These are people who believe they are called to "get in the way" wherever war and violence are the rule.
118 Days: Christian Peacemaker Teams Held Hostage in Iraq is the record of the time, now nearly forgotten, when four international witnesses were kidnapped in Baghdad in 2005-6. Or rather, as the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) website explains:
Canadian Jim Loney, New Zealander Harmeet Sooden, and Briton Norman Kember were eventually set free by a detachment of British soldiers. Their US comrade, Tom Fox, was taken away and murdered by someone two weeks before their release from captivity. Several essays draw a vivid picture of the man who did not come back alive.
Since this is an uneven collection essays, it has many facets. I want to take up only two, one in this post, another in a subsequent post.
First, there's the illuminating account by journalists from the Christian news service Ekklesia of the difficulties supporters of Norman Kember in the United Kingdom had in getting themselves organized and in dealing with the press. CPT has some permanent infrastructure in the US and Canada; there were offices for the media to call. But in the UK, Kember's supporters fund themselves dealing without much preparation with hungry reporters hot on the trail of a juicy human interest story. Simon Barrow describes the trajectory of press accounts:
So, at first, the press made their narrative of Norman Kember's captivity that of an amiable, elderly naïve, rather than of a brave man who acted out of informed conviction. The realities of Iraq were almost erased by this narrative, as was the support offered the CPT hostages by religious Muslims around the world. Those elements didn't fit the story line.
So attached did the media become to their own narrative that they treated the release of Kember and the others as a sort of betrayal. Suddenly persons who had acted the parts of helpless victims became ingrates who didn't appreciate the risks that British troops in Iraq must have taken to bust them out of captivity. Though both CPT and Norman Kember thanked the rescuers, the peace activists still insisted that military force was not the way to solve Iraq's problems. So the media portayed them as graceless, ignoring both what the released men actually said and a message of gratitude posted on the CPT website.
Barrow reports what he learned from the hostage story:
Worth thinking about. Few of us activists have to deal with a hostage taking that could lead to the murder of our friends, but all of us have to deal with how the media constructs what we do.
Further discussion of this book in Part 2, "Gay ripples among the peacemakers