Tuesday, February 21, 2006

[00.00 GMT] Reuters is tracking foreign hostages in Iraq, in addition to security incidents and military and civilian deaths. Their tallies include up to 8,840 military casualties, and 32,041 Iraqi civilians. Of over 200 foreigners and thousands of Iraqi's taken hostage in Iraq since 2003, the news agency names thirty-eight internationals still believed missing. The number of Iraqis presently held captive is unknown. Some estimates say 2,000 or more. A new report released by the International Crisis Group says that the US-led Coalition "seem[s] to know little about the enemies they are fighting in Iraq," while the International Red Cross testifies about the freshly-released gruesome images of torture from Abu Ghraib.

Monday, February 20, 2006

[16.30 GMT] Baptist Peace Fellowship (UK) vigils and support information for Dr Norman Kember, who has been held captive in Iraq with fellow Christian Peacemaker Teams activists Tom Fox, Jim Loney, Harmeet Singh Sooden since 26 November 2005. Also from the BPF site: Why vigil? by John Rackley, former President of BUGB; Baptist Union material: Prayers for those held in Iraq; Prayers and suggested reflection from Trinity Church, Harrow; Letter from religious leaders released 6th February 2006; Litany for Detainess from Pax Christi; Vigil leaflet (including photographs); Posting from CPT member in Iraq, 1st February 2006; Letter to Norman Kember from Ken Sehested (Advent 2005); Vigil/Prayer leaflet from CPT, December 2005; Iraqi detainee profiles.
[00.00 GMT] US churches apologise over Iraq war and World churches reflect on nonviolent strategies (both Ekklesia, UK); USA church alliance: Washington is 'raining down terror' with Iraq war, other policies (Canada.com, Canada); Two Iraqis die in Baghdad bombings (Seven.com.au, Australia); An Interview with Anti-War Faster Mike Ferner (CounterPunch, CA, USA); Permanent Bases Point Toward Permanent War (Scoop.co.nz, New Zealand); One by one, Davis families mark deaths of those killed in Iraq (Davis Enterprise, CA, USA - see picture); What Brings Peace, Wealth or Democracy? (Middle East Forum, PA, USA); IsraPundit Accusations against Palestine Solidarity Movement (with comments from Baruch David) and a response from PSM.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

[20.15 GMT] Christian and Muslim Victims of Violence By Peggy Gish of Christian Peacemaker Teams(Electronic Iraq); Iraqi Human Rights Group Plans Protest for Christian Captives (Christian Post, CA, USA)... We grieve for any victims of violence. We say that any forms of violence that stir up the prejudice and fear among Christians and Muslims or any other religious and ethnic groups, is wrong. We find hope in people of all faiths who courageously work together for mutual respect and cooperation. We are encouraged by those victims of violence who refuse to get caught up in the cycles of hate and revenge and are able to "continue on."
[01.00 GMT] Vigils continue for hostages (Anglican Journal, Canada - March 2006); Two Macedonians kidnapped in Iraq, ransom demanded (Metro Toronto, Canada); How to stay alive in a war zone (Independent, UK); US Press: Independent Investigation is a must (Zaman Online, Turkey).

Saturday, February 18, 2006

[18.10 GMT] Apocalypse Now? Reflections on faith in a time of terror (The Tablet, UK). A review of two timely books by Duncan Forrester and Colin Morris, both people for whom I have a good deal of respect. Forrester is a political hard-head who also understands what is at stake in Christian ethics - and that it has to deal with, but cannot be circumscribed by, a narrow kind of "realism". [He] pits the modern world of states against the Gospel Church, which also lived in a time of terror, proclaiming an apocalyptic vision of “a coming order of peace, justice and love”, exemplified in its fellowships. He quotes the third-century theologian Tertullian: “Nothing is more foreign to us than the state. One state we know, of which all are citizens.” Forrester insists that Gospel politics is about “the transfiguration of politics by the rule of the Lamb that has been slain, and is now, despite appearances, on the throne”.
See also: Police alert for Muslim rally at Trafalgar Square (HindustanTimes.com UK edition, India).

