Tuesday, January 31, 2006

[21.30 GMT] Updates - Latest Christian Peacemaker Teams press release (*.PDF format); Freethecaptivesnow site: "Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Jill Carroll, the captive US journalist who appeared in a newly-released video, veiled and weeping, pleading for her life. To her captors we say, Release her! And to the captors of the CPT workers, we say, Release them also! No cause, no religion will be served by harming or continuing to hold them." Father of Iraq hostage pleads for son's release (Globe and Mail, Canada); Canadian hostage's father appears on Al-Jazeera (CTV.ca, Canada); Iraq Churches Attacked Again (ChristianityToday.com, IL, USA); Hostage relatives thankful (Winnipeg Sun, Canada); Palestinians appeal for the release of CPT hostages (World War 4 Report, NY, USA); Video of kidnapped Christian activists stokes hope (Associated Baptist Press, FL, USA); Vigil held for Iraq hostages (Toronto Sun, Canada); Timeline: Norman Kember abduction (BBC News, UK ); Children's BBC newsround (audio report). From Reuters: Sectarian tensions on the rise.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

[20.50 GMT] Prayers for Kember after new tape (BBC News, UK) - Prayers have been said for Norman Kember at his local church after a new video of the Iraq hostage emerged, and around the country. Plus Hope and fear of Kember friends (BBC News); Kember family 'torn' over new footage (Channel 4 News, UK).

[07.30. GMT] Upcoming UK vigils for the captive Christian Peacemakers in Iraq: Public witnesses are to continue around the country during the week ahead.
* Wednesday 1st February, venue: Bedford, John Bunyan Memorial Statue, time: 11am - 1.00pm. Contact 01767 651136
* Saturday 4th February, venue: London, at the North End of Trafalgar Square, opposite St Martin-in-the-Fields, time: 3 - 4 pm. Contact Pax Christi 0208203 4884 or FoR 01865 748 796.
* Sunday 5th February, venue: Southampton, Candle-lit Vigil at the Peace Fountain, Andrews Park, time: 6.00 - 6.30pm. Contact 023 8055 51.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

[20.15 GMT]Christian peacemakers shown alive in Iraq (Ekklesia, UK); Pacifist group reacts to videotape of kidnapped activists (WQAD, IL, USA); Last chance for Western hostages - new video (al Jazeera, Oman) - related Video shows German hostages in Iraq; US army “stretched to breaking point”; Audit details misuse of Iraq’s reconstruction funds; 'Last chance' for Iraq hostages (BBC News, UK). Reaction - Chris Cole of Fellowship of Reconciliation: "We're extremely concerned and extremely worried about how they're looking and how they're dealing with the ordeal." Alan Betteridge of the Baptist Peace Fellowship: ""I had thought with all the pressure put on them from the Muslim world they would have found a way of releasing them without making these sorts of threats." Anas Altikriti of the Muslim Association of Britain: It is a breakthrough to know that they are alive, and probably good that they are with the original captors and have not been 'traded'.
[19.30 GMT] Military releases 5 female detainees (Concord Monitor, NH, USA); Iraqi Soldiers Seek Captive US Journalist (US Department of Defense - press release); US says release of 5 women unrelated to kidnap demand (Seattle Times, USA); Negotiators, Muslims work to free reporter (Arab American News); Keeping The Faith (Toronto Pulse 24, Canada).

Friday, January 27, 2006

[23.00 GMT] Earlier this week, a variety of church leaders in the United States, including Bishop Gabino Zalva of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Los Angeles, the Rev Dr Bob Edgar of the National Council of Churches USA and the Rev Roy Medley, American Baptist Churches in the USA, supported by Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, issued a letter to President Bush and the US Congress in which they said: We know that thousands of Iraqis have been held without charge since the war in Iraq began almost three years ago. Just as we fear for the safety of our Christian Peacemakers, we know that the Iraqi families of those detainees are also afraid. Their fears multiply when there are no reports of abuse of detainees, whether by Iraqi or U.S forces. We believe there can be no end to the conflict in the Middle East so long as this practice continues. Detention without charge is a practice that cannot be allowed to continue, for it simply heightens the level of fear, and in our world today fear too often leads to further violence… We continue to pray for the safety and release of our brothers with Christian Peacemaker Teams. We are grateful for the thousands of Muslims, in our own country and across the globe, who have taken some risk to denounce the kidnapping of these volunteers, and who remain steadfast in their call for peace.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

[00.30 GMT] FactFile -Foreign hostages in Iraq (Reuters AlertNet, UK); Family of kidnapped peace campaigner seek NZ residency (Radio New Zealand, New Zealand); and slightly more information in Let us stay - hostage family (Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand). Picture left: Manjeet Kaur Sooden, Harmeet's mother. Also: Videos from CPT Project in Hebron and the Palestinian village of at-Tuwani (Christian Peacemaker Teams, USA/Canada). And from NEW YORK, Jan 23 (Reuters) - The Committee to Protect Journalists on Monday called for the U.S. military to free two journalists, one held without charge in Iraq and the other, the media rights group said, detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The New York-based group also demanded an explanation from the US military for holding a Reuters TV cameraman for eight months without charges until his release on Sunday. Samir Mohammed Noor, a 30-year-old Iraqi freelancer, was freed from military custody after being held in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison and then at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq.

