Cover Story: Saints of the Christian Left

Witnessing in the violent Middle East region

Apr 12, 2006 at 2:06 pm

Art and Peggy Gish, an elderly couple from Athens, Ohio, are a reminder that even — or perhaps especially — the meek can work against violence and war.

The Gishes are part of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq and Palestine. Since 2002 they've spent much of their lives among the peoples of the war-torn Middle East, where they work to document abuses of human rights in the region.

They and other CPT team members work with locals on the streets to end occupation and militarization of the country and to promote nonviolence. CPT relays decidedly un-embedded news back to the United States and teaches methods of nonviolent resistance. Members have even placed themselves physically in the middle of violent confrontations to try to stop them.

In a recent email to supporters, Peggy Gish writes from Iraq that her group is resolved to remain at work despite the recent death of CPT member Tom Fox, an American who was killed by Iraqi dissidents. Fox and three others members of CPT — Harmeet Sooden and Jim Loney of Canada and Norman Kember of Great Britain — were kidnapped in November. The three remaining hostages were freed by American and British troops in March.

"We mourn the loss of Tom Fox," Gish writes. "Tom combined a lightness of spirit, a firm opposition to all oppression and the recognition of God in everyone. In response to Tom's passing, we ask that everyone set aside anger and the desire for revenge.

"In Tom's own words, 'We reject violence to punish anyone. We ask that there be no retaliation on relatives or property. We hope that, in loving both friends and enemies and by intervening nonviolently to aid those who are systematically oppressed, we can contribute in some small way to transforming this volatile situation.'

"Each of our teammates has responded to Jesus' prophetic call to live a nonviolent alternative to the cycle of violence and revenge. Despite the tragedy of this day, we remain committed to putting into practice the words of Jim Loney, 'With the waging of war, we will not comply. With the help of God's grace, we will struggle for justice.' Thanks be to God."

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