Christian Peacemaker Teams
I pick up the retiring (but not yet retired!) 78 year old Quaker peace activist John Lynes at Reading Station. I pass on the news to him which he has not heard, that Al Jazeera have just broadcast a video featuring John's Christian Peacemaker Team colleague Norman Kember (held hostage in Iraq since November 05). John is relieved but also concerned that one of the hostages, an American, does not feature on the video.
I have invited John to the University to speak about Norman, and about his own work in Hebron. John talks with quiet balanced wisdom about the international situation and about the work Norman was doing before his capture (ironically enough, monitoring the abuse of prisoners in Abu Graib prison). And then John mentions his own activities in Palestine.
With consummate fairness to both Palestinian and Israeli, John speaks about how the conflict shapes lives (soldiers, militants, civilians) and how political posturing forces one's enemies into taking unhelpful positions.
And then after all the wise commentary, John finishes by telling us very quietly about what his team does in Hebron. It is very simple. In part his colleagues escort Palestinian school children through an illegal Israeli settlement on their way to school who would otherwise risk physical attack. As it is the Peacemaker Team members themselves sustain injuries - broken arms, a punctured lung - from settlers who wish them gone.
John's witness is very humbling, his talk inspiring, and his realism sobering: it is with such small, just, risky actions that lives are changed for the better. John tells us with a gentle smile that the UN believe the CPT presence south of Hebron has made the Israeli government stick to its legal boundaries in the construction of its new 'barrier'. And he proudly shows us a picture of a half-finished medical centre that exists because his team are present. Such images sit alongside photos of carcasses of Palestinian-owned goats, poisoned by the nearby settlers. Peacemaking is a work in progress. Blessed are those who are pursuing it.
John's own blog is at http://slowandstubborn.blogspot.com/
CPT Hebron's link http://www.cpt.org/hebron/hebron.php