"At Hebron in the West Bank, a few Jewish settlers live in the midst of the overwhelmingly Palestinian city of Hebron. Taunts, anger, violence, and deaths are frequent. For 10 years, CPTers have lived in Hebron, seeking to befriend both sides, accompanying those oppressed by violence, sitting in houses threatened with illegal demolition, and walking children to school in neighborhoods where gunfire has too often struck down the wrong targets."Essentially, these are individuals going to simply stand in the gap between victims and oppressors. You might remember hearing of CPT back in 2005 when four of its members were kidnapped in Baghdad back in 2005. One was killed while three were subsequently released. If that's not a damn good way to "take up your cross", I don't know what is.
Sider says that as violent as the 20th century was, with estimates of around 200 million killed through either war, government sponsored murder, or genocide, it was also a remarkable century as far as the success of the nonviolent approach is concerned. He mentions the success of the the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos in the Phillipines the usual suspects such as Ghandi and the nonviolent shaking off of colonial British rule in India and Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement in America. But he also recounts his personal experience,
What is most exciting to me about this new article by Sider is a thought that I've had for a long time. Back when I was in school, I used to wonder, sometimes aloud, what if we all just stood up and walked out at once to protest the perceived injustices? They couldn't kick us all out could they? As a private school, they would have to shut down if they expelled every student. Instead there would have to be a reconciliation process.
"I know from personal experience that this kind of nonviolent intervention is dangerous. In the mid-1980s, the U.S. was secretly funding thousands of guerillas (called the Contras) who were killing hundreds of Nicaraguan civilians in their attempt to overthrow the Sandinista government. I opposed the Marxist, repressive tendencies of the Sandinista government, but also rejected U.S. funding of the Contras.
So in early 1985, I joined a team from Witness for Peace that visited a Nicaraguan town under attack by the Contras. As we wound our way down the side of the mountain toward the town, we knew a thousand guerillas in the surrounding hills had their binoculars—and perhaps their guns—trained on us. I was scared but believed God had called me to that moment. We arrived safely and the townsfolk told us they slept peacefully that night, believing the Contras would not attack while a team of praying American Christians was there."
You may think the same thing at work. What if the entire company just stood up and walked out. They wouldn't fire the whole company would they? They couldn't keep up with their obligations and would have to shut down. No, instead their would have to be a reconciliation process.
So my question when I first heard about CPT several years ago was that since this is such a great idea as is, what if (and I'm here taking this to the extreme) all Christians were to do the exact same thing? What if we all at once went to the most dangerous place we knew of in our local communities, cities or even around the world and simply stood there eating, sharing, and simply sitting and standing with victims of violence, war, genocide, and hate? Obviously that's where the debate begins. But what I do know is it would accomplish a metric shit-ton of good and only at the expense of our lives, a cost the early Christians considered an honor to pay.
To parallel my theoretically impossible question about what would happen if all Christians did this at once is another far more practical question. Why is this kind of activity being done by a para-church organization rather than the church itself? American churches in particular have both the financial and human capital necessary to do this sort of activity. Furthermore, I know that young people, including myself, are dying (no pun intended) to do something for God and fellow man that really matters. We hear about great work that is going on in the mission field but we field unneeded based on our skill sets and unwanted after the tank America's reputation has steadily sunk into since the end of the second world war. But this seems to me an opportunity where we can easily make a difference as young people.
Now as a married man with a kid due to be born any day now, I'm somewhat of a pansy these days when it comes to putting my life on the line. But I know as a single college student, I would've seriously considered signing up for an assignment like this. I also know that there are many other single college students willing to do the same thing. That's my thought. Here's Sider's call,
"Christian leaders from all traditions should together issue a call for something that has yet to happen in Christian history: the training and deployment of thousands of CPT-type peacemakers who are committed to using the nonviolent teachings of Gandhi and King, inspired by Jesus, in unjust, violent settings around the world.As Sider points out, pacifists and just-war advocates don't have to agree on everything, because they already agree on the essentials. Jesus is Lord and he calls us as individuals and as a church to be peacemakers. Sider has a message for both pacifists and just-war advocates,
If top global Christian leaders (hopefully joined by Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and others) led a thousand trained, praying, nonviolent peacemakers into the West Bank, the eyes of the world would be on them. Hundreds of millions would be praying for peace and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians. Massive media coverage would pressure both sides to negotiate. The same would happen if Archbishop Tutu led a few thousand praying African Christians, joined by people from other continents, into Zimbabwe to demand that President Mugabe call fair elections.
If Christians with both just-war and pacifist convictions truly mean what they have been saying for centuries about war and peace, then they have no choice. Nonviolence has worked. It's time to invest large amounts of money and time in serious training and deployment. We cannot know ahead of time what will happen. But we already know that unless we do this, our Christian rhetoric about war will be both hypocritical and dishonest."
"Just-war Christians—the vast majority of Christians since the 4th century—have always upheld that war must be a last resort. Before we are to go to war, we must have tried all reasonable nonviolent alternatives. But how can contemporary just-war Christians claim they have tried all reasonable nonviolent alternatives in the face of two hard facts: One, even without much preparation, nonviolent approaches have worked again and again; and two, we have never trained CPT-like teams that could explore the possibilities of nonviolence in a serious, sustained way? In order to engage in a serious, large-scale test of nonviolence, just-war Christians do not have to believe that nonviolence will always prevent war. All they must do is implement their own rule that war must be a last resort.Everybody knows Thomas Jefferson's quote (you know, the one sadly co-opted by Timothy McVeigh on the t-shirt he was wearing when arrested) that "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Well I would propose that the tree of peace must be constantly refreshed with the blood of martyrs. While I've pretty much quoted Sider's entire article in a different order, if you want to pass the link along, it is here. The link to the Christian Peacemaker Teams website is here.
Pacifists have long claimed they have an alternative to war. But that claim remains empty unless they are willing to risk death, as soldiers do, to stop injustice and bring peace."