Thursday, May 31, 2007

IRAQ REFLECTION: Anger, forgiveness, and healing


Here is a reflection from Peggy Faw Gish, a Church of the Brethren member and part of the Christian Peacemaker Team is Iraq.

How are anger, forgiveness, and healing playing out in your life today?


Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace

31 May 2007
IRAQ REFLECTION: Anger, forgiveness, and healing
by Peggy Gish

We were Sunni Muslim, Yezidi, and Christian--two CPTers, and two Kurdish Iraqi companions.  We had taken a trip together to learn about and explore relationships with a community in northwest Iraq that has suffered religious persecution, poverty, and mass displacement.  On our trip home, the four of us were kidnapped at gunpoint and taken to a family compound in a small village.

Our religious differences suddenly became a big deal when our guard asked each of us who we were and about the organizations we were apart of.  The questions about our religion raised an extra layer of fear in our Iraqi companions. 

Depending on the background of our captors, their religious identity could mean life or death.

When our guard asked me if I was a Christian, I simply said, "yes." But after he repeated the question, I sensed a veiled threat in what he asked.  Then I knew I needed to say more.  I wanted to be sure our guard would understand, so I asked one of my companions to translate my words.

"You are holding us here, and you would do us harm," I said, "I am a Christian, and because I am, I will forgive you!" Our guard seemed taken aback at first, and then responded defensively, "No, we will not harm you!  You are like my mother."

My words about forgiveness startled me.  Mixed with my fear was also anger toward these men that held us.  I had no idea what they would do with us.  I wanted to be able to forgive them, but I knew I wasn't there yet.
We were very thankful when two days later when our kidnapers released one of our Iraqi companions and me.  They released the others six days later.

Since then, I have been walking on a path toward healing, which I believe includes forgiveness of all involved in the kidnapping.  I want to be free of the burdens of resentment toward those who took us captive and threatened to harm us, yet allow room for a healthy anger toward injustice and abuse.

Looking back, I see that the anger I felt during the kidnapping was a gift God gave me and has been part of the forgiving process.  This anger helped me combat the feelings of helplessness encroaching on me at that time and made it possible for me to speak the truth about the harm our captors were doing.  My comments, in turn, interrupted the guard's threatening questions.
Now, recognizing and facing these feelings of anger keeps me honest and real about my need for healing and God's grace.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

May 16-17 Networking Calls: Positive Alternatives to the Military


"It's encouraging to know there are people around the country facing the same things I am, and to hear how they are responding!" -- recent call participant

On Earth Peace's Encountering Recruitment Network is a way that many individuals and congregations across the country have gotten support and inspiration to help organize for positive alternatives to the military for youth. 

You can find out more about this work by visiting our website here:

If you are interested in this matter and want to get oriented, you might want to get a copy of our Organizing and Outreach Packet:

On Earth Peace regularly sponsors national conference calls as an opportunity for networking and mutual support among those working on issues of military recruitment in their communities.

These calls are a place to connect to a broader community of organizers, a place to receive a boost of inspiration and offer advice, and a place to provide each other with practical tips and spiritual support.

Our most recent round of calls took place on March 27 and 28, 2007, with participants from Elgin, IL; Atlanta and Americus, GA; Springfield, IL; Syracuse, NY; North Manchester and Richmond, IN; West Bend, WI; Claremont, CA; El Paso, TX; Columbus, OH; and Durham, NC.

The next calls are scheduled for

Wednesday, May 16, 7:00-8:30PM Eastern, and
Thursday, May 17, 1:00-2:30PM Eastern.

Can you join us?

Here's what you can expect:
  • A chance to share about your hopes and experiences with counter-recruitment with others from around the country;
  • Highlights of recent resources and new developments in the truth-in-recruiting movement;
  • Reflection on themes and common challenges that emerge from the call;
  • Christian theological and scriptural reflection on the work of counter-recruitment;
  • The introduction of a strategy tool to help make your organizing more powerful. (In the most recent calls, we explored how to reach out to new allies, with the concepts of the Spectrum of Allies and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Six Categories of people to mobilize as part of a campaign.)
Our calls are especially focused on supporting those working from the basis of the Christian faith, although all are warmly welcomed to participate. On Earth Peace is the peace education and action agency of the Church of the Brethren.

There will be eight slots available for each call. We have found it's best to limit the number of participants in order to deepen the sharing and conversation that can take place.

Please send an e-mail to mattguynn @ or call 765-962-6234 to reserve a slot for the May 2007 calls!

Call Facilitators:

Matt Guynn
Coordinator of Peace Witness, On Earth Peace
Richmond, Indiana

Deb Oskin
Peace Minister, Living Peace Church of the Brethren
Columbus, Ohio

Friday, May 04, 2007

Mining Strike in Peru

Dear friends,

Welcome to our ten new list members!

This article reports 35,000-40,000 miners in Peru joining a strike this week.  Think for just a second about the effort it would take to organize that many people to do anything!

Taking a stand for peace is not just about having the "right" moral positions.  It's learning what we need to learn in order to mobilize tens of thousands of people. 

Are you ready?


Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace

Source: Inter Press Service News Agency

Striking Miners to March on Lima
Milagros Salazar

LIMA, Apr 30 (IPS) - Peru's miners began an indefinite strike Monday demanding respect for labour rights. Their main complaint is against the outsourcing of jobs, as 80 percent of the 100,000 workers in the mining industry -- the backbone of the economy – are affected by the phenomenon of subcontracting and outsourcing.

Trade union leaders reported that between 35,000 and 40,000 workers from 33 of the 74 unions grouped in the national federation of miners and metalworkers (FNTMMSP) had joined the strike.

According to the government, the proportion of workers adhering to the strike represented a failure for the unions.

"Our members were waiting for the results of the negotiations, but there were delays," said the secretary-general of the FNTMMSP, Luis Castillos, who announced that striking miners would begin to march towards Lima on Wednesday, the day after International Labour Day.

Labour lawyer Jorge Toyama, a professor at the Catholic University of Peru, told IPS that "The state's policies must be reformulated. It is simply unacceptable for the authorities to be more worried about collecting taxes than about ensuring respect for basic rights."

The mining industry has become increasingly important to the economy, to the point that it now provides 60 percent of all income tax. Peru is the world's second-largest producer of silver, third-largest producer of copper and zinc, fourth-largest producer of lead, and fifth-largest producer of gold.

But at the same time, labour conditions have become more and more flexible. The FNTMMSP called the strike to demand the regularisation of the employment status of 80,000 workers who are not on the payroll of the companies they actually work for and thus do not enjoy the labour rights and benefits to which they are entitled.

"The miners' strike has been called because the authorities lack the political will to enforce labour rights," Castillo told IPS, explaining that no agreement was reached in the talks in which the government tried unsuccessfully to avert a strike.

Labour Minister Susana Pinilla blamed the failure of the six days of talks between the government and the miners' federation on the union's "obstinacy."

"With or without the federation, the abuses of subcontracting and outsourcing will be eradicated," said Pinilla, who added that a draft law would be introduced to that end.

She also pointed out that last Thursday, the government signed a new law that regulates the subcontracting of workers in different segments of the economy.

But in response to questions from IPS, Castillo said the law signed last week "is only 'cosmetic', because the subcontractors always end up breaking the country's laws due to lack of government oversight and enforcement."

The miners' strike was declared illegal by the government on the argument that the request for approval to hold a protest was not presented by the legally established deadline.

The national mining association, which represents the country's leading mining companies, stated that there is an "absolutely political intention" behind the strike.

The strike has slowed down production at a number of firms, including Yanacocha, which operates the largest gold mine in Latin America, and the British-Australian BHP Billinton Tintaya, the third-largest copper producer in Peru after Antamina and the U.S.-owned Southern Perú.

Southern Perú workers actually walked off the job ahead of time, going on strike on Saturday in Ilo, in the southern region of Moquegua. Adherence to the strike at the mine was nearly total.

The miners' federation reports that between 70,000 and 75,000 miners work for the big mining corporations, but through companies to which they outsource. By law, these firms must provide their employees with social security coverage and respect their labour rights. But the majority of subcontracted workers "have no right to paid vacations, to social security coverage or to join a union. That undermines their health," said Castillo.

In response, the head of the association of mining contractors in Peru, Carlos Bernal, told IPS that the firms he represents comply with the law.

Bernal did acknowledge, however, that the companies to which services are outsourced pay lower wages than the big mining corporations, and said that just as in any other part of the economy, some are merely front companies whose role is only to recruit personnel, as trade unionists complain.

These firms pay the subcontracted workers 30 soles (9.80 dollars) a day on average, compared to average wages of 70 soles (23 dollars) a day paid by the big mining corporations.

That represents a major savings for the mining companies, since 70 percent of the work force in the mining industry consists of subcontracted workers, said Bernal.

Some 400 of these outsourcing companies are registered with the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

Miners are demanding the total elimination of all subcontractors and outsourcing companies -- a demand that according to Toyama would violate the right to free enterprise, which is guaranteed by the constitution.

In his view, the best way to deal with the problem is for "the state to improve oversight and enforcement."

"Our labour legislation is relatively good. The big problem is the lack of control and enforcement, which is worse in the rural areas where the mines that commit abuses operate," he said.

Minister of Energy and Mines Juan Valdivia told IPS that the goal is to increase the number of labour inspectors from 100 to 250 by the end of the year. "The demands voiced by these workers are fair; there are companies that comply and others that don't, and the ones that do not respect labour rights should be punished," he said.

Both Valdivia and Bernal agreed that the laws should be modified so that subcontracted workers also receive a share of profits, which workers on the payroll of mining corporations already earn.

Both have talked to the national mining association, to try to make the initiative viable.

The government of Alan García submitted to parliament a draft law last year that proposes eliminating the ceilings on the profits that payroll workers draw, and to extend the profit-sharing arrangement to subcontracted workers.

Metals prices have soared in the past two years, by 111 percent in the case of copper, 42.5 percent for gold, 65.5 percent for silver, 150 percent for zinc, and 36.5 percent for lead, according to the Bloomberg financial news agency. (END/2007)