Monday, January 23, 2006

[20.30 GMT] From the BBC: Two dead in Baghdad blast; Iraq Shias launch coalition drive; Many abducted Iraqis found dead; US officer guilty of Iraqi death.
[16.15 GMT] Christian-Muslim Forum and Islam Expo seek to build bridges (Ekklesia, UK). Anas Altikriti from the Muslim Association of Britain, who went as an unofficial envoy to Iraq to seek the release of Christian peace worker Norman Kember and the three other CPT captives, is today launching an IslamExpo to “combat the myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings of Islam” in Europe. Victims of the 7/7 tube terror attack in London will be invited along to a special commemoration.
[03.30 GMT] Doing this work 'makes risks worth taking' By Bill Baldwin (Anglican Journal, Canada) - "In 1984, Ron Sider, a Mennonite, speaking to an international Mennonite conference in Strasbourg, France, challenged those who believe in peace to have the same commitment and be willing to take some of the same risks as those who go to war. [Dr] Sider’s vision led, a year later, to the birth of Christian Pecaemaker Teams, an ecumenical Christian community which goes into places where there is violence and tries to get in the way. In a world where we speak of a war on terror and often seem to believe that our security depends on destroying others, CPT seeks to model a different way of doing things. The CPTers who have been captured in Baghdad continue to do this, even in their captivity." [Pic: James Loney]. Women have become new bargaining chips in Iraq (Taipei Times, Taiwan); Kenya : Anxiety grips Iraq hostage's family (African News Dimension, South Africa); Hunt for reporter highlights dilemma in Iraq (Herald News Daily, ND, USA).

Sunday, January 22, 2006

[17.15 GMT] Update: Kidnapped Michigan Journalist (WLNS, MI, USA); Young people urged to give peace a PowerPoint (Ekklesia, UK); Upsurge of Sunni violence follows election results (Independent, UK).
[00.00 GMT] Vigil for kidnapped peace worker (BBC News, UK) - "The vigil in the Old Market Square was the second such event organised by Nottingham's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)... Mark Ramsey, from Nottingham CND, is a friend of Norman Kember's. He said: "He's been a pacifist all his life. When he came to do national service, instead he worked in a hospital." Also: Negotiators, clerics work to free American hostage Jill Carroll (Arizona Daily Sun, AZ, USA); Female Prisoners Key in Iraq Hostage Drama (CBS News, USA); Ransom money found on freed German hostage - report (Reuters India, India) - there have been all kinds of rumours circulating about Susanne Osthoff, and they are worth treating with considerable circumspection. Two days after her release, the German government freed a Hizbollah member jailed for life in 1985 for the murder of a US Navy diver. Berlin has denied a connection between the two events. Tough bargaining ahead in Iraq (The Casper Star Tribune, WY, USA).

Saturday, January 21, 2006

[03.30 GMT] More UK vigils announced for Norman Kember and Iraqi peace activists (Ekklesia, UK); Pax Christi - Prayer and Action for Iraq Hostages (PDF or Word format); Prayer & Meditation suggestion; Fallujah - The Hidden Massacre (BBC News archive) - watch the video (Pax Christi).
[01.55 GMT] Next two UK vigils for Norman Kember and the other three Christian Peacemaker Teams captives in Iraq: Nottingham on Saturday, 21st January (today) from 1.30pm - 2pm, meeting in Market Square, central Nottingham. For more details contact Mark or Sally on 0115 9431765. London, Trafalgar Square on Thursday 26th January from 6pm - 7pm. The vigil will be outside National Gallery, opposite St Martins-in-the-Fields Church. For more details contact the Fellowship of Reconciliation office on 01865 748796. Also in the news: British contractor killed in Iraq and 'Zawahiri tape' praises fighters (both BBC News, UK)
[00.30 GMT] Focus on Palestinian Christians. By Martin E. Marty (Christian Post, originally on Sightings). Deadline passes, no word on reporter (News 14 Charlotte, NC, USA); Shi'ites seal power, Baghdad in security clampdown (Herald News Daily, ND, USA); Iraq tops list of threatened minorities (Al-Jazeera).

Friday, January 20, 2006

[16.45 GMT] Leading Sunni Politician Calls on Kidnappers to Release American Journalist (First Coast News, FL, USA); Deadline nears for US reporter in Iraq (Hilton Head Island Packet, SC, USA); French press lobbyists, Muslims urge release of Jill Carroll (Kuwait News Agency, Kuwait).

"Our nation cannot afford a shrill and shallow debate that distorts reality and reduces the options to 'cut and run' versus 'stay the course.' Instead we need a forthright discussion that begins with an honest assessment of the situation in Iraq and acknowledges both the mistakes that have been made and the signs of hope that have appeared.... Our nation's military forces should remain in Iraq only as long as it takes for a responsible transition, leaving sooner rather than later."

Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Florida, in a statement on behalf of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Source: USCCB
[00.30 GMT] Christian Peacemakers in Iraq replace team member as crisis continues (Ekklesia, UK); 10 Guards Killed As 2 Kenyans Are Kidnapped in Iraq (AllAfrica.com, Washington DC, USA); Canadian farmer to witness struggles of Iraqis (CTV.ca, Canada) - this is southwestern Ontario dairy producer Allan Slater's fourth trip with the Christian Peacemaker Teams, who are still awaiting news on their four kidnapped colleagues. Allan Slater must remain in our prayers (Woodstock Sentinel Review, Canada). Picture: Allan Slater.
[00.01 GMT] Update from Jim Loney's co-workers (SooToday.com, USA). Comment from Greg Rollins of Christian Peacemaker Teams and others. CPT press release. Also: Calls Mount to Free Hostage US Reporter (CBS News, USA). The case of Jill Carroll has attracted much more press interest than that of the CPT - partly because it involves the media reporting on its own; and partly, I suspect, because her situation is not overlaid with the same kind of uncomfortable political and religious overtones.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

