2011 Jan 13
“Those who have believed in peace through the sword have not hesitated to die... They have laid down their lives by the millions. Why do we think that our way will be less costly? Unless we... are ready to start to die by the thousands in dramatic vigorous new exploits for peace and justice, we should sadly confess that we really never meant the cross was an alternative to the sword. Making peace is as costly as waging war.”
The world assembly of Mennonites was stunned, and electrified. Ron Sider’s challenge, in 1984, led directly to the creation of a new experiment in the history of Christianity – Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). Together with Fr. Alain Richard and Peace Brigades International in Guatemala, and Gene Stoltzfus and Witness for Peace in Nicaragua, CPT gave birth to the idea of unarmed civilian peacemaking. CPT has had peacemaking teams in Haiti, Chiapas, the First Nations of Canada, and the Arizona desert. We currently have teams in Colombia, Iraq, and Palestine.
Palestine was occupied in 1967. Since then the government of Israel has moved more than half a million “settlers” into Palestine, and done countless things to pressure the Palestinians to “transfer” out (their word, not mine). They have built four settlements on the rooftops, literally, of Palestinian homes and shops inside the Old City of Hebron. In 1994, a settler, Baruch Goldstein, shot and killed 29 Muslims inside the mosque at the Tomb of Abraham. In desperation, the city asked CPT to establish a team as part of their very conservative Muslim community. I have served seven summers as part of that team.
We spend time visiting Palestinian families and listening to their stories. An elderly Muslim couple live around the corner from us in a home with a Star of David carved into the keystone of its archway. A Palestinian Jewish community existed in Hebron for many centuries before the Zionists arrived.
When we visited in 2004, this couple told us that, for years, at the end of Sabbath, settlers often come, uninvited, inside their home. The settlers search the house, and frighten them. The couple offer coffee to their uninvited “guests” (such is Arab hospitality). When Rabbi Moshe Levinger, an American and the leader of the settler movement, comes, he accepts their coffee (at this point, our translator looked very confused and confessed, “This makes no sense to me”).
So we have sat outside their home at the end of every Sabbath, for five years. And the Israeli officers guarding the settlers have quietly told the settlers to not enter their home.
But in September 2009, when I, along with several other internationals, was watching their home (we do not normally work without other CPT-trained teammates, but we have recently been stretched very thin) the officers suddenly allowed the settlers to enter. I was quite frightened (we have been spit on or stoned by settlers on many occasions), but even more frightened for the elderly couple. So I walked in with the settlers, past the soldiers guarding them. But none of my international companions came in. Thankfully, the settlers stayed in the courtyard and did not enter their living quarters.
Afterwards, I asked the internationals why didn’t they come with me . They said they tried to, but the soldiers would not admit them. When they asked why the soldiers let me in, they said, “We know CPT. We trust them.”