Profile: Christian Peacemakers Teams

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Over the weekend, four Christian aid workers were taken captive in Iraq. They are part of Christian Peacemakers Teams, a pacifist religious organization that has had members operating outside the Green Zone since 2002.


Right now, a Sunni clerical group is calling for the release of four Christian peace activists and a German archaeologist taken hostage in Iraq last week. The four activists--one American, two Canadians and a Briton--are with a group called Christian Peacemakers Teams based in Toronto and Chicago, and NPR's Libby Lewis reports.

LIBBY LEWIS reporting:

The book of Matthew quotes the teaching of Jesus: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. The members of Christian Peacemakers Teams are working especially hard to follow that command right now. It's an ecumenical passivist organization that has stayed in Iraq long after most international aid and humanitarian groups have left. The group wants to end the occupation in Iraq. The four members abducted on Saturday were meeting with an Iraqi group to witness the lives of Iraqis so that they could tell others back home what they had learned. Abducted were Tom Fox, 54 of Clear Brook, Virginia; Norman Kember, 74 of London; James Loney, 41; and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32 of Canada. Kris Chopp(ph) is a training coordinator for the group's US headquarters in Chicago. She says the Christian Peacemakers Teams are not looking to be martyrs, but she says everyone who goes knows the risks are part of the work.

Ms. KRIS CHOPP (Training Coordinator, Christian Peacemakers Teams): Waging war is very costly and we believe that waging peace is every bit as costly. And if people who are serious about non-violence and peacemaking are not prepared to take the same risks as soldiers take in war, then it's really an empty voice for non-violence.

LEWIS: Team members sign statements of personal responsibility, acknowledging they could be harmed or killed. The group has operated in Iraq since 2002, outside the Green Zone without armed protection. There've been death threats and some injuries, but this is the first time team members have been abducted. Bruce Hoffman is a terrorism expert at the Rand Corporation. He said the Christian Peacemaker Teams' movement, unarmed, make them attractive targets for kidnappers.

Mr. BRUCE HOFFMAN (Rand Corporation): The terrorists or the kidnappers or the insurgents in constantly tracking and surveiling potential targets identify precisely the opening that facilitates the attack and then they put the attack into effect.

LEWIS: One of the hostages, Tom Fox, is a popular figure in the community of Quakers in the mid-Atlantic region. Fox has been in and out of Iraq with the Christian Peacemakers Teams for more than a year. He's kept a blog of his work in Iraq. You can read it at Lori Purman(ph) is a leader with the regional group of Quakers Fox belonged to. She keeps thinking of a time she saw Fox standing waist-deep in water laughing and playing with the children.

Ms. LORI PURMAN: And I've been thinking of that because Tom is waste-deep in another kind of situation right now, but I know that he is in the light of God's love just as he was when he was laughing and playing with the children.

LEWIS: Ted Heck, who worked with Fox in the Quaker community, says he knows Fox would want him to hold Fox's abductors in the light, too, and pray for them.

Mr. TED HECK: But it's hard to remember that I also need to hold those other folks in the light because I'm so concerned about Tom.

LEWIS: Still, Heck says, he will pray for them and hope that Tom Fox and the others are freed. Libby Lewis, NPR News, Washington.

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