Thursday, February 16, 2006

[17.30 GMT] From Reuters (via the FreeTheCaptivesNow site): Ruined Iraqi city promotes peace with olive trees. Yesterday ReligionNews raised the issue of the lack of mainstream press interest in CPT, its philosophy and provenance. This is true, and its not as if the research is hard -- as in many issues involving religion, where (sadly) prejudice and loudmouthing on all sides seems to command more attention than actual information and reflection. So, for the record: About CPT. Christian Peacemaker Teams is a programme of Brethren, Quaker and Mennonite Churches (USA and Canada). The Baptist Peace Fellowship, Every Church a Peace Church, On Earth Peace and The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship are also sponsors of CPT. People from other bodies in the ecumenical Christian community are particpants in the 40 member full time Christian Peacemaker Corps and the part time 125 member Reserve Corps. See also the book Getting in the Way:Stories from Christian Peacemaker Teams. In the UK you can order it (along with other Herald Press titles) from Metanoia Book Service.
[06.50 GMT] Church leaders urge dialogue with Muslims following cartoon controversy (Ekklesia, UK); The hearts of peaceniks and terrorists (GetReligion, DC, USA); Winter of Our Discontent: 34-day Fast to End the Iraq War, February 2006 (Common Dreams, USA);
Christian Peacemaker Teams Leader Speaks at Nazareth (Nazareth College, NY, USA); Who's behind the kidnaps? (Al-Ahram Weekly, Egypt); Why we're publishing the new Abu Ghraib photos (Salon, USA); Colleague tells of Iraq kidnap shock (Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand); A Baghdad Kidnapping Up Close (Embassy, Canada); Iraqi Ads Appeal For US Journalist's Release (KSBI 52, OK, USA); Iraqi Officials Condemn Abuse Images (CBS 11, TX, USA); Report: Sunni Insurgents Increasingly Unified (Antiwar.com, CA, USA); Iraqi rebels thrive on net (Australian IT, Australia); Situation of German Hostages in Iraq Remains Unclear (Deutsche Welle, Germany); In Their Own Words: Reading the Iraqi Insurgency (International Crisis Group, Belgium).

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

[15.20 GMT] Leftovers from war on terror aren't so tasty (Tracy Press, CA, USA); 'Sons are Used to Force Their Fathers Talk in Abu Ghraib' (Zaman Online, Turkey); Will we let Jill Carroll be killed? (Los Angeles Times, CA, USA).
[07.00 GMT] CPT Iraq statement on anti-Muslim cartoons in Danish newspaper - [English]; Group plans to plea for hostages (Edmonton Sun, Canada); Germany Trying to Contact Men's Kidnappers in Iraq, Erler Says (Bloomberg); Hostage Vigil (Donga, South Korea); French efforts to free hostage criticized (United Press International); New Hostage Video Gives Berlin "Last Chance" (Der Spiegel, Germany); US urged to free al-Jazeera journalist (al-Jazeera); Iraqis Remain Starved of Electricity (AP);Tom Fox reflection: "Fight or flight?".

Monday, February 13, 2006

[14.40 GMT] Christians welcome UN report on Guantanamo (Ekklesia, UK).
[13.00 GMT] The free and widely-consulted composite online encyclopedia Wikipedia has a number of entries (of generally good, though variable, quality) relating to the Christian Peacemaker Teams captives in Iraq. This includes one on the 2005 CPT hostage crisis, a specific site for Norman Kember and a broader entry on foreign hostages in Iraq. The plentiful links provide a range of research opportunities. See also: Tom Fox, 54, of Clearbrook, Virginia, USA, a leader of youth programs at Langley Hill Friends Meeting and Baltimore Yearly Meeting, James Loney, 41, of Toronto, Canada, programme coordinator for CPT Canada, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, a Canadian electrical engineer studying in New Zealand.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

