The Christian Peacemakers Team – ‘They Brought Shias, Muslims and Sunnis Together.’

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Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT) is a non-governmental international organisation created in 1988 that supports and accompanies peace movements in areas of conflict.

As of today, CPT is present in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine and the Greek island of Lesbos, as well as Canada, where they support the indigenous population.

Part of their mission statement reads:

CPT understands violence to be rooted in systemic structures of oppression. We are committed to undoing oppressions, starting within our own lives and in the practices of our organization.

CPT’s workforce is formed of full-time teams in areas of conflict, hundreds of reservists that spend a few months a year, to certain teams, as well as volunteers, being provided with nonviolence training. They do not provide humanitarian aid, but emphasise supporting local villagers, journalists, international organisations and civil rights activists. The organisation documents human rights violations and reports them, calling for international attention and mobilization. The term ‘amplifying voices’ is often used as a way to describe the role of a peacemakers team, who are present as a support to the local population.

CPT was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 by the American Friends Service Committee, which received the 1947 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of Quakers Worldwide. In their statement, they mentioned the close partnerships with local populations from various religions and backgrounds CPT has established over their thirty years of work.

Christian Peacemakers Team has been present in Iraq since 2002. They stayed during the invasion of Iraq and documented human rights abuses, providing documentation from sources other than the traditional mainstream media, but foremost they used their bodies as human shields to prevent the bombing of areas essential for the welfare of citizens, such as hospitals and water facilities. Standing with Iraqi families, they gathered proof of the abuse of detainees by coalition forces in prisons such as Abu Ghraib, way before the photographs shed international attention on the scandal.

On 26th November 2005, 4 members of the organisation were kidnapped in Baghdad after a visit at the Muslim Clerics Association. They were abducted by a previously unknown group, the Swords of Righteousness Brigade which later accused the CPT members of being spies infiltrated as Christian peace activists in a video diffused by Al Jazeera. In an article written at the time, passionately advocating the significant work of CPT in Iraq, one member of the Muslim Peacemaker Team is quoted as saying of CPT’s work:

They brought Shias, Muslims and Sunnis together.

Tom Fox, one of the men taken as a hostage, was killed, whereas the 3 other members of Christian Peacemakers were liberated by a multinational force composed of British, Canadian and American special forces on the 23rd of March 2006. While vigils were held (see below), the organization decided not to cooperate with the officials coordinating the release of the hostages as according to them, the invasion of Iraq by these forces led to the destabilization of Iraq, the kidnapping of its members and the suffering of millions.

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With the support and encouragement of Iraqi human rights groups, CPT decided to stay in Iraq, but relocated to Kurdistan as the southern part of Iraq was no longer safe for human rights workers. Since then, it has grown its network of local and international partners, supported the local population, refugees, activists, and documented the cross-border bombing of villages by Turkey and Iran.

The main reason I decided to join a Christian Peacemakers Team delegation are their respected partnerships with locals. Additionally, unlike many organisations, it’s made clear from the beginning that CPT is not helping local people; they are the ones doing the work and facing the biggest risks, CPT is just there to support them.

More articles in Firsthand Experiences of Iraqi Kurdistan
  1. Why The Iraqi Kurdistan Referendum Wasn’t as Liberating as It Appeared
  2. The Christian Peacemakers Team – ‘They Brought Shias, Muslims and Sunnis Together.’
  3. Firsthand Experiences: Have You Ever Heard A Story on Iraq That Isn’t About War? 
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