Forum challenges the Churches to embrace non-violence

 Peace activist Norman Kember who was held hostage in Iraq for four months has shared an account of his experience with members of the Middle East Forum of Global Mission Network, a part of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. The Middle East Forum brings together people in the Churches and development agencies with expertise on the Middle East. "It's a sad country," he said. "Iraqis are being kidnapped all the time, and do not receive all the publicity that we had." The meeting heard, for example, about one Iraqi family who had had twenty seven members kidnapped. While all had been released, five had died as result of the experience. Norman Kember, James Loney, Harmeet Singh Sooden and Tom Fox were captured in Baghdad on 26 November 2005. Tom Fox was killed on 10 March, two weeks before the other three were released. Norman and Harmeet had gone to Iraq to accompany a Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT) as delegates. CPT work to reduce violence in areas of conflict around the world and have been in Iraq since 2002. Norman Kember, a retired radiation physicist from Pinner, west London, said that since his release he had been overwhelmed to discover the international concern for the hostages. While the men had little news of the outside world they had felt aware of friends and family praying for them throughout the 118 day ordeal. He was encouraged by the way that Christians and Muslims had worked together to keep the hostages in the public eye. Thousands of leaflets handed out at weekly prayer vigils had encouraged prayers for Iraqi detainees and for the four missing men. Asked what should Churches be doing now, Norman Kember said: "The best thing the Churches can do is to embrace non-violence and to encourage the government to embrace non-violence.' He urged British and Irish Churches to continue to tell the government that the invasion was a mistake. "Even if you think Saddam Hussain had to be toppled, there were other ways. The anti-war lobby should have put forward more positive alternatives. Everything the Coalition Forces have done has shored up the insurgency.' Encouraged by the way that campaigning for his release had brought together peace movements and faith groups, he called on the Churches to continue to speak up for non-violence. 'The Churches praise Martin Luther King, but they don't put what he said into practice," he reflected. Days after the hostages were released CTBI Church Representatives' Meeting sent Norman Kember greetings which commended his determination to speak out against all forms of violence. 'You went to Iraq as a living testimony to a better way than violence,' the letter said. 'We respect your courage in going to be with the people in their suffering and to be there as witnesses to the plight of Iraqi detainees. "We cannot imagine what you and your family have endured. Throughout your captivity people of many faith communities came together to pray and stand in silent vigils together, for your release, and for Iraqi detainees and for their families. We commit ourselves to the cause of peace for all people in the region." As Secretary of the Baptist Peace Fellowship, Norman Kember had been involved in the work of the Churches' Peace Forum until it was wound up in 2002. He is a Trustee of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and of Pax Christi's Peace Education Fund. Source: CTBI For more information see:

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