Saturday, March 11, 2006

Counting the cost and paying the price

I was deeply saddened by the news that Tom Fox's body had been found in Iraq today. Sometimes the phrase "blessed are the peacemakers" can become so cliched. It is read as "blessed are the idealists" or more negatively "blessed are those too scared to fight." But real peacemakers live in the in-between spaces. They are those who interpose themselves in situations of conflict and in doing so bear witness to the One who gave himself to stop the cycles of retribution and vengeance. It's a strangely appropriate Lenten thought.

Here's a statement by Tom Fox, given last March, showing that he and his colleagues did indeed count the cost:

We, members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq, are aware of the many risks both Iraqis and internationals currently face. However, we are convinced at this time that the risks, while significant, do not outweigh our purpose in remaining.

Many Iraqi friends and human rights workers have welcomed us as a non-violent, independent presence. During the previous year they asked us to tell their stories, since they could not easily be heard, nor could most flee to a safer country. We continue to act as a resource to connect citizens of Iraq with human rights organizations, both local and international, as well as accompanying them as they interact with multinational military personnel and Iraqi provisional government officials.

As a peacemaking team we need to cross boundaries, help soldiers and other armed actors be humane, and invite them to refuse unjust orders. We need to help preserve what is human in all of us and so offer glimpses of hope in a dark time.

We unequivocally reject kidnapping and hostage-taking. In such an event, CPT will attempt to communicate with the hostage-takers or their sponsors and work against journalists' inclination to vilify and demonize the offenders. We will try to understand the motives for these actions, and to articulate them, while maintaining a firm stance that such actions are wrong. If appropriate, CPT will work with diplomatic officials from our representative governments to avoid a violent outcome.

We reject the use of violent force to save our lives should we be kidnapped, held hostage, or caught in the middle of a violent conflict situation. We also reject violence to punish anyone who harms us. We ask for equal justice in the arrest and trial of anyone, soldier or civilian, who commits an act of violence, and we ask that there be no retaliation on their relatives or property. We forgive those who consider us their enemies. Therefore, any penalty should be in the spirit of restorative justice, rather than in the form of violent retribution.

We hope that in loving both friends and enemies and by intervening non-violently to aid those who are systematically oppressed, we can contribute in some small way to transforming this volatile situation.

Tom Fox, Springfield, VA
(plus other members of the CPT Iraq team)

Tom was a Quaker, an accomplished musician, and a grocer. You can read a bio here. I'll be remembering in prayer this new Christian martyr, as well as the members of his team still in captivity: Harmeet Singh Sooden, James Loney, and Norman Kember.

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