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No Purple Finger for You

Greetings All,

On Saturday, the Team went to Khanaqin, in Diyala Province, as election observers. Tens of thousands of Kurds have been denied the right to vote, something not reported much, if at all, in the west. As I read reports of the 'successful' election, so-called due to the lack of violence, the thought I had was that an election is a success not by the things missing, but by the things present, such as access for all. The situation for the Kurds here reminds me of the shameful history in the United States, where African Americans were denied access to the ballot box by all kinds of 'legal' maneuvering - the literacy tests being just one example. We stood in the middle of a peaceful demonstration by hundreds of Kurds, as they showed us their documentation which should have allowed them to vote, but did not, because they simply did not exist on the voter rolls. Killing your political enemy is one way to 'disappear' him. Erasing him from any access to the political process is another. Many Kurds have effectively been disappeared. The short story which follows is a copy of a press release we sent all over. Thus far, only my hometown paper has shown any interest.

-Beth Pyles

Disarming teens’ gun violence

Churches, communities have key role in overcoming juvenile crime,
pastor and chaplain tell ACSWP

by Jerry L. Van Marter
Presbyterian News Service

BERKELEY, CA ― For George Cummings and Charles Tinsley, the escalating plague of violence in urban America is way too personal.

"What Choice Did They Have?"

This is the question a team friend recently posed to me. Story after story poured out of her: the litany of violence and injustice under Saddam was unrelenting. She is a Kurd and her people have suffered greatly in Iraq.

Family and friends killed in horrific ways for no reason save their existence, many resort to violence as the answer. Her question is the punctuation mark to their revenge and it is rhetorical.

This is a common view in Iraq: when it comes to violence, we are a people without choice.

What am I to say in response? That there is always a choice? That violence begets violence? That the oppressed are as likely to exact revenge rather than justice as their oppressors?

Travel Light

Beth Pyles is a Presbyterian pastor who was awarded the 2007 Peaceseeker Award for her service with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq. She has recently returned to Iraq, and the following is her first newsletter:

Preparing for the trip to Kurdistan, I carefully gathered all I would need: sleeping bag, warm clothing, extra wool socks, my pillow, books to read and a headlamp to read them by, along with the usual toothbrush, soap, shampoo, etc., etc., etc.

But I also gathered what was given to me to take: gifts from another team mate for friends; Emergen-C (the vitamin C supplement to help stave off colds); hand-made wool gloves; scarves for me and for gifts; first aid supplies; and of course, The Gospel (according to Dr. Seuss).

But alas, my first week in Iraq did not have the privilege of being enjoyed in the company of my luggage. It seems that while I was getting settled in Iraq, my suitcases were enjoying extended visits to New York City, Paris, and Amman, Jordan.

Rebirthing King, Rebirthing America

The Olive Branch Peace Partnership, an interfaith coalition dedicated to nonviolent advocacy of which PPF is a founding partner, is mobilizing for a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday on January 19th, one day before the Presidential Inauguration.

In Washington on January 19, the Olive Branch Interfaith Peace Partnership will hold a celebratory service and teaching at which Vincent Harding of Iliffe School of Theology, one of Dr. King's closets advisers; Rev. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches; Dr. Sayyid Syeed, general secretary of the Islamic Society of North America; Sammie Moshenberg of the National Council of Jewish Women; Mubarak Awad of nonviolence International; and Rev. William G. Sinkford of the Unitarian Universalist Association are already scheduled to speak.

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