in the way in Iraq
April 4, 1967 Martin Luther King, Jr. stood
in the Riverside Church of New York City and
pleaded passionately with his fellow countrymen
and women. "We can no longer afford to worship
the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation,"
he began. "If we do not act (nonviolently),
we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark,
and shameful corridors of time reserved for
those who possess power without compassion,
might without morality, and strength without
King titled this speech "Beyond Vietnam" and
in it he offered specific solutions to the escalating
war while offering a vision of an America where,
"pursuit of peace will take precedence over
the pursuit of war."
that tradition, millions of Americans continue
to work towards ending the current madness of
the War Against Iraq.
group that has been traveling regularly on peace
missions to Iraq is the Christian Peacemaker
Teams (CPT). For many years CPT has sent delegations
of conscientious volunteers to conflict zones
throughout the world in an effort to better
understand the conflict and find opportunities
to work for peace. CPT's motto, "Getting in
the Way," is fashioned from Jesus' revolutionary
call for active justice and enemy-loving. And,
so it is regarding Iraq.
traveled to Iraq as part of a CPT delegation
in January and learned what a small group of
thoughtful, committed people can accomplish
to change the world, to paraphrase Margaret
there we met with religious leaders to learn
how people of different faiths - Muslim and
Christian - interact with one another in this
part of the Middle East. We saw how their secularized
society afforded many protections of religious
freedoms that we thought only existed in "democratized"
and schools were also on our agenda and we saw
the catastrophe caused by twenty years of wars
and sanctions. What had clearly once been a
prosperous nation could now offer little of
the former life to its citizens.
traveled throughout the country and visited
with countless families, teachers, doctors,
and individuals from all walks of life who were
happy to share their opinions with us. They
were anxious to rejoin the nations of the world
but terrified that war might come again.
activities and actions were also central to
our visit. On New Year's Day we vigiled in the
cold outside of the United Nations headquarters
to encourage support for the ongoing weapons
inspection program. Later that month we celebrated
MLK Day with a news conference and reading of
the "Riverside Speech" along the banks of the
Euphrates River in the heart of Baghdad.
confronted the issue of the brutalities of Saddam
Hussein, the greed and corruption of most of
his administration, and his penchant for war.
One participant Peggy Gish, a farmer and activist
from Ohio, summed up the experience quite well.
"The longer I'm here, the more I see behind
the outward picture of normalcy, the more I
feel the heaviness that the people carry as
they go through the day," she observed.
CPT delegation also met with peace groups and
aid organizations from around the world to plan
for the eventuality of war.
did I accomplish during my first visit to Iraq?
Bush often speaks about "winning the hearts
and minds" of the Iraqi people. As a member
of the CPT delegation and as a representative
of Texans for Peace, I was able to continue
to oppose the blood-feud policies of the Administration
while at the same time showing the "better"
face of Texas. By our presence we gave hope
to the hopeless, constructive solutions to those
working towards peace, and succor to the so-called
will return to Iraq on November 20 with another
CPT delegation in order to follow up with some
commitments that I made earlier and to assess
the current situation. In addition to seeing
how my new Iraqi friends have been faring I
will also be taking greetings to servicemen
and women stationed there. And, I will bring
updates back to those in Texas who still have
interest in peacemaking.
Luther King taught us, "Peace is not merely
a distant goal that we seek, but a means by
which we arrive at that goal."
hope that this new trip will be one way that
I can help move towards that objective. In the
mean time, I will do my best to continue to
"get in the way.
Jackson, is a sixth-generation Texas bid'nessman
and founder of Texans for Peace www.texansforpeace.org