living in somewhere like Syria- with bombs falling all around you- who has to choose between your child being at danger of death if he stays or at risk of other dangers and suffering if you send him away across sea and land to a safer country; a country where he will likely be treated worse than a criminal and placed in a refugee camp which is more like a prison- somewhere like Moria on the island of Lesvos in Greece. Imagine having to make that choice for your child who is as young as 13 or 14.
Imagine being a mother whose children were taken away from you and placed in a boarding school a long way away, where they were taught to be little white people and speak only English. When they are returned to you ten years later, they don’t even remember you and they can’t speak your language. This happened in Canada even up until the 1970s and has caused ongoing suffering to whole communities of people. Imagine being that indigenous mother.
I am not a parent myself yet, but I have children who I care deeply about, and I can’t imagine my nephews or niece or my close friends’ baby being taken away or being treated in these ways. It horrifies me. The good news is that there are groups like Christian Peacemaker Teams making a real difference to people like this. As I heard a peace worker say recently: whether we are pacifists or believe in just war, there is no just war if it is not a last resort, and it is not a last resort unless we have put energy and support into peacemaking initiatives. Christians must support peacemaking initiatives, through money or volunteering or in other ways, or we cannot call ourselves peacemakers, which is what Jesus called us to be.