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"What Choice Did They Have?"

This is the question a team friend recently posed to me. Story after story poured out of her: the litany of violence and injustice under Saddam was unrelenting. She is a Kurd and her people have suffered greatly in Iraq.

Family and friends killed in horrific ways for no reason save their existence, many resort to violence as the answer. Her question is the punctuation mark to their revenge and it is rhetorical.

This is a common view in Iraq: when it comes to violence, we are a people without choice.

What am I to say in response? That there is always a choice? That violence begets violence? That the oppressed are as likely to exact revenge rather than justice as their oppressors?

Travel Light

Beth Pyles is a Presbyterian pastor who was awarded the 2007 Peaceseeker Award for her service with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq. She has recently returned to Iraq, and the following is her first newsletter:

Preparing for the trip to Kurdistan, I carefully gathered all I would need: sleeping bag, warm clothing, extra wool socks, my pillow, books to read and a headlamp to read them by, along with the usual toothbrush, soap, shampoo, etc., etc., etc.

But I also gathered what was given to me to take: gifts from another team mate for friends; Emergen-C (the vitamin C supplement to help stave off colds); hand-made wool gloves; scarves for me and for gifts; first aid supplies; and of course, The Gospel (according to Dr. Seuss).

But alas, my first week in Iraq did not have the privilege of being enjoyed in the company of my luggage. It seems that while I was getting settled in Iraq, my suitcases were enjoying extended visits to New York City, Paris, and Amman, Jordan.

Rebirthing King, Rebirthing America

The Olive Branch Peace Partnership, an interfaith coalition dedicated to nonviolent advocacy of which PPF is a founding partner, is mobilizing for a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday on January 19th, one day before the Presidential Inauguration.

In Washington on January 19, the Olive Branch Interfaith Peace Partnership will hold a celebratory service and teaching at which Vincent Harding of Iliffe School of Theology, one of Dr. King's closets advisers; Rev. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches; Dr. Sayyid Syeed, general secretary of the Islamic Society of North America; Sammie Moshenberg of the National Council of Jewish Women; Mubarak Awad of nonviolence International; and Rev. William G. Sinkford of the Unitarian Universalist Association are already scheduled to speak.

"Soldiers of Conscience" now viewable online

The superb film, "Soldiers of Conscience," is now available in its entirety for free as a streaming online video until November 18th:

"Soldiers of Conscience is a dramatic window on the dilemma of individual U.S. soldiers in the current Iraq war — when their finger is on the trigger and another human being is in their gunsight. Made with cooperation of the U.S. Army and narrated by Peter Coyote, the film profiles eight American soldiers, including four who decide not to kill, and become conscientious objectors and four who believe in their duty to kill if necessary. The film reveals all of them wrestling with the morality of killing in war, not as a philosophical problem, but as soldiers experience it — a split-second decision in combat that can never be forgotten or undone."

U.N. says Colombian military executing civilians

Story Highlights:
  • U.N.: Executions of innocent civilians "systematic and widespread"
  • U.S.-backed Colombian forces killing civilians in counterinsurgency campaign
  • Top U.N. human rights officer: Killings could constitute a "crime against humanity"
  • President fired 25 army members after executions of at least 11 young men

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNN) -- Colombia's U.S.-backed security forces are engaging in "systematic and widespread" extrajudicial executions of innocent civilians as part of their counterinsurgency campaign, a top United Nations diplomat said Saturday.


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