The Public Square

Conrad Wetzel on the need for peacemaking in a time of war


My name is Conrad Wetzel, and I am a resident of Champaign. My comments are about the need for peacemaking in a time of war. People everywhere are longing for a better, more humane way of solving international conflicts than the death and destruction that follow in the wake of war. As Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem, he said, "Oh, that you might learn the things that make for peace!"

There are many organizations currently working to learn and apply "the things that make for peace." One such organization is Christian Peacemaker Teams or CPT. As expressed in its mission statement, "Christian Peacemaker Teams offers an organized, nonviolent alternative to war and other forms of lethal inter-group conflict. CPT provides organizational support to persons committed to nonviolent alternatives in situations where deadly conflict is an immediate reality or is supported by public policy. Believing that faithfulness to what Jesus taught calls for more active peacemaking, CPT works in the development and training of nonviolent skills for intervention in conflict situations."

CPT was conceived in the mid 1980s by the three historic peace churches, the Mennonites, the Brethren, and the Friends, along with other Protestant and Catholic church groups. They believe that by using the creative energy of nonviolence together with highly trained violence-reduction teams, ordinary people could stand in front of the guns and encourage less violent ways for change to happen. In Iraq, the example of Christian Peacemaker Teams has even inspired the formation of Muslim Peacemaker Teams.

Char and Mike Smith, members of East Bend Mennonite Church, are experienced CPT workers. Beginning in 2001, they have volunteered with violence-reduction teams in several conflict-ridden situations: the naval test-bombing base in Vieques, Puerto Rico; the Israeli occupation of Palestinian sites in the West Bank of Hebron; the rights violation of the First Nations people of Ontario and South Dakota; and the violent suppression of the common people of the Opón River area in Colombia.

In a presentation entitled, "Nonviolent Witness in Violent Places," Mike and Char will be sharing about their service as volunteers with CPT. The presentation is free and open to the public and will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 27, at First Mennonite Church, corner of Springfield and Lincoln Avenues in Urbana. For more information, please call 217-352-8603. Come January 27 to hear the ways Christian Peacemaker Teams applies the things that make for peace. The number to call is 217-352-8603.