The trip is from October 4-17. I will be flying into Istanbul, Turkey to meet the rest of my delegation and to have a short orientation. We will then most likely fly to Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey, traveling overland to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and visiting border villages, and then going on to Suleimaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan where I think the plan is to spend 10 days. My time in Iraq will be devoted to providing encouragement for individuals and communities experiencing violence, challenging violations of human rights and promoting active nonviolence as a means of settling disputes.
For those who don’t know much about the organization, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) offers an organized, nonviolent alternative to war and other forms of lethal inter-group conflict. The organization was started because they saw soldiers willing to sacrifice their lives for freedom, yet as a peace church who believe violence and war is morally wrong, there was no option for them to show the same willingness to sacrificing one's life for peace.
And that is exactly why I am going! I wrote last fall that "I know that at my core, I am meant to go to these war-torn areas and become an advocate of peace."Here I am a year later still feeling the calling just as strongly on my life. Although I am going to a safe part of Iraq, I understand I am still taking a risk. In order to be officially accepted for this delegation I had to write a conviction statement saying why I want to go despite the risks. Here is my response:
" In my heart there has always been a calling for something bigger. Staying in my safe Mennonite home has never seemed like enough when the news is constantly filled with stories of people across the world dying. I grew up with the Mennonite values of pacifism and peacemaking engrained in my mind and from early high school I knew that this was the path that I wanted to take.
So here I am ready to depart on a two-week trip to Iraqi Kurdistan. I strongly believe this is part of God’s call on my life to go and I am prepared for anything that might come my way. If something does happen and I am kidnapped, I ask that no ransom be paid and that no military or other violent action be taken for my release. In this scenario, CPT will take responsibility of communication to work for my release with nonviolence.
As a follower of Jesus I have committed myself to the ways of nonviolence and living in love of my enemies. I truly believe that the way of nonviolence can change the world and bring about peace. However, I understand that these techniques do not always work, but as a follower of Christ I am called to faithful, not successful.
So if something does happen to me, I hope you follow Jesus’ example and forgive those who harm me and not try to vilify them, especially to the media. Pray for them and never try to retaliate against them because this will only continue the cycle of violence that I have been trying to stop.
I believe that I can make this world a better place by being a nonviolent presence in Iraq. As Paul says in Acts 17:28, “For in God we live and move and have our being.” This is the call on my life and the one taking me to Iraq."
I will be sure to update as I get new details about the trip. For now, keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I get ready for this new adventure and as always fell free to email me or leave comments!