[19.30 GMT] US denies prisoner release plan (The Observer, UK) - following earlier reports to the contrary, the US military said today that it has no imminent plans to release female Iraqi prisoners, a move demanded by kidnappers to spare the life of an American journalist. They had always denied a link, but it had been thought the releases would go ahead anyway. Also: Priest Shares His Experiences in Iraq With Local Parish (AINA, CA, USA); Efforts Continue for Release of Carroll in Iraq (Zaman Online, Turkey)
[08. 40 GMT] Bid to free Iraqi female captives (Al-Bawaba, Jordan); Bodyguards shot dead as kidnappers seize more foreigners (Times Online, UK ); In Iraq, Kidnapping to Make Political Statement, Profit (ABC News USA). Iraqi official calls for release of women prisoners (Guardian, UK) - An Iraqi government official today urged the US military to release women prisoners but denied the plea was part of attempts to free a kidnapped journalist. Also from the Guardian: Official US agency paints dire picture of 'out-of-control' Iraq and Torture flights: what No 10 knew.
[00.00 GMT] Prayers for a reporter in Iraq (Christian Science Monitor, USA); UK memo stokes 'CIA flights' row (BBC News, UK).

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

[01.15 GMT] Jill Carroll's captors issue videotape demands (Ekklesia, UK); Catholic put spotlight on Guantanamo (Ecumenical News International, Switzerland - a very good news service); Al-Jazeera asks to see Bush 'bombing' transcript (Guardian, UK) - Lawyers demand to see the record of a conversation in which President Bush said he wanted to bomb the Arabic TV station. Its staff have been hit several times already, by accident says the US. See also Don't Bomb Us - A blog by Al Jazeera Staffers and 'Blairwatch' on the al-Jazeera memo.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

[23.15 GMT] Al-Jazeera Airs Tape of American Journalist Hostage (Associated Press via Fox News, USA). "American journalist Jill Carroll will be killed unless the United States frees all female prisoners in Iraq, according to a videotape aired on Arab television [today]. The satellite network Al-Jazeera aired a silent 20-second-long videotape Tuesday night of Carroll, a freelance reporter with the Christian Science Monitor. In the tape, Carroll is shown sitting in front of a white background and speaking, but her voice is inaudible. Carroll looks pale and appears tired in the tape." Carroll's Family Responds to Kidnapping (ABC News, USA) , and across the networks.
[08.30 GMT] Peacemaker vigils in Washington and Toronto focus on Iraq policy (Ekklesia, UK). This report includes an updated complete chronological list of related articles on Ekklesia as of 17 January 2006 AM - over 90 news stories and features.
[07.45 GMT] Protesters call for release of hostages in Iraq (Toronto Star, Canada); Cronkite's Vietnam moment: 'US must leave Iraq' (Independent, UK); Gore's Challenge to Congress and the Media (The Nation, NY, USA); Iraq's future still going up in smoke (The Observer, UK); The news blackout on Jill Carroll’s abduction (Online Journal, FL, USA) .

"The spirit we have, not the work we do, is what makes us important to the people around us." Sr Joan Chittester, OSB

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[00.20 GMT] Catholic Worker plans Guantanamo protests over Lent (Ekklesia, UK); Vigils a grim reminder of four Christian peacemakers missing in Iraq (Macleans, Canada); Bush tries marketing his Iraq policy (The Argus, CA, USA); Hostage families trying to put lives back together (CBC News, Canada), Iraq Body Count appeals for funds; Two Reuters journalists freed in Iraq (Reuters); Slow motion waiting, by Johan Maurer; Iraq's destiny still rests between God, blood and oil (Tariq Ali, Guardian, UK).

Monday, January 16, 2006

[19.15 GMT] From the StarPhoenix in Canada: "There is to be a vigil and march today in Toronto for the four Christian Peacemakers held hostage in Iraq. Members of the group are to lead a procession ending in a vigil at city hall. The march then moves on to the nearby US Consulate. There, they are to call for justice for the thousands of Iraqis detained without trial by US troops and for an end to the occupation of Iraq.
[14.50 GMT] Norman Kember remembered across UK (Ekklesia, UK); Christian Peacemaker returning to Iraq (Globe and Mail, Canada); The hostage no one knew was missing (Times Online, UK); A night raid in Iraq (Jerusalem Post, Israel); Focusing on 'success' in Iraq (Washington Post, United States).
[00.00 GMT] US Bishops Urge “Serious Civil Dialogue” On Iraq (Scoop.co.nz -press release, New Zealand); AP reporter details night raid in Iraq (Biloxi Sun Herald, USA).

Sunday, January 15, 2006

[17.45 GMT] "I think we were welcomed. But it was not a peaceful welcome."—President George W. Bush in fine form in Philadelphia, 12 December 2005, on the reception of American forces in Iraq. Iraqi election endgame, by Alastair Leithead, Baghdad, and Pakistan rally against US strike (BBC News, UK).
[02.50 GMT] Loney family trying to resume a normal life (CTV.com, Canada).
[00.50] Lets get practical... Launching peacemaker prayer and action in your community (*.PDF format - Adobe Acrobat) - a very good draft set of resources from John Stephens for local groups and congregations. From weblogs: The journey to Washington DC and Join 'Shine the Light' (PeaceTalk); Tell us what to do! By Gene Stoltzfus, founder of Christian Peacemaker Teams. We can but watch and wait and pray… (Janinsanfran); Let's be careful about casting the blame (Brooklyn Quaker); Quaker blog watch on CPT.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