[16.45 GMT] Blair vows probe of alleged abuse in Iraq (AP via Yahoo). See on Pickled Politics: Another Iraq abuse video unearths and Pics from yesterday’s Islamophobia rally. Also on Yahoo News, a good (though basic) piece looking at image prohibitions in different religious traditions: Cartoon protests aren't unique to Islam. Note that links to Yahoo and Google news stories are time-limited to one month. And no, the analyst quoted is not the same Pat Gaffney mentioned on this weblog who heads up Pax Christi UK - and who is, in any case, a woman. (Prayer/Meditation & Action for Iraq hostages and Vigils in the UK. UK Religious Leaders Open Letter on behalf of Iraqi Prisoners)
[16.30 GMT] Nothing new on the CPT captives. On a related story, interesting to note the different headline angles on the same event. Speaks volumes. Thousands join pro-Islam protest (EgyptElection.com, UK) and Smaller numbers than expected turn up for Muslim march in London (Unison.ie, Ireland).

Saturday, February 11, 2006

[16.20 GMT] Bruce Kent joins Mohammed cartoon demo in London (24dash.com): Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather described the cartoons as "a juvenile posturing exercise". She went on: "Nothing was done to further the cause of liberal values or the freedom of speech - the publication of the cartoons was just plain racist." Bruce Kent, a friend and colleague of British hostage Norman Kember who is being held in Iraq, spoke as a representative of the Christian group Pax Christi. He said: "I think the cartoons hurt the Muslims, they hurt me as a Christian and they were grossly offensive. "I think we religious groups should be working together for a world of justice and peace." See also: Giles Fraser on iconoclasm (Guardian, UK): the first article I've seen to go beyond superficial talk about a Muslim 'taboo' on images in order to explore the theological and political issues of reprsentation. Cartoons endanger peace activists (London Free Press, Canada); Cartoon controversy spreads throughout Muslim world (Guardian, UK); Many Iraqis Killed in Mosque Attack (Turks, USA).

Friday, February 10, 2006

[14.00 GMT] New Jill Carroll Video Airs: "I Am Fine" (Editor and Publisher, USA); Sunni Mosque Leader Kidnapped in Baghdad (AP). Sacred and profane. By Alain Woodrow (The Tablet, UK) - a sane perspective on the cartoon controversy from the leading Catholic weekly's correspondent in France. I appreciated the following: “In a secular Republic nothing is sacred,” says an influential member of the Protestant Federation. “Neither the image of the prophet of Islam nor that of the Last Supper is sacred. That is how to distinguish religion, which produces the sacred, from faith, which does not.” The editor of the Protestant weekly Réforme went even further: “Christ does not belong to us,” he said. “We do not have exclusive rights over his image. Believers who love Christ should not worry about those who ridicule him. We are called to be his witnesses, not his defenders.” See also: Muslim Leaders Urge Calm Over Cartoons (Associated Press); Muslims call for level playing field (Ekklesia, UK); EU commissioner urges European press code on religion (Daily Telegraph, UK); Muslim Americans split on cartoons (Christian Science Monitor, USA).

Thursday, February 09, 2006

[00.01 GMT] Kidnapping aiding insurgents? US death toll 2,260 (Albuquerque Tribune, NM, USA); Kidnapped Auckland man 'just wanted to make people safer' (New Zealand Herald, NZ); Paul Buchanan: The Politics of Cartoon Conflict (Scoop.co.nz, New Zealand) - an interesting perspective on the current crisis from Paul Buchanan, in the context of the wider political conflict. His polar pre- versus post-modern anaysis is as inadequate as that which it critiques (the so-called 'clash of civilisations'), however. John Gray's book Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern is worth reading in this regard. Iraq: Children's mental health affected by insecurity, say specialists (Reuters); US Lawmakers Fear Lack of Progress on Iraq (Associated Press).

