PEACE PROBE by Gene Stoltzfus

Peacemaker Life in Times of Crisis by peaceprobe
December 6, 2005, 8:15 am
Filed under: Afghanistan and Pakistan

A crisis of life and death can freeze any of us into fear but in we are learning to transform fear into hope by taking action. In the CPT training several days are spent dealing with questions and scenarios directly related to crisis situations much like we face at this moment in Baghdad. We discuss the importance of establishing the facts before developing a comprehensive strategy in an emergency crisis team that is immediately established. Within hours or perhaps minutes the media begins to call seeking a statement which has to be prepared as quickly as possible but only after at least essential facts are established.

Families are contacted first. Often the media is asked to hold the story for a brief time until facts are confirmed and families are contacted. Press statements are then released by fax and the internet. One or more people are appointed to be available in the field team around the clock and in our offices in the US and Canada to speak to the press, answer questions and provide suggestions about response. This then frees others to focus on strategy. Initial releases give basic facts about the crisis, essential background on CPT, nonviolent work and sponsors of the work.  

As one directly involved I know that the crisis call often comes in the middle of the night when sleep is deepest. My own response was to listen, take notes which sometimes I couldn’t read later and make a few calls before pulling on my clothes and rushing to the office after one or two calls to my colleagues to announce that we are in an urgent crisis mode..
Governments and allied groups who may have any relationship to the crisis are contacted and briefly informed so that lines of communication that may be necessary as the crisis unfolds are open. The CPT board and key players in the CPT network are informed and some of them may be invited to participate in the crisis task force or requested to provide specific support. Volunteers begin to appear to answer the telephone, make calls to families or supporters, and help to provide 24 hour round the clock telephone coverage if that is needed.

Often people ask me if it is not exhausting to go through experiences like this. For the first few days the adrenalin kicks and give a lift. I have learned how important it is for me when I get little words of encouragement, and compliments even in the midst of life and death. Very soon the messages of prayer begin to roll in and I know that a major source of our power has been awakened and that I will begin to see and hear of surprises, tiny nuggets of hope. As the prayer chain widens there are more surprises. In tiny breaks I like to go for a walk.

Congregations, parishes and supporters across the globe are informed so soon as it is possible. Talking Points about the background to the crisis are developed to provide background as they discuss, mobilize and pray about the unfolding situation. When there is time and if our imagination serves us we suggest one or more specific activities that people can do. There is often an outpouring of support including public witness, contacting of government officials, prayer and fasting that include additional forms that we would never have imagined.

Sharing information that is available with all parties throughout the emergency is always critical.
In peacemaker training we review the broad outline of these procedures. Equally important is our discussion about soul energy, risk of death, the meaning of life, as well as the variety of personal styles that each of us bring to a crisis. We discuss how to sustain ourselves if the crisis drags on for days or weeks. In training CPT candidates are invited to face the fact that participation in CPT may lead to life threatening experiences and death. They are also expected to discuss this thoroughly with their families and to write a living will. These are life giving moments together because we share among one another our deepest convictions and faith. Persons who become clear that this is not the time for such a commitment are encouraged to listen to that message.

While the world begins to take action others focus intensively on negotiations, initiatives, and strategies that can bring the crisis to an end without loss of life or injury. That process proceeds in a manner that draws heavily on our Christian tradition of enemy loving, creative nonviolence and the long though checkered history of Christian peacemaking going back long before the creation of CPT.

The CPTers who are being held in Baghdad and the team members now in Baghdad have been through this training and have made their peace with this commitment though as the days stretch on exhaustion sets in. They believe that the world wide process of prayer, public action, negotiation and 24 hour follow through is underway. They understand that they are part of a global team. They are doing what they chose to do and what they believe they should do based on their walk with the spirit. Everyone in CPT recognize that these crisis are moments of opportunity to advance the vision and hone our common commitments. In our work with each other and in our communications we discuss the power of fear and the greater power of love that overcomes fear. We endeavor to snatch hope from a situation rife with fear and evil.


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