[17.50 GMT] Waging peace (Dallas Morning News, TX, USA). An article by Charlie Jackson, who as recently returned from his third visit to Iraq through Christian Peacemaker Teams. He is the founder of Texans for Peace. The focus of the piece is the CPT 'Shine the Light' initiative which coincides with Martin Luther King Day on Monday 16 January. Should God Bless America? By Craig Etchison (Countercurrents.org); Murtha details his exit strategy (CBS News, USA); Reporter tells of capture, 5 days held by insurgents (San Francisco Chronicle, USA); 'Zawahiri' strike sparks protest (BBC News, UK).
[06.10 GMT] Supporters of Iraq captives reissue media appeals (Ekklesia, UK).
[04.15 GMT] Kidnapped reporter (Phil Sands) rescued by chance in Iraq (San Francisco Chronicle, USA); How To Cover a Kidnapping (Slate, USA); Propaganda in Iraq (Khilafah.com, UK); US army in Iraq gets harsh appraisal (Al Jazeera, Oman); Europe 'complicit over CIA jails' (BBC News, UK). On that last story, British security expert Dan Plesch (RUSI) told BBC News 24 this morning that the West had again "shot itself in the foot" in the struggle against terrorism. Dabbling in torture, he said, was both wrong and "deeply counter-productive". See his own site.
[00.25 GMT] More UK vigils keep focus on Norman Kember (Ekklesia,UK ). Further events are taking place today in Cambridge and Peterborough, and on Monday in London to maintain attention on the CPT captives in Iraq. It is nearly seven weeks since they were abducted. The Fellowship of Reconciliation says: "If you can't make it to these events you may like to organise a local public vigil in your area. Public vigils keep the hostages in people's minds. A poster/leaflet which can be used on vigils or simply put up in windows is available to download as a word doc or a pdf. We are also suggesting that people pray for Norman Kember, Tom Fox, Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney and all who are being held against their will in Iraq at noon each day. If you are planning to hold a public vigil, please do let us know as we can help publicise the event."

Friday, January 13, 2006

[22.15 GMT] Covering Kidnap Victims By Judith Matlof (Columbia Journalism Review, USA): "There is no simple formula for deciding whether to report on a hostage case, in Iraq or anywhere else. But the general rule should be to ask ourselves whether we have made a serious effort to determine whether publicity would put the victim at risk when we report on the capture of anyone other than a press colleague. Are we implicitly responsible for someone’s death by maintaining a double standard? Or do we just report the news and find out later?" See also: When Covering Iraq Kidnappings, Caution Can Save Lives (Media Channel, NY, USA); Bush rejects Merkel's plea to close Guantanamo (CBC Ottawa, Canada); Iraqi men freed, 3 weapon caches seized (Pentagram, Washington DC, USA).

Channel 4 TV UK. Iraq: The Failure of War: 19.30 GMT, tonight.

Veteran war reporter and former independent MP Martin Bell kicks off the new series of 30 Minutes with a powerful film arguing that war is an increasingly unreliable and unjustifiable means of solving conflicts in the 21st century. In short, "it doesn't work", he says. It is the first in a ten-week run of provocative polemics in which high-profile authors address important current affairs subjects. Bell is no pacifist. But the reporter, known by his trademark white suits ever since he first wore one during the Balkans conflict in which he was wounded, has spent the best part of 50 years experiencing the cruelties of war at first hand.

Starting as a soldier, later as a war correspondent, and most recently as an ambassador for UNICEF, Bell's views on war have evolved from supporter to sceptic. Except in the most tightly defined circumstances, Martin Bell now believes that war is avoidable, intolerable and a deplorable waste of human life. He examines the complicity of the media in presenting a sanitised version of the impact of war, which frequently fails in its stated objectives, claims 90 per cent of its victims from among the civilian population, depends on the decisions of politicians with no first-hand knowledge, and frequently fails to command public support.

Bell's views are compelling, though he largely ignores the challenges of assessing conflict in the age of armed assymetry - what usually gets labelled terrorism. But they aren't the lynchpin of a specifically Christian argument for nonviolence - as proposed by John Howard Yoder and others. The questions for those who would be companions of Jesus are not "how do we avoid conflict?" or "how do we absolve ourselves from culpability?". They are "who and what are we witnessing to?" and "what does it mean to be a community of character in a world of calcuated inhumanity?"

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[14.15 GMT] Still no word on four activists abducted in Iraq (Globe and Mail, Canada) Includes comments from Matt Loney, brother of Canadian James Loney. Reader Allan Walker comments: "Just this morning I was lamenting that newspapers so often forget these stories if there is no 'fresh' news to report. Thank you for remembering these good people and keeping them in our minds and prayers." Also: US Bishop's Statement on Iraq (Zenit News Agency, Italy).
[03.00 GMT] Alternatives to the US military presence in Iraq (recommended by NCCUSA); Credentials for lambasting Blair over the war in Iraq... questioned (Guardian, UK).
[00.10 GMT] Christian peacemakers highlight prisoner abuse in Iraq (Ekklesia, UK); The cost of peacemaking. By Jonathan Bartley (Christian Herald, UK); National Campaign of Nonviolent Actions Planned at Congressional Offices (Common Dreams, USA); Protesting war on the west side and Risking everything in order to listen (South Bend Tribune, IN, USA); Despite danger, Slater returning to Iraq (Woodstock Sentinel Review, Canada); Activist shares stories about Iraq (Joliet Herald News, IL, USA); Let's make sure we do better with Iran than we did with Iraq. By Timothy Garton Ash (Guardian, UK).

Thursday, January 12, 2006

[21.45 GMT] Working out of openness and trust. By Peggy Gish of CPT (in SooToday, Jim Loney's local paper).