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

[22.15 GMT] Sooden's sister speaks out (Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand); Concern unites Christians and Muslims (The Good News UK, UK); Religious leaders call for end to detention without trial in Iraq (uruknet.info, Italy - from Ekklesia, UK).

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Monday, February 06, 2006

[20.00 GMT] Religious leaders call for end to detention without trial in Iraq (Ekklesia, UK) Christian and Muslim leaders in the UK have issued a joint statement calling for justice for Iraqis who are being detained in Iraq without trial, and the release of four Christian peacemakers in Iraq. The open letter has been signed by 45 Christian and Muslim religious leaders. It expresses concern for the four Christian Peacemaker Teams hostages - Norman Kember, Tom Fox, Harmeet Singh Sooden and James Loney - who have been held in Iraq since 26 November 2005, but also for the thousands of Iraqis also held without charge or trial since the war with Iraq began almost three years ago. Continued in full.
[12.40 GMT] New initiative for CPT Iraq hostages: A press conference is taking place in London today to announce details of fresh actions to seek the freedom of Norman Kember, Tom Fox, Jim Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden. More later.
[00.01 GMT] Fatigue, worry clear in faces of Christian captives in Iraq (Brooks Bulletin, Canada); Travel Ban Blocks Muslim Bid to Free Kenyan Hostages (Islam Online, Qatar); US military releases about 50 Iraqi detainees(Stars and Stripes, D.C., USA); Militant groups in Iraq urge attacks over cartoons (Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates); Security high for Shi'ite holy day as killings continue (San Diego Union Tribune, United States).

Sunday, February 05, 2006

[01.00 GMT] News updates - Security forces round up 60 people in crackdowns (The Register-Guard, Oregon, USA); A Letter to Neocons (PakTribune.com, Pakistan); 'Arrested men' killed in Baghdad (BBC News, UK); Occupation troops involved in antiquities smuggling - official (Assaman.com, Iraq); Iraq MediaNet TV political programming; $US439.3 billion sought for next U.S. defense budget (Reuters). Practical ideas - from Freethecaptivesnow: 1. Hold a public vigil or prayer service focused on the call, expressed in your own words, to release the captives, end the occupation and stop torture. Invite the media to attend and report on your action. 2. Launching Peacemaker Prayer & Action: If you are part of a group or church with a peace and justice emphasis, ask them to join this effort in whatever public way is appropriate to their polity. 3. Sign the Petition* Arabic Petition Site* AOL users can sign this petition using a browser that supports web standards, such as Internet Explorer or Netscape. 4. Write to newspapers, call in to radio shows, and tell them of the innocence of these men and your support for their immediate release. 5. Send emails to the feedback pages of major international media sites, especially in the Gulf region, repeating the call to free the captives. Here are some links: Aljazeera, Al Arabiya, Emirates Today, GulfNews.com, Khaleej Times, 7 Days, Lebaneese Broadcasting Corporation, and MBC.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

[00.25 GMT] Berlin works against the clock to save Iraq captives (Expatica, Netherlands); Foreign Minster Makes TV Appeal for Hostages' Release (Deutsche Welle, Germany); Cartoons row seen playing into militants' hands (Swissinfo, Switzerland). On the latter, see the comments and responses on Pickled Politics (progressive Asian voices): Re-examining the Danish controversy and English viewpoint and inciting to kill. This draws on a piece from Mediawatchwatch on the call by British Muslim group Al Ghurabaa to have those who insult Muhammad executed. (Some of the comments on this are unsavoury, illustrating the way this whole affair is stoking extreme reactions on all sides.)
[00.01 GMT] Bush seeks US $70bn more for wars (al-Jazeera). Other news resources: a CPT update page on Texans for Peace; a wikipedia entry on the Abu Ghraib scandal (first exposed by Christian Peacemaker Teams - see Dossier on detainees presented to Iraq i authority (Ekklesia, 6/1/04), plus a lively argument about it.

