Starting on September 16, 2008, I will be riding a bicycle from San Diego, CA, to the East Coast in an effort to raise money for reservists working with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), an international organization set up to support teams of peace workers in conflict areas around the world. Riding with two friends, I will be traveling through the southern states (Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida), camping along the way. The overall journey should cover over 3200 miles in about seven weeks' time. All of the costs of the trip (food, bike repair, medical bills) will be covered by us, the riders. All donated funds will go into a scholarship for CPT members who travel to locations of extreme conflict.
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 faith-based nonviolent alternatives in situations where lethal conflict is an immediate reality or is supported by public policy. CPT seeks to enlist the response of the whole church in conscientious objection to war and in the development of nonviolent institutions, skills, and training for intervention in conflict situations. CPT projects connect intimately with the spiritual lives of constituent congregations. Gifts of prayer, money, and time from these churches undergird CPT's peacemaking ministries.
CPT maintains teams in Colombia, Iraq, Africa Great Lakes, the US/Mexico Border, and in Palestine/Israel. Joel, a good friend of mine, is a CPT reservist that has gone on numerous assignments to Hebron and At'Tuwani, both in the southern West Bank of Palestine. It is because of his efforts that I was inspired to raise money for CPT.
On his most recent assignment this past July, Joel and another CPT member were escorting approximately 15 Palestinian children from their cave homes in Tuba and Magaer Al'Abeed to the elementary school in At'Tuwani. The children used to travel alone, but because of repeated Israeli settler violence against them, CPT members learned that the only way to ensure that the children would get to school would be to provide them with escorts. Midway through the walk that day in July, a masked man from a nearby Israeli settlement began hurling rocks at the children from a hilltop. The other CPT member took the children and ran from the site, while Joel attempted to capture the settler on videotape. The settler realized he was being filmed, so he began hurling rocks at Joel while the children escaped. When Joel was hit in the leg, he found himself unable to run away fast enough from the attacking settler, who was now running toward him. When the settler caught up with him, he began beating Joel on the head with a rock and the camera he had grabbed from his hands. Joel screamed for help, forcing the attacker to run quickly back toward the settlement, unfortunately still with the camera. With his glasses broken and blood in his eyes, Joel managed to limp back to Tuwani. He escaped the incident with what amounted to cuts and bruises, but this was very frightening for everyone involved. In the days following the attack on Joel, there were several more attempted attacks on the children. It is horrible to think what would happen if Joel and other CPT members had not been there to protect the children at all.
Joel is not paid for what he does with CPT. In fact, reservists are required to raise their own money for traveling to the locations where CPT does its work; in the case of those traveling to Palestine/Israel, reservists are required to raise $2200. While a lot of reservists belong to large church congregations that can easily raise the money for them, there are some, like Joel, that do not belong to a congregation and thus must solicit donations on their own.
CPT has a scholarship fund set up that helps certain reservists in need of financial assistance pay for half of the overall trip costs. I have decided that all funds raised for my bike trip will go into that scholarship fund, so people like Joel can continue to help offer a nonviolent alternative to lethal conflict.
To donate, please see below.