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Prayer Vigils and Support for Captured Peacemakers

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New York, December 6, 2005. Four members of the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) in Baghdad were kidnapped Nov. 27 and are held hostage in Iraq.  The kidnappers have threatened to kill the peace activists by Thursday, unless all prisoners and US and Iraqi detention centers are released.  

CPT is an ecumenical peacemaking agency associated with the Church of the Brethren, Mennonites and Quakers. Its members are deeply committed to non-violent peacemaking and are willing to put their lives on the line to make it happen. 

James Loney advocating for the release of Iraqi detainees.The four hostages are: Tom Fox, 54, Clearbrook, Virginia, Norman Kember, 74, London, James Loney, 41, Toronto, Canada, Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, a Canadian. Loney is shown at right advocating for Iraqi detainees.

Tom, Norman, James and Harmeet are in Iraq for the sole purpose of bearing witness to the love of God as it is expressed through the sacrificial presence of the Prince of Peace. Because of their lifelong commitment to Jesus and the holy calling of peacemaking, these our brothers live to bear witness to the fact that violence is a sin against God. Indeed, they have consistently carried that message to the Coalition forces, first by condemning the political decisions to make war and later by expressing horror at the degrading violence the war begets. Long before the media reports, they were the first to protest the torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib Prison. Their message of peace was also expressed to those whose attacks on Coalition forces escalated the violence and whose suicide bombs took the lives of thousands of innocent human beings. 

Many international organizations, including Arab Muslim leaders have condemned the taking of these hostages and have demanded their release.  

On Wednesday, Jerusalem Post reported that leaders of Palestinian political factions gathered in Hebron to issue a statement in Arabic about their experiences of seeing the CPT working in Palestine, and their personal knowledge of the three kidnapped members and their important work on behalf of the Palestinian people. Read their statement here.

On Sunday, the largest Sunni Muslim party in Iraq, the Iraqi Islamic Party, called for the release of the hostages, saying that the kidnapping is a dream opportunity for the supporters of the war against our country who say that Iraqis cannot tell the difference between those who support them and those who oppose them."

The World Council of Churches has also issued a statement.

Although in consultation with CPT and in view of the delicate nature of the situation, we had refrained from making a statement thus far, this week we seeking two actions. 

1. We call on our churches to take the lead in organizing ecumenical and interfaith candlelight prayer vigils throughout the coming week highlighting the messages: "Love your Enemies;" "End the Occupation;" "Release the Peacemakers." Please  Register your prayer vigil here.

2. We encourage you to sign on to the following interfaith open letter which has been initially signed by the following religious religious leaders and many others: Dr Sayeed Syeed, head of the Islamic Society of North America; Sheila Musaji, editor of The American Muslim; Abdul Malik Mujahid, chair of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago; that Council as a body; Anwar N. Haddam, elected Member of Parliament of Algeria (Dec 1991), chairman, board of trustees, Education for Life, Northern Virginia, and member, executive committee, Coordinating Council of Muslim Organizations of Greater Washington Area (CCMO); Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad of Bethesda, MD; Muhammad Ali-Salaam of Boston; Abdul Cader Asmal, MD, PhD; Rev. Robert Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches; Rev. Osagefyo Sekou, Director of Clergy and Laity Concerned about Iraq; Rev. Peter Laarman of Progressive Christians Uniting in California; and by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Rabbinic Director of The Shalom Center.  

This letter will be transmitted to Al Jazeera TV which is the likely media channel for the kidnappers,  each day this week with the list of signatories. 

The letter follows: 

To those who are holding the Christian Peacemakers Team in Iraq, and to people everywhere of all Traditions of Faith and Peace:

We who write you affirm what all the traditions teach that trace their spiritual origin to Abraham:

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all teach explicitly that to kill even one human being - even more strongly one who is doing no harm, most especially one who is seeking peace and nurturing human bodies and communities -- is to destroy a world. All other religious traditions agree about the holiness of human lives.

This teaching applies to all innocent Iraqis and foreigners who have been killed or taken away in Iraq out of anger against the US occupation and it applies with special clarity and strength to the members of the Christian Peacemakers Team who are being held in Iraq.

Like us, they too opposed the US attack. They came to serve the Iraqi people. They came not only to urge peace but also to live peace.

We who have opposed the US invasion and occupation of Iraq call on all who live in Iraq to seek the release of these people into safety and freedom. And we call on all people of good will everywhere to join in this call.

No doubt, those who planned and executed the US invasion and occupation of Iraq will cite this capture as evidence for the rightness of their action. We utterly reject this logic, and affirm that the war undertaken by the US has multiplied the violence it pretended to oppose.

We hold morally responsible for the lives of these Christian Peacemakers both those in Iraq who have taken them, and those who have brought about the deaths of thousands of Iraqis and Americans by pursuing this war.

Once again, we call for a swift end to the US occupation of Iraq and for peaceful action by the entire human community to assist Iraqis to achieve their own self-government.

And we send our loving prayers to those who have become victims of their own loving commitment to peace, justice, and healing.

Please go to to add your signature.  

NCC News, Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2252,; Leslie Tune, 202-544-2350,


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