Nov 27, 2014

Treasure  in Ferguson, Colombia, Palestine, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Turtle Island
by Kathleen Kern

Since a St. Louis, Missouri prosecutor and Grand Jury have determined that Police Officer Darren Wilson killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown did not merit a trial, I have been busy tweeting #Ferguson on the Christian Peacemaker Team Twitter account.  Those tweets have been getting a lot of retweets.  We have no people working in Ferguson and I have asked myself why I am inundating the account. 

I think it has to do with the disposability of human life, with the contempt shown to Michael Brown when the authorities left his body in the street for four and a half hours and did not bother interviewing key witnesses to the shooting for weeks (until there was a public outcry.)

That contempt connected directly with our work in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine, with indigenous communities in North America, and with migrants in Europe.  In all these cases, people in power have deemed the people we work with disposable.  

If you want to drive Colombian farmers off their land so that you can make big profits with palm oil plantations, it’s okay to assault them, to threaten to rape their nine-year old daughters, to kill their animals, to burn their homes, to use the instruments of the Colombian state illegally to evict their communities’ teachers.  And of course, you can do much worse.  The types of violent harassment cited above are just some issues the communities we work with have been dealing with recently. 

In Iraqi-Kurdistan, our civil society partners have had to drop most of their work to focus on the some most disposable people in the world: refugees.  And these refugees have included those from the Ezidi/Yazidi community, whose wives, sisters, and daughters are now in ISIS/DAESH brothels, women considered worthless except for sexual gratification. 

And then there is the project CPT Europe participated in this summer, welcoming the refugees that Europe wishes would just disappear, and who, because of European policies, have drowned by the thousands in the Mediterranean, fleeing the violence in countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. 

In Palestine, for nineteen long years, we have watched the forces of military occupation say it is acceptable to arrest, jail and torture Palestinian men, women and children without due process, and destroy their homes if Israel wants their land for settlement expansion.  It is acceptable for soldiers to shoot teargas at Palestinian children on their way to school and look on as settlers attack them.  

In our work with Indigenous partners, we have watched again and again, naked racism strip them of their sovereignty, strip their lands of their resources, and leave behind the toxic poisons of their industries.  We have watched the government shrug as 1800 Indigenous women are reported murdered and missing. 

So I think it’s all related. Mike Brown, VonDerrit Myers, Tamir Rice, Tina Fontaine, Loretta Saunders, Bella Laboucan-McLean…People of color who lost their lives because here in North America, they were considered just as disposable as the people we work with in Colombia, Palestine, Lesvos, Turtle Island and Kurdistan. 

The good news, of course, is that our Colombian, Indigenous, Palestinian, Kurdish, and refugee partners are revealing to the world that they are a treasure—as are the people of Ferguson.  The season of Advent is upon us.  Let us listen.

Nov 20, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers: Zhiyan Group

Pray for the work of CPT’s partner, Zhiyan Group, in Iraqi Kurdistan.  CPT recently accompanied Zhiyan Group to Khanke refugee camp in Duhok province, where it helped the women of Zhiyan Group collect 961 names of people kidnapped by ISIS/DAESH.
Epixel* for Sunday November 23, 2014
Zhiyan Group collecting documentation from families in Khanke Camp 
For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak Ezekiel 34:11, 16a
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's  Revised  Common Lectionary  readings.

Nov 2, 2014

Survivor of ISIS massacre tells story to Christian Peacemaker Teams

by Alicja Zasadowska
 Ezidi families fleeing massacres have taken refuge in unfinished buildings

ISIS invaded Aswad’s village Kocho on 10 August 2014.  They militants insisted that all the Ezidis (Yazidis) in the village convert to Islam or die.  When they refused, ISIS gathered around a thousand people in the school.  They took villagers’ phones, money, and jewelry.  Then, ISIS took the men and drove them in three trucks several hundred meters from the main road.  There, they knocked them to the ground and shot them with machine guns, and then shot them each in the head to make sure he was dead.  When it was Aswad’s turn, the executioner heard planes approaching and ran away, leaving Aswad in agony, with four bullets in his pelvis and legs.  The rest of the men died on the spot, except three men who ran away wounded, and who, as Aswad learned, ISIS later found and killed. 

Aswad, a man in his forties, believes that his inability to walk or run saved his life.  Crawling in pain, hunger, and thirst, after about five hours, he reached the nearest village (around 2km away).  Fearing ISIS’s revenge, the villagers threw Aswad out of the village on a blanket and abandoned him.  However, in the darkness of the night, a teenager from the village came to him, brought him water, and let Aswad borrow his phone.  Aswad called his friend who, with a much fear and hesitation, came to help him.  His friend kept hiding him, as he lay delirious with a high fever, in poultry farms and in an abandoned house.
“Finally,” Aswad recalled, “my friend took me to hospital in Mosul where I was randomly put in the ward with some forty ISIS militants.  I had to pretend that I was one of them.  I did not stand out because after the long journey I had a beard, was dirty, and was wounded like ISIS militants.  I was scared to death that they would recognize me as an Ezidi.  Moreover, an emir (the local leader of ISIS) came to the hospital to greet fighters and give ‘us’ some money.  I did not want to receive any compensation from him, but my friend took the money ($100) so as not to raise doubts about my identity.  The situation was very humiliating for me.”

Aswad's friend continued to hide him in poultry farms, switching locations every two days.  Fifteen days after the surgery, he needed to visit a doctor again, because he had stitches left in his legs.  While in the hospital, an air strike hit the building.  Aswad's friend was injured in his leg, too.  But his wound was not that serious, so he was able to take Aswad to Syria to have another operation.  There, the doctors took out three out of four bullets and after three hours, they came back to Iraq. 

Aswad did not feel safe at his friend’s place at all.  Additionally, the villagers insisted that Aswad leave the village, because the villagers were afraid for their own lives.  After ten days of waiting and fear, at night, Aswad’s friend drove him to the checkpoint in Kirkuk and left him there, wishing him good luck.  At the checkpoint, the guards did not believe that Aswad was a Kurd, because he resembled ISIS so much.  Aswad showed them his ID stained with blood, and told them the spine-chilling story of the recent events.  Finally, after what felt like a lifetime for him, he was in Kurdistan.  His cousin picked him up from the checkpoint and took him to Baadre, where Christian Peacemaker Team members met him on 3 October on at the house of one of the Ezidi sheikhs, where Aswad temporarily lives.

Now, Aswad needs to get better, but for that he needs another surgery, for which he does not have money.  His health is very bad.  His constant pain and trauma have resulted in lack of sleep for the past forty days.  All the time, he sees the images of atrocity in his mind.  ISIS killed his eighteen-year-old son, his brother, and his brother's son in front of his eyes.  He was told that ISIS took his two teenage daughters as slaves to Syria.  He worries about his wife and other eighteen members of his and his brother's family who might still be alive, but in ISIS hands.

CPT learned from Aswad that no one from the Kurdistan Regional Government had come to visit him.  After meeting Aswad, a CPT partner contacted the Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs and asked for an audience.  On 12 October, the minister met Aswad in a very respectful manner and promised to help him.  The Ministry paid the expenses of his travel and over night stay in Hawler (Erbil) and a visit with a doctor.  The doctor assessed a surgery to be dangerous based on the location of the bullet but offered a follow up later.  Aswad awaits a further fulfillment of the promise of support.

*Name changed for the reasons of security of his family members held by ISIS