Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Michigan Peace Team Visits Iowa

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Michigan Peace Team Visits Iowa

Article excerpt

Michigan Peace Team (MPT) members visited Iowa in December, making several presentations around the state in support of the team's work in the U.S. and abroad.

"MPT has a vision of pursuing peace through active nonviolence, hands-on non-violence, in places of conflict, especially in places where there is violence or the threat of violence," Sister Elizabeth Walters, IHM, told an audience at the Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting House on Dec. 5.

"We require our domestic and international teams to have very good training," she said. "We depend on teamwork, and we insist on consensus decision-making."

Walters explained that MPT currently has international teams in Juarez, Mexico, and in the illegally occupied Palestinian West Bank territory, but also fields teams in the U.S. An MPT team worked to prevent violence in mid-November in East Lansing, MI, when members of the Phelps family of the Westboro Baptist Church, notorious for picketing funerals of service men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, picketed at East Lansing High School.

"We look at all the dimensions of nonviolent intervention in our eight-hour basic training," added Walters, who noted that international teams receive additional training.

"We do protective accompaniment, and what that means is we literally surround the person, we walk with them [so that] the people who are threatening that person would have to harm us first," she said.

"Inter-positioning" means getting in between armed men and those who are at risk of being shot, explained Walters.

"Observation and monitoring, obviously our cameras are tools in that regard, our notebooks are tools. We observe and monitor and document human rights abuses, and we work with international organizations to lift up our findings with regard to human rights abuses," said Walters.

MPT member Martha Larsen spoke about the work of MPT's international team in Palestine.

"I've been in Palestine nine times in the past five years. The last time I was only allowed two weeks in," said Larsen. "We worked with Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR). We also worked with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). RHR brings in Israelis and Jews and internationals from around the world."

Israeli volunteers who work with human rights activists reflect a range of perspectives and attitudes not unlike those seen in America, some bringing an understanding of the plight of Palestinians, others exhibiting condescension, said Larsen. …

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