Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Christian Peacemaker Teams #1

Dearest Friends and Family,

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,
Rachel Stacy

8 comments:

  1. Dear Rachel,
    Your ministry and your calling are powerful, both for yourself, and for many Quakers, who in their day to day world never experience the things that you have, the presence of the darkness looming, that brings us to our own crisis of faith.

    Many at Hopewell Centre, including myself, will be praying for you and CPT-Iraq while you are there, and in addition, we will be sharing your message, through our newsletter, and in discussion in our meeting, to give others the opportunity to interact with your powerful paradoxical calling.

    God bless each and every one of you as you tred your footsteps every day. May you know that you are not alone.
    In love and light,
    Linda

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  2. Precious Rachel,
    We at Swarthmore Friends Meeting are holding you all in the light of love and prayer, and are preparing for you to be with us on Oct. 30 to share
    your journey with the spirit of Peace. Thank you for being faithful.
    Love,
    Sharon

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  3. Prayers of peace for you sweet Rachel

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  4. Glad you're out there and prayers that you come home safe. I'd love to hear more about your changing perception of evil. I co-led an outrach session at the FGC Gathering with Deborah Haines back in 2006 where we asked people to stand along a line of continuum of agreement/disagreement with various statements; when we got to the existance of evil, only a small few of us seemed to have a concept of it as part of our cosmology.

    I think it's hard for us to really think about bad behavior without it. And I'm not just talking about the obvious bad, like genocide, but the quotidian bad where we do something that our inner guide instructs us is wrong. The old Quaker/Christian idea of a tempter also explains a lot of the self-destructive and detractatory behavior out there.

    Sometimes just modeling modestly righteous behavior is the most powerful witness. I didn't have the honor of knowing Tom Fox personally but learning of him through stories and writings have been a blessing. It's an honor being part of the same faith community as Friends like him. I'm glad to see his witness continues.

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  5. When I was looking for a church home, before I found Friends, I specifically rejected one because they explicitly denied the concept of evil. I just don't see how evil can be denied. We can debate what it's nature is and how it affects/influences individuals, but it's hard to explain reality as lived by so many without it. I've found Walter Wink's take on evil in his "The Powers" series to be very provocative and helpful. He goes off on some odd tangents unfortunately, (which I think dilutes his appeal to many Christians), but his main thesis is compelling. The books are "Naming the Powers" "Engaging the Powers" and "Unmasking the Powers" I've only read "Engaging" so far, though it's not the first in the series. I'm trying to make time for the other two...

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  6. Friends,

    Thank you for your prayers and comments. I'll be blogging now that my transitions are subsiding with more regularity. I'm intending to look more deeply personally and theologically into my changing and evolving perspectives of good and evil. First though, a bit about my trip and how such threads came into my work in Northern Iraq.

    Thank you again for all of your support!

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