Document Type : Research Article

Author

Assistant Professor of Teacher Education, Eastern Mennonite University

Abstract

This paper will explore the links between religion and human rights as embodied in the work and mission of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) and Muslim Peacemaker Teams (MPT). The paper compares models such as those of theorists Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink in providing a framework in which to understand, critique and build on the work of CPT and MPT. The CPT and MPT groups “get in the way” of violence through placing themselves in conflict situations for the purpose of reducing all forms of violence against civilians. Born out of the “Peace Church” traditions of Christianity in the 1980s, the movement has expanded to spark formation of the less formalized Muslim Peacemaker Team. The two groups now collaborate through shared training exercises and goals. CPT and MPT present a unique example of the integration of religion and human rights. While CPT have worked more extensively and published their experiences more broadly, both groups exemplify the potential synergy of groups who draw on religion in order to advance human rights. As CPT has a more formalized organizational structure, the paper focuses on this group in order to lay out principles from which both operate. As such, the questions of how human rights and religion are interconnected become very clear in the work of CPT. CPT main goal is to reduce violence against civilians through putting themselves in harms way; in addition, CPT also conscientizes the broader public through publishing accounts of their work, particularly on the internet. CPT works to establish networks of faith communities, human rights organizations, etc. to effect macro-level change, even as their most tangible work is very micro-level. CPT and MPT clearly operate out of a profoundly religious foundation. An emphasis on regular spiritual reflection, communal spiritual experience, and public and private prayer underlines this. Some of the groups’ other specific micro-level tactics include civil protest, maintaining a non-evangelical or proselyte identity, avoiding perpetuation of injustices and living out the teachings and examples of peacemaking from the Prophet Mohammed and Jesus. Part of the troubling paradox that necessitates the paper is the degree to which conscientization proves most effective among homogeneous and similar groups. The story of CPT member Tom Fox illustrates this principle. While recent John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimates place the number of Iraqi deaths at more than 650,000 since 2003, the abduction and death of Fox in 2005 captured a tremendously disproportionate amount of Western media attention. The obviously discriminatory media and general public attention is something that groups like CPT must both combat and utilize in order to draw attention to and bring change surrounding conflict situations. In so doing, groups like CPT and MPT seek to bridge the barriers that the media and powerful nation-states perpetuate. This paper seeks to take seriously the dignity of both Muslim and Christian efforts.

Keywords

 
A) Books and Articles:
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6. Keck, Margaret E., and Sikkink, Kathryn (1998). Activists Beyond Borders : Advocacy Networks in International Politics, Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
7. Kern, Kathleen (2000). “From Haiti to Hebron with a Brief Stop in Washington, D.C.: The CPT Experiment”, in: From the Ground Up: Mennonite Contributions to International Peacebuilding, edited by Cynthia Sampson and John Paul Lederach, New York: Oxford University Press.
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B)Websites:
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27. Lumley, Murray. Personal email message to author, 19 April 2006.
28. “Statements of Support.” http://www.cpt.org/iraq/response/supportstatements.htm (accessed 13 April 2006).
29. “Update from CPT Hostages; Response to Torture Rumours.” http://www.cpt.org/iraq/response/06-23-03statement.htm (accessed 13 April 2006).
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