Since the death of Tom Fox in 2006, I have struggled with my own understanding of faith and theology. My journey has taken me away from Quakerism for a time and my journey has brought me back. Two and a half years ago a dear friend of mine from High School Young Friends was killed in Afganistan after he joined the Marines (post Tom's death). My friends' death brought me full circle to the realities of my faith-- encouraging me to reexamine how I was living out that faith and how I was challenging myself to grow.
In my reexamination I found that I had run away from the evil that I begun to experience. I didn't grow up with concept of evil. Many liberal Friends don't. Yet when Tom was killed, the idea that there was that of evil in each of us along with that of good emerged with an overwhelming force. I saw the human capacity for corruption, manipulation, and selfishness acutely all around me, even in the Quaker communities that I loved. I felt useless, unprepared, and disappointed in a people who I believed were creating the Kin-dom of God on Earth.
So as I turned away in disillusionment, others fought--apathy vs. violence--both responses unacceptable to the ideal of non-violent transformation. Three summers ago, at the FGC Gathering, I had a beautiful experience of coming home to my community. The experience resulted in some life changes, and I've spent the year relearning who I am and relearning how to listen to the voice of God inside me. So now, instead of turning away and instead of fighting with outward weapons, I have begun again to listen-- and listen deeply. I studied inter-religious dialogue and peace building at the Earlham School of Religion for the past year and a half—and unexpectedly three weeks ago I was offered a position at Seattle University in those fields.
Before Tom's death I had felt the nudging to participate in a CPT delegation and such nudging has returned-- although now the nudge is a full on push.
At this point I write these words with a great deal of clarity recognized by my Quaker community. Through a series of Quaker opportunities with faithful F/friends it has become clear that my leading is not of my own creation but of a creation beyond my being. I believe that God is calling me, as I believe we are all called, to embrace the rejection of violence.
Therefore, right now I am traveling with a short-term delegation to Turkey and Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), an organization that is dedicated to living out Christ’s teachings in areas where peace seems hopeless and out of reach.
“Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) –Iraq is a faith-based violence reduction NGO operating since 2002 in Iraq, first in the south and now in the Kurdish north.
CPT-Iraq is not primarily a human rights organization, and yet its purpose—to reduce violence and to accompany those who are the victims and targets of violence—frequently intersects with violent actors who deny fundamental human right of their targets.
Thus CPT-Iraq joins its voice to those of various human rights organizations around the world, documenting and decrying the violence and attendant deprivations experienced by the Iraqi Kurdish villages along the borders of with Turkey and Iran, as the decades-long efforts of those two countries to militarily suppress their own Kurdish minorities spill over into the lives of the Kurds in northern Iraq.
It is a sign of our times that an organization dedicated to nonviolence must offer the following disclaimer: CPT neither endorses nor approves of the violence used by any side in any conflict, and in particular, for the purposes of this report, the violence used in the conflicts between Turkey and the PKK on the northern border of Iraq and Iran and PJAK on eastern border.
However, while many around the world know the conflict between Turkey and the PKK particularly, few seem to be aware of the suffering that the conflicts between Iran, Turkey and their Kurdish populations have caused the Kurdish villages in Iraq. CPT hopes that its delegations and team members will bring home reports and stories that will help create a new global awareness of what these villagers are facing.” (2011 CPT-Iraq Report)
In order to assure the safety of my delegation and CPT’s team members, most of my reporting on this blog will be done when I return home on the 25th of October; many names will be changed and some identities will not be revealed. Pseudonyms used will be selected without regard to regional or religious implications, thus a Christian man may be given a name not generally given to Christians—a woman from Suli may be given a name from Erbil, etc.
For more information about CPT and its work, visit their website at www.cpt.org. In addition, I am available to answer any questions that you might have about CPT and its work in Iraq; I also intend to travel and speak about my experiences when I return.
While I am here in the Middle East, there is one important thing that you can all do—pray. After decades of violence, oppression, and war, it’s hard to imagine Iraq as a place where peace can prevail. Please be praying for the citizens and leaders of this country, and that love can permeate this shell-shocked society. Be praying also for the safety of myself and my fellow team members as we listen to many stories and love the people in the small ways that people like Tom Fox loved them so many years ago. Kurdistan is far removed from the sectarian violence that is rampant in the southern part of the country, but it’s still unstable and your prayers are needed.
Thank you so much for your prayers, support and guidance. I walk with many on this journey, if you and/or your community would like me to come talk about my experiences after I return, please contact me. It would be an honor to share this journey with you.
In love and prayer,