Pictures: Scenes from the Christian Peacemaker Teams 'Shine the Light' vigils in Toronto, Canada - which took place at the end of January 2006 outside the US consulate. Showing at the top are placards of the four kidnapped CPT workers in Baghdad. On the left, a representatation of the many illegal Iraqi detainees on behalf of whom CPT works.

Friday, February 03, 2006

[18.30 GMT] German mothers plead for Iraq hostages' lives (Reuters Canada, Canada); CORRECTED-Story on Al Jazeera video of Iraq hostages withdrawn (Reuters worldwide) - syndicated on 2 Feb 06 and reported on FinS that day; Christian Peacemaker Teams and 'the grandmother effect' (CanadianChristianity.com, Canada); A Father's Voice (Toronto Pulse 24, Canada) - picture of Harmeet Singh Sooden's father, who has appeared on Iraqi television; Daily journal of Israel-Palestine trip, by Jonathan Malino (Guilford College News & Events, NC, USA).
[07.30 GMT] Vigil for Iraq hostage (Biggleswade Today, UK); Kidnapping Hits Close to Home (Springfield Connection, VA); Last-chance warning, prayers for kidnapped Christian activists in Iraq (The Catholic Register); Shine the Light: Justice for Iraqi Detainees, (Christian Peacemaker Teams - media release, with a photo from the US Consulate in Toronto; Shine the Light photo gallery (CPT, 15 to 29 January 2006); 15,000 Faithful Americans' Step Up Call To Release of Captured Christian Peacemakers (National Council of Churches, USA); More prayers for Canadian hostages: New threat looms for captives in Iraq (Canadian Press); Statement regarding the two-month anniversary of four CPTers going missing in Iraq (CPT); Helen Clark urges captors to release Sooden (Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand andf numereous NZ outlets); Family shocked at condition of Sooden (Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand). Support continues for Norman Kember, Tom Fox, Harmeet Singh Sooden and Jim Loney throughout the Middle East [pic AP].

Thursday, February 02, 2006

[05.40 GMT] New plea for British hostage By Kim Sengupta (Independent, UK); Kidnappers threaten to kill Germans in Iraq (The Register-Guard, Oregon, USA); Father of kidnapped Canadian appeals for release (Brandon Sun, Canada).

There's a good piece on the genesis and meaning(s) of religious fundamentalism by Edward Farley in the always interesting journal CrossCurrents, some of which is maintained free online, though its a subscription journal.

[E]veryday religion itself is an incipient "fundamentalism," because of its tendencies to posit an identity between the holy and religion's historical mediations, it is, with the help of its leadership, ever ready to monitor, maintain, and re-establish its traditions. At the same time religion appears ever aware that its mediations, important as they are for its survival, are not its content, the very object of its faith. Stressed by the experience of a radically secularizing diaspora of religion, some religious leaders suppress religion's perennial awareness of the limitations and fallibilities of its mediations and this is what constitutes the fundamentalist response to the modern. The fundamentalist phenomenon, then, despite its constant appeals to God and its declared intent to be God's people, do what God wants, and believe what God believes is a kind of atheism in this respect. To the degree that the holy is suppressed or displaced, fundamentalism, paradoxically, is itself a sign of religion undergoing secularization. For if religion's finite mediations are the objects of faith, and if the sacramental presence of the holy is suppressed, religion is simply "about" the creed, the hierarchy, the book, the cosmology, the ritual, the casuistry, the sacralized nation-state.

Comment on this post: FaithInSociety

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

[18.15 GMT] Fresh plea for Kember's release (This is London, UK) - Anti-war activists from CND, the Muslim Association of Britain and the Stop the War Campaign have issued a fresh plea for the release of Iraq hostage Norman Kember. Call to free British hostage (Scotsman, United Kingdom).