Iraq runs throughout the life of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). In our faith tradition, it is the site of the Garden of Eden and the home of Abraham and Sarah before they followed God’s leading to Hebron. In our work, it is the destination of CPT’s first-ever delegation on the eve of the 1991 Gulf War. It is the location of our first death where a CPTer died in a car accident. It is the place where a CPT delegation was kidnapped and a team member killed (our second death). And it is a place where we have continued to work.
The kidnapping is like a rock thrown into a pond. This book describes the ripples set in motion by that rock. Ripples in the lives of CPT teams and the communities in which they work. Ripples among the families and friends of those taken—Tom Fox, Norman Kember, Jim Loney, and Harmeet Singh Sooden. Ripples across the world in faith communities, prisons, the media and their audiences.
The crisis, as we sometimes call it, tested CPT in a way that we had not been tested before. We walked through the valley of the shadow of death where so many of our project partners and friends have walked before us. We hope that this testing has refined and purified us for the work yet to be done. Scripture says, "Consider it all joy . . . when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance" (James 1:2-4 NASB). We have been tested, and we have endured as an organization, but it was not all joy.
The murder of Tom Fox was a devastating blow. We grieve for him. We ache for his family and friends. We continue to reflect on the meaning of his life and death.
We cannot forget the sleepless nights of that long winter crisis. We remember our fears of a ransom demand or a violent rescue attempt. We recall the false reports, the misinformation, the broken promises, our frustration at never being able to contact those who took our colleagues. We still do not know who they were or why they did this.
Despite this not knowing, Harmeet, Norman, and Jim have forgiven those who held them. In a public statement made eight months after they were freed they said, "We unconditionally forgive our captors for abducting and holding us. We have no desire to punish them. Punishment can never restore what was taken from us. What our captors did was wrong. They caused us, our families, and our friends great suffering. Yet we bear no malice toward them and have no wish for retribution."
Jesus’ call to love our enemies was lived out in a powerful way during the crisis. CPTers were among the few foreigners in Iraq without a gun or an engineering contract. Dozens of Muslim leaders who knew our peacemaking work courageously called for the release of our delegation. Christian leaders in turn called for justice for the 14,000 Iraqis who were being held at the time by the Multi-National Forces in Iraq without charge or access to their families. Our efforts to gain the release of our colleagues were supported by the work of hundreds of CPTers and friends and by the prayers of hundreds of thousands around the world. People in despair at the cycles of violence saw hope in the witness of our brothers to another way of being in the world. We are delighted to have our three friends restored to their communities after an operation that apparently injured no one. These are all enduring legacies of this crisis. This does bring us joy.
This book gives a window into many people’s witness during 118 days of crisis and beyond. To some these choices seem foolish. To others, they are challenging and inspiring. For CPTers, "God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength" (1 Cor. 1:25).
—Doug Pritchard, CPT Co-Director
© 2008 by Cascadia Publishing House LLC