While many people hope they would have the courage to die for what they believed, few individuals ever have that theory tested. But Peggy and Art Gish, leaders of Christian Peacemaker Teams who spoke on campus Wednesday morning, know exactly how it feels to put their lives on the line for the cause of peace.
Arising from a call in 1984 for Christians to devote the same discipline and self-sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war, Christian Peacemaker Teams today work alongside the oppressed in hotspots all over the world. Peggy, who has served multiple missions in Iraq since 2002, survived being kidnapped earlier this year and hopes to return to minister in Northern Iraq in the next few weeks. She is the author of Iraq: A Journey of Hope and Peace. Art, who works in Israel/Palestine, has written several books, including Hebron Journal: Stories of Nonviolent Peacemaking, which tells of the turmoil and suffering of the Palestinian people, the agony experienced by Israelis, and a vision of hope and new possibilities of reconciliation between Jews, Muslims and Christians.
During the morning convocation in Neely, both Art and Peggy Gish directed their comments to the Christian response to evil and violence. “We’re supposed to be glad and rejoice because so many of our enemies were killed,” said Art. “As a Christian, I find that repulsive… Over one million Iraqi people have died in response to 3,000 being killed in 9/11. Isn’t there a better way? Yes. The way of Jesus.” Peggy added, “The way of Jesus means being open and vulnerable, not assuming that anyone is our enemy.”
The Gishes noted that part of CPT’s most powerful impact comes from what they term as the “Grandmother effect,” the idea that their teams take on the role of a loving relative for the community and their presence alone tends to prevent fighting and injustice. Art said, “In a situation where they know they’re being watched and that what we see will be reported, it reduces violence.”
CPT embraces the vision of unarmed intervention waged by committed peacemakers who attempt to transform lethal conflict through the nonviolent power of God’s truth and love. Initiated by Mennonites, Brethren and Quakers with broad ecumenical participation, CPT’s ministry of Biblically-based and spiritually-centered peacemaking emphasizes creative public witness, nonviolent direct action and protection of human rights.