Lisa Martens knew bombs could start raining when she stood outside the Al Wathba water treatment center in Baghdad last Friday. She was there to plant a tree and pray for peace. The Canadian citizen, 25, came to Iraq last month as a volunteer with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), an organization that trains volunteers to promote human rights and nonviolent solutions in crisis situations.
"Millions of people around the world are against this war. Being here is about making the statement that I believe it can be averted even now," said Martens by phone from the Al Dar Hotel in Baghdad. "It is frightening to be here when the bombing could start. I want to live to be at least 100—but not by being apathetic."
CPT enters areas of conflict, observes and reports atrocities, and stands with civilians whose lives are in peril. It is cooperating with a secular group, Voices in the Wilderness, in placing citizens in Iraq as witnesses for peace.
CPT leaders such as Gene Stoltzfus, director of CPT in Chicago, insist that Martens and other CPT volunteers are not "human shields" because they dislike being thought of as military pawns. Human shields from a variety of anti-war groups are in Iraq hoping to lessen the likelihood of attacks on Iraqi facilities such as hospitals and water purification plants. Claire Evans, delegation coordinator, says the organization prefers the language of peacemaking.
"Sometimes, we know that the presence of internationals can provide some safety to people threatened by violence, and that is another reason we want to be among them," Evans said. "Our role is to accompany, document, tell the stories, unmask the violence, and advocate for peaceful solutions to the conflict. We are motivated by a faith that sees ...1