Fighting Violence with Nonviolence: Unarmed Civilian Peacekeepers
Fight violence with nonviolence
Unarmed civilian peacekeepers are saving lives today.
By Rolf Carriere and Michael Nagler
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
MARCH 27, 2008
Atlanta - Legends relate that Buddha stopped a war between two kings who were quarreling over rights to a river by asking them, "Which is more precious, blood or water?"
Could ordinary people use the same kind of wisdom and courage to check the impulse to fight wars today over oil, water, or identity? Mahatma Gandhi thought so. He created teams of civilians called the Shanti Sena or "Army of Peace" and deployed them in various communities around India where they could avert communal riots and provide other peacekeeping services.
Over the past 25 years nonviolent peacekeepers have been going into zones of sometimes intense conflict with the aim of bringing a measure of peace, protection, and sanity to life there. Rather than use threat or force, unarmed peacekeepers deploy strategies of protective accompaniment, moral and/or witnessing "presence," monitoring election campaigns, creating neutral safe spaces, and in extreme cases putting themselves physically between hostile parties, as Buddha did with the angry kings in ancient India.
Civilian unarmed peacekeeping has had dramatic, small-scale, quiet, and unglamorous successes: rescuing child soldiers, protecting the lives of key human rights workers and of whole villages, averting potentially explosive violence, and generally raising the level of security felt by citizens in many a tense community.
Recently a village on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines was under threat by two armed groups who had come within 200 meters of each other. The village elders called for help from the Nonviolent Peaceforce stationed there, who intervened and by communicating with all sides persuaded the armed group to back away. Thanks to mediation, no violence erupted, no lives were lost.
Why haven't you heard about this exciting work? Because it is terribly underfunded, for one thing. There is also a prevailing prejudice that only governments or armed forces including those of the United Nations have the responsibility or means to contain conflict. While the UN Security Council has often authorized "all necessary means" to maintain peace and prevent violent conflict, in fact, the UN has not systematically considered large-scale civilian unarmed peacekeeping.
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Purification of former US military bases
- Here's a reflection from longtime Christian Peacemaker Teams member Rey Lopez, who is from Manila, Philippines about a purification rituals he and other members of a CPT delegation in the Philippines.
- His reflection raises the question: What land in your town might be in need of a ritual of purification? What would it look like for your and your community to plan and carry out that ritual?
- Do you have stories of this kind of action? Send them!
- Is your interest piqued? I can send more stories about these kinds of social liturgy to those who are interested.
On Earth Peace
6 March, 2008
THE PHILIPPINES: Bunker Purification at Clark Field
By Reynaldo Lopez
Buried deep in the hills overlooking the blue waters of Subic Bay are ammunition bunkers used by the U.S. military to supply its various U.S. bases abroad to facilitate interventions in all parts of the world. These quonset-type bunkers are now empty except for bats' nests and spider webs that hang on the corners of the solid concrete.
Occasionally, huge pythons find their way into these bunkers, fittingly symbolic of the activity here at the height of the Vietnam war. Huge bombs for the U.S. Air Force and shells for U.S. warships and artillery and small arms ammunitions for M14 were stored in these bunkers. They destroyed millions of lives and caused destruction all over the world in the 100 years of the U.S. American military presence in the Philippines.
On 19 February, 2008, together with 8 members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), several members of the People's Bases Clean-up, and former U.S. base workers who are now dying from exposure to asbestos and other toxic waste in the former U.S. military bases, performed purifying rites at the bunkers exorcizing the bunkers of their sinful use by the American government in its imperial wars of aggression.
Each member of the CPT peace delegation recited a litany of contrition for our complicity in the destructive use of this former air force base. And each recitation was answered by the whole group with a common refrain, "God we have sinned and we are sorry."
Later, on Clark Field the former site of the biggest U.S. Air Force base outside the continental United States we did a similar cleansing exercise inside a former ammunition bunker which is now full of PVC irrigation pipes. This portion of the former Clark Air Force Base is now the site of citrus plantations growing in long neat rows that are occasionally interrupted by these ugly looking bunkers of death.
The words of the Prophet Amos of "turning swords into pruning hooks" are beginning to be a reality in this former military base. But on our way back to the community of Mabalacat, Pampanga afflicted with the toxic waste from the surrounding bases we were witness to a U.S./Philippines joint "balikatan" military exercise being packaged as humanitarian and disaster response exercises.
The Gods of war and violence continue to rear their ugly heads. Lord, Lord, save us from the evils of war and violence in our bleeding land!
[Members of CPT's February 14-29 delegation to the Philippines were Kelly Hayes-Raitt (Santa Monica, California), Camilia MacPherson (Toronto, Ontario), Steve Ramer (Ft. Collins, Colorado), Henry Troyer (Springfield, Missouri) and Dick Williams (Boulder, Colorado); and Julius Camannong, Rey Lopez, Cromwell Rabaya and Nathaniel Villareal from the Philippines.]
CPT's MISSION: "Getting in the Way." What would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline and sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war? Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) seeks to enlist the whole church in organized, nonviolent alternatives to war and places teams of trained peacemakers in regions of lethal conflict.