It's easier to talk about not being controlled by fear than it is to actually do it. It takes some struggling to be able to give the underlying tension and fear over to God and to really trust God's care for us and our four colleagues. We need to give each other grace in this.

We ask ourselves daily where to draw the line between continuing the work we feel called to do and caution. Should we visit Iraqi friends, attend local worship services, or meet with particular organizations we worked with in the past? Our struggle is to be wisely cautious, but not allow fear to dominate.

Peggy has also contibuted regularly on Ekklesia.
[13.15 GMT] Hostage effort persists (Calgary Sun, Canada); France debates publicity for Iraq hostages (United Press International); A kidnapping in Iraq suddenly wasn't abstract (Christian Science Monitor, MA, USA); Lakeside man heads back to Iraq (London Free Press, Canada); Worldwide Appeals for Release of Kidnapped Canadian Activist (San Leandro India West, CA). Australian Muslim Seeks Freedom for Christian Peace Activists in Iraq (BosNewsLife, Hungary) - drawing on the earlier Ekklesia report and other sources; General refuses to be interviewed in abuse cases (Standard-Speaker, PA, USA); See also: Voices of Iraq - pooled news service launched by Reuters Foundation and UN Development Programme, English-language pages. The media institutions contributing at present are: Al Sabah al Jadid newspaper - Baghdad, Al Taakhi newspaper - Baghdad, Hawlati newspaper - Al Sulaimaniyah, Al Mannarah newspaper - Basrah, Radio Annas - Baghdad.

More than 400 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq since the occupation began in March 2003. Many more Iraqis have been kidnapped, but it is the abduction of foreigners that makes news, and makes them particular targets....

Greg Rollins’ team-mates were kidnapped [26 November 2005] in what now appears to have been the first of a new wave of kidnappings. The Christian Peacemaker Teams had stayed on despite the wave of foreigner kidnappings in 2004, which resulted in several deaths.

CPT members continue to live among Iraqi people. “Our team wants to make peace and needs to talk to the people in the street, to real Iraqi people,” Rollins told IPS. “I have spoken to people who live in the green zone before, I asked what are Iraqis like? They said, ‘We don’t know what Iraqis are like, we don’t leave the green zone’.”

There is disagreement over the impact of the kidnappings. “No one gains more than the coalition forces,” said Jawad. “Because in April 2004 there were many journalists in Fallujah, but they were afraid of the kidnappings, and in November 2004, there were no foreign journalists there, and the United States didn’t allow the Iraqi journalists to enter.” The U.S. army launched extensive operations in Fallujah both times.

“The kidnappings in Iraq have become very dangerous now, more than ever before,” an Iraqi police officer who wished to remain anonymous told IPS. “It is because no one listens to Iraqis talk about their suffering. That’s why they kidnap foreigners, because it makes people and governments all around the world listen to them.”

* From Inter Press Service News Service ("The story underneath") - Iraq: Because Kidnapping is News. By Brian Conley and Isam Rashid in Baghdad, (11 January, 2006) -

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[01.50 GMT] On the ground: New claims of Guantanamo torture (BBC News, UK) - the Amnesty report and initial comment on it was linked from this weblog yesterday. US troops raid Sunni complex (al-Jazeera); Allegations about freed German hostage (UPI, via a conservative blog). One should be cautious about spook-talk. The context and situation of the CPTers is, in any case, significantly different. It is 6 weeks, 4 days and 17 hours since they were abducted, points out FreeTheCaptives.

Reportage: A month ago, Spero News published Christian hostages in Iraq cause little stir on religious blogs. The situation is, largely, unchanged. It is partly to do with the medium, partly to do with perceptions of the "political" nature of CPT, and partly a result of the marginality of the peacemaking tradition within both Christendom and evengelical forms of Christianity, I suspect.

Politics: UK military officer slams US Iraq tactics (BBC, UK) and General Rose also speaks for me (Guardian, UK). But is the message getting through? See: Bush - war critics irresponsible (Daily Kos, USA) and Sunny Hundal's Don’t criticise us…. please? (Pickled Politics). Meanwhile, US army in Iraq institutionally racist, claims British officer (Guardian, UK).

Iraqi perspectives: The highly valuable Alive in Baghdad (of which more later) has a selection of Iraqi blogger links, with the protagonists coming from a range of angles. Some of you may remember Salam Pax, who blogged so perceptively during the decline and fall of Saddam's vile regime and it aftermath. He writes for The Guardian and a range of other media outlets now, and maintains a self-deprecatingly entitled everyday blog here. Though he hasn't been active since December '05, it seems. See also the film Voices of Iraq and the DemocracyNow Iraq section.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

[22.50 GMT] Laughter in the Face of Severity (Embassy, Canada) - an article by Greg Rollins of CPT. Well worth reading. UK officer slams US Iraq tactics and Enduring symbol: Guantanamo Bay still courts controversy, four years on (both BBC, UK); Memorial service planned for man believed to have been killed in Iraq (Bismarck Tribune, USA).

Among the questions flying round about Christian peacemaking theology and tactics in the light of the current situation in Iraq is the question of appropriate realism - the need for an honest account of what is going on, unswayed by wishful thinking, upon which to ground further response. CPT are naturally and rightly keen to avoid too much idle speculation, which is an ever-present possibilkity in the absence of hard news. But in his article Still marching into hell?, Ron Kraybill (associate professor of conflict studies in the Conflict Transformation Programme, now called the Centre for Justice and Peacebuilding, at Eastern Mennonite University in the USA) writes:

A lifetime in peace negotiations has given me considerable exposure to insurgency movements. The past never fully predicts the future, but it often offers useful pointers. Here is what we can say about those fighting against the United States in Iraq and what patterns of the past suggest we can expect [continued in full].

