Urgent Appeal from ICBUW: Free the Hostages 12 December 2005
By Henk van der Keur
On 29 November Christian Peacemakers Teams (CPT) confirmed that the four human rights workers missing in Baghdad on 26 November are associated with their organisation. They and a German archaeologist and a taxi driver are being held hostage. Their abductors have declared that the hostages will be killed unless all Iraqi prisoners are released.
Besides human rights and peace issues CPT also has focused attention on the use of uranium weapons and the harmful impact of these weapons on the health of local citizens, soldiers, and the environment of Iraq.
CPT has been present in Iraq since October 2002, six months before the beginning of the U.S. led invasion in March 2003. The primary focus of the teams following the invasion was to document and focus attention on the issue of detainee abuses and basic legal and human rights being denied them. Issues related to detainees remain but the current focus of CPT has expanded to include efforts to end the occupation and militarisation of the country and to foster non-violent and just alternatives for a free and independent Iraq.
The Christian Peacemaker Teams is mainly based in the U.S. and Canada and seeks to enlist the response of the whole church in conscientious objection to war, and in the development of non-violent institutions, skills and training for intervention in conflict situations. The organisation consists of Mennonites, Baptists, Quakers and other Christian churches and arose from a call in 1984 for Christians to devote the same discipline and self-sacrifice to non-violent peacemaking that armies devote to war. Today CPT places violence-reduction teams in crisis situations and militarised areas around the world at the invitation of local peace and human rights workers. CPT embraces the vision of unarmed intervention waged by committed peacemakers ready to risk injury and death in bold attempts to transform lethal conflict through "the non-violent power of God's truth and love".
Besides their presence in Iraq CPT has Violence Reduction Projects in many areas of the world: along the Arizona/Mexico border, as part of a campaign to challenge U.S. immigration policies that result in hundreds of migrant deaths in the dessert every summer; in the Magdalena Medio region of Colombia - working for a peaceful end to Colombia's 40-year-old civil war; a continuing presence in the Palestine Hebron District (West Bank) where CPT-members stand with Palestinians and Israeli peace groups engaged in non-violent opposition to Israeli military occupation, collective punishment, settler harassment, home demolitions and land confiscation. In the past they have maintained violence reduction teams, among others in: Gaza (1993), Haiti (1993- 1997), Bosnia (1996), Chechnya (1996), Chiapas, Mexico (1998-2001) and Vieques, Puerto Rico (2000-2003).
ICBUW wants to stress that these hostages are not spies. They respect the culture and the sovereignty of Iraq. They are seeking to bring injustice to light and to establish constructive relationships with people of different religions and culture. CPT was one of the first first groups to report the abuse at Abu Ghraib Prison. The German archaeologist was captured on November 25 with her Iraqi driver. She is married to a Jordanian, has converted to Islam, and has a 12-year-old daughter. In the 1980s she participated in the excavation and preservation of important archaeological sites in Iraq. She has lived through three wars in Iraq and been involved in providing humanitarian aid. Since the Iraq War began in the spring of 2003, she has driven emergency medical supplies into Iraq from Jordan. She has worked to stop the looting and damaging of the precious historic and cultural legacies of Mesopotamia since the start of the occupation.
ICBUW calls on their captors to release them immediately!