Ron has lived in South Africa and India, and has been an advisor and trainer in peace processes throughout the world. He formerly served as training director at the Centre for Conflict Resolution in South Africa and as director of Mennonite Conciliation Service in the US. To get on a free listserve posting occasional essays by Dr Kraybill, send a note to him. More of his articles on Ekklesia: Towards repairing the ancient ruins - Jan 4, 2005; What to expect after Falluja - Nov 12, 2004]

CJP's philosophy: Open to people from all parts of the world and all religious traditions, the Centre for Justice and Peacebuilding builds upon EMU's Christian/Anabaptist faith commitments and strengths. The rigours of academic specialization are combined with practical preparation for a life of nonviolence, witness, service, and peacebuilding in the larger society and world. The program also builds upon Mennonite domestic and international service experience in disaster response, humanitarian relief, restorative justice and socioeconomic development.

EMU offers the soulspace resource online, for rooting a life of action in prayer and reflection based on the life, companionship, action and call of Jesus. See also Leonard L. Vander Zee's Prisoners of Hope.

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[04.45 GMT] Protests as US raids Sunni mosque in Iraq hostage search (Ekklesia, UK); Iraqi Muslims Call for End to Bloodshed (New York Newsday, NY, USA); Hunt on for US reporter taken hostage in Iraq (Dispatch Online, South Africa); Cost of Iraq war could top $2 trillion: study (Reuters); CPT in Iraq - overview and links; Amnesty calls on EU to press for closure of Guantanamo Bay (Khaleej Times, India); Force feeding Guantanamo? (Channel 4 News, UK); USA: Guantanamo Bay, New torture testimony released (Amnesty International UK).
[02.15 GMT] UPDATES: Australian Muslim seeks freedom for Christian Peacemakers (Ekklesia, UK). Also appealing on al-Jazeera over the last two days has been a friend of Harmeet Sooden who was a 'human' shield during the 2003 war. {Pic: Keysar Trad of the Islamic Frienship Association of Australia}

Meanwhile, President George Bush has not responded so far to requests from CPT to meet with him to discuss Iraq and the plight of detainees and hostages. Instead, in a high profile speech, he has told his political opponents that criticism of US policy in Iraq would give succour to the nation's enemies, re-emphasising his 'us' or 'them' approach to the issue.

Tonight BBC News 24 is running a feature on the regular kidnappings in Iraq - mostly carried out by criminal gangs and targeting Iraqis thmselves. They are running at an average of 40-a-day, and a special police unit has been established to investigate them. (This would appear to be the source of some misleading reports on Canadian sites last month, which suggested wrongly that a unit had been established for the CPT four. It was also wrongly reported that direct contact had been made with the kidnappers and that a 'local negotiator' had been abducted.)
[00.50 GMT] Iraqi search for kidnapped Christian Science Monitor reporter (Ekklesia, UK).

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

[20.45] Hostage family uses radio ads (Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand); Hunt on for kidnapped journalist (News24, South Africa); Journalist's kidnappers maintain silence (Sydney Morning Herald, Australia); US peace campaigner Cindy Sheehan writes memoir (Reuters AlertNet, UK); Bush to push Iraq strategy in bid to win message battle (Washington Times, DC, USA); new website dedicated to promoting Dr Martin Luther King Jr's World House vision and agenda. It includes articles, data, graphics, and action ideas, as well as instructions for building a World House display. {Pic: Harmeet Sooden, (c) CPT}
[03.30 GMT] US paper names seized reporter; US senior economist doubts Iraq war costs; Freed Iraq hostage 'fled captors' (all BBC News, UK).
[02.00 GMT] New call to impeach Blair over Iraq (Guardian, UK) - Tony Blair should be impeached over the Iraq war, according to one of Britain's most senior former soldiers, General Sir Michael Rose, who commanded United Nations forces in Bosnia. The journalist abducted in Iraq has been working for the Christian Science Monitor: Freelancer Jill Carroll was kidnapped in Baghdad Saturday morning. By Scott Peterson and Peter Ford (Christian Science Monitor, USA); Abducted reporter was living dream in Iraq. Ken Maguire (Associated Press); Public Interest Lawyers comment on Court of Appeal Verdict regarding the torture and abuse of Iraqi civilians in detention with UK Armed Forces. -- Pic: Jill Carroll (c) CSM.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has urged Christians throughout the world to make efforts to visit Bethlehem as a place of pilgrimage and to remember the 'struggling' town in their prayers. {Picture: a security checkpoint and road block at the Bethehem wall}

In a letter presented to Dr Victor Batarseh, the Mayor of Bethlehem, marking the feast of the Epiphany, Dr Williams expressed his concern for the fate of the area.

"I am aware of the severe hardship which many are suffering; the decline of tourism, the difficulties of access and movement and the struggle to sustain the economic and social life of the city. I am distressed to hear that the current situation has prompted so many families, especially Christians, to leave the city and seek security and stability elsewhere. I have raised these concerns directly with the Israeli authorities."

Dr Williams said that Christians throughout the world could play their part: "I urge Christians worldwide to support your community, to visit you whenever possible and to pray for the people of Bethlehem that they may not be forgotten."

He continued: "We pray for the day when a just and lasting peace will be established in the region which will bring freedom, dignity and security to all the people of Bethlehem."

Further links here. Details here of Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation Living Stones Pilgrimages.

Comment on this post: FaithInSociety

Monday, January 09, 2006

[20.45 GMT] Terror photos media warning (ic Liverpool, UK) - says research shows that the use of hostage photos in the media increases overall willingness to pay ransoms. Christian Peacemaker Teams is critical of them for a different reason: namely that it de-humanises both captives and captors, reinforcing a violent cycle whereby we are prepared to treat each other as objects rather than persons. Australian Muslim community joins 'Human Shield' in appeal for CPT four (Scoop.co.nz, New Zealand); Hebron: Israeli Military Arrests Christian Peacemaker Teams member (BBSNews, NC); Families plead for release of hostages (Gulf Times, Qatar).
Photo: David Coffey (right), general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, and Graham Sparkes, head of BUGB's Faith and Unity Department, meet with Pat Kember, Norman's wife.
[09.40 GMT] US troops seize award-winning Iraqi journalist (Guardian, UK). American troops blast their way into the Baghdad home of an Iraqi journalist working for the Guardian and Channel 4 TV. Also: MPs leaked Bush plan to hit al-Jazeera.
[08.30 GMT] British diplomats continue Norman Kember search (Ekklesia, UK); Joy after hostage escapes but fears for Briton grow (Times Online, UK); Muslim Envoy May Return to Iraq for CPT Hostages (Christian Today, UK - taken from Ekklesia)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

[21.30 GMT] Comment from the Birmingham UK vigil for Norman Kember yesterday (Peace Church); "We Must Not Be Seduced Into Believing That They Are Invincible" says Peggy Gish of CPT on the climate of fear in Iraq created by kidnappings and political violence. (Cytations); First UK troops 'may leave Iraq' (BBC, UK).
[21.10 GMT] Attempts were being made last night to locate an American journalist who was kidnapped in Baghdad yesterday after a meeting with a senior Sunni politician. Her Iraqi Christian translator was killed, writes Ali Rifat. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the kidnapping in a statement posted on the internet. US authorities are not yet releasing the name of the journalist.
[12.00 GMT] LATEST - Muslim envoy may return to Iraq for CPT four (Ekklesia, EK) Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme this morning, Muslim Association of Britain envoy Anas Altikriti has said that he is considering returning to Iraq to negotiate further on behalf of Dr Norman Kember and three other Christian peace workers held captive there since November 2005.

Mr Altikriti, who was born in Iraq himself and has been active in the anti-war movement, went to the country in December 2005 to seek the release of the men – who have received unprecedented support from Muslims across the world. He was speaking after yesterday’s vigils for Norman Kember in Birmingham and London.

Along with Pax Christi general secretary Pat Gaffney, Mr Altikriti lamented lack of recent attention to the Iraq hostages in the mainstream media. Continued here in full.
[11.10 GMT] Release of French engineer brings Iraq hostage hope (Ekklesia, UK). See also AP report on Guardian Unlimited. The fact that it has happened outside Abu Ghraib is especially poignant. This is a place where US forces carried out acts of torture and humiliation against detainees, as first revealed by Christian Peacemaker Teams. But it should not be forgotten that it was also a torture centre emplyed by Saddam Hussein, where up to 40,000 may have died since the 1980s.
[00.00 GMT] No word from hostage's kidnappers: McTeague (CTV.com, Canada) Missing in Iraq (ElectronicIraq); Support Harmeet Sooden (Peace Movement Aotearoa); Tom Fox updates.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

[21.15 GMT] Christian volunteers still captive in Iraq (Aljazeera.net, Qatar); Violence toll nears 200 amid Shiite backlash (Daily Review Online, CA, USA); Analysis: Surge in Iraq violence (BBC News, UK); Two Moms Go to Capitol Hill (CounterPunch, CA, USA); Foreign hostages still held captive or missing in Iraq (Turkish Press, MI, USA); Peacemakers deserve our prayers (Centre Daily Times, PA, USA); Pray for the four: Blessed are the Peacemakers (Pueblo Chieftain, CO, USA); IndyMedia: Audio interviews with the peace activists prevented from attending the Non-Violence Conference in Bethlehem.
[14.00 GMT] Journalist kidnapped in Iraq as friends pray for peace workers (Ekklesia) - a more detailed report than the wire stories, with background. See also: Christian Iraq.com; and news on Reporters Without Borders; First UK troops 'may leave Iraq', Iraq 'can deal with insurgency' (both BBC, UK).
[11.45 GMT] The vigil for Norman Kember and the four CPT captives in Iraq is underway in Birmingham. The London vigil in Trafalgar Square starts at 15.00 GMT. People are encouraged to join in where they are. Pat Kember's message calling for his release has been syndicated across the Muslim world in Arabic (pic). Meanwhile: Iraq Violence May Provoke Shiite Backlash (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, FL, USA); and Female US journalist kidnapped in Baghdad (Malaysia Star, Malaysia, and Reuters syndication. Details emerging). "Unknown gunmen kidnapped a female U.S. journalist in Baghdad on Saturday after shooting dead her driver, police said. They said she had been on her way to a meeting with a Sunni Arab leader when she was kidnapped in the Adel district near Malik bin Anas mosque in west Baghdad. Immediately after the incident, American and Iraqi troops sealed off the area, witnesses said."

Friday, January 06, 2006

[17.30 GMT] Prayers continue for Iraq hostages (New Zealand Herald); TV appeal for release of Sooden (NZ City, New Zealand); Jesus vs George - a comparison (OpEdNews, USA).
[14.00 GMT] Birmingham inter-faith vigil for Kember and Iraq peace workers (Ekklesia, UK) -- note that the BBC West Midlands report on this spelt John Johansen-Berg's name incorrectly. Ex-hostage makes TV plea for release of New Zealand peace activist (TMCnet, NZ); The unrestrained president (Asia Times Online, Hong Kong); Terror and resistance (CounterCurrents.org, India); Christian Peacemakers plan White House prayer vigil (Christian Post, CA, USA); Working to free the Canadian hostages (Tandem, Canada); Peacemaking team plans White House prayer and fast (Spero News, USA - via Presbyterian Church).
[11.10 GMT] Norman Kember's wife in new TV appeal to Iraq captors - Ekklesia, UK, 06/01/06. Pat Kember, wife of 74-year-old Dr Norman Kember, one of four Christian peace workers kidnapped outside a mosque in Baghdad, Iraq, on 26 November 2005, has issued a further appeal for his release through the Arabic TV station al-Jazeera. Mrs Kember stresses that her husband, a retired doctor, went to Iraq to support the people there, along with three other activists – Tom Fox, Jim Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden. She says that she is worried about his health, that the abduction is badly effecting the family, and that Dr Kember’s grandson Ben is constantly asking where he is. Continued here.
[09.30 GMT] Concerning speculation from New Zealand and Canada about who might have kidnapped the four CPTers and why, Christian Peacemaker Teams have written to a couple of the 'experts' (academics and commentators) involved to request that the refrain from further comment for the sake of the abductees. The advisors they work with have said that such speculation is unhelpful, "particularly because we do not know who is holding our friends nor with whom their captors may be linked."

Thursday, January 05, 2006

[10.00 GMT] Details of 7 January 2006 vigil for Norman Kember in London. The silent vigil will be between the hours of 3pm and 4pm (local time) at the North side of Trafalgar Square, opposite St-Martin-in-the-Fields Church. Epiphany peace prayer (foot of page) from MennoLink. See also Mennonite Peace and Justice Network vigil page. Incidentally, Norman would be amazed (and probably amused) to discover that he is now officially a 'celebrity', having featured in Hello! magazine. News/comment: Still no contact with Iraq kidnappers after 41 days (Canoe.ca, Canada); Resident still striving for peace (Fort Frances Times, Canada); Prayers continue for Iraq hostages (New Zealand Herald, New Zealand); We will kill our hostages, Sunni group warns Iran (Times Online, UK); Gaza anarchy: Freedom turns to fear as chaos spreads through the Strip; Bombers strike near Iraqi shrine (both BBC, UK); Canadian Muslims Appeal for Release of Iraq Hostages (Islam Online, Qatar); Muslim Canadian Congress statement and latest version of the online CPT petition in Arabic and English. [Picture: Norman and Pat Kember with Baptist Peace Fellowship members on a protest against the Iraq war in Hyde Park, London. c/o CPT]
[07.00 GMT] A Cult of Presidential Power by Tom Engelhardt (author of The End of Victory Culture). "While much has been made of feverish Christian fundamentalist support for the president, the real religious fervor in this administration has been almost singularly focused on the quite un-Christian attribute of total earthly power." Also Assyrian Christians in Iraq (FAQ); Crowd urged: Speak up for peace (Venice Gondolier, FL, USA).
[00.00GMT] New London vigil for Norman Kember announced for 7th January 2005. This article on Ekklesia contains full details, plus a link to the Oremus Epiphany liturgy.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

[20.00 GMT] Christian Peacemaker Teams seek meeting with President Bush (Ekklesia, UK). Supporters are encouraged to write respectfully to President George W. Bush asking him to meet with CPT. Mail: The White House1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500, USA. Phone Numbers - Comments: 202-456-1111, Switchboard: 202-456-1414. Fax: 202-456-2461. E-Mail comments@whitehouse.gov. (Also: Iraq's deadliest day since poll , BBC, UK)
[19.30 GMT] The nearest we can get to hard news... Speculation continues over kidnapped peace workers in Iraq (Ekklesia, UK); Christian Peacemakers Fast, Wait For Meeting With President Bush (US Newswire, Washinton DC). See also Sudanese hostages safely home (News24, South Africa); Vigils Held at Home for Abducted Peace Activist (WJLA, Washington DC, USA); Review of Arab editorials (Middle East Times, Egypt);
[15.00 GMT] Christian Peacemaker Teams gear up for 'Shine the Light' campaign (CPT, USA); CPT Iraq watch on nonviolence.org; Good, regular coverage of Iraq on Freethecaptivesnow.org; A Face and a Name: Civilian Victims of Insurgent Groups in Iraq : A Report by Human Rights Watch; also: Indie Media radio interviews CPTer in Iraq.
[13.45 GMT] Peace activist will tell a different Iraq story (OregonLive.com, OR, USA); Bomber kills 30 at Iraq funeral (BBC, UK); Kidnappings Raise Tough Questions About Role of State (Deutsche Welle, Germany); Friends of Virginia hostage in Iraq still hopeful (Richmond Times Dispatch, VA, USA); With 4 Britons Released from Guantanamo, Activists Call for More (The NewStandard, NY, USA); Gunmen block Gaza crossing (BBC, UK).

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

[21.00 GMT] A time of prayer for peace in Iraq (Hendon & Finchley Times, UK); Not Even to Save Our Lives (Left Hook); Hostages: Close friend won't let Norman be forgotten (Peterborough Evening Telegraph, UK); Ransom deal 'likely' for Iraq hostages (Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand); Fate of four peace activists kidnapped in Iraq unknown (New York Newsday, NY) Baptist World Alliance Head Calls for Continued Prayers for Iraq captives (Christian Post, CA) - again, taken from Ekklesia and re-written. However, Coffey was not speaking in his BWA capacity).