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'Aggressive pacifists' put their faith on the firing line

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Standing behind a barrier to avoid the stones but close enough to the soldiers to have a conversation, Mr. Shantz says to them: "It doesn't take a genius to understand that an illegal occupation is wrong."

Other soldiers are firing tear gas canisters at the boys, some of them clearly in the single-digit age-range. They have the smiling insouciance of kids who know the routine.

Shantz, watching the gas drift toward Palestinian homes, says: "Do you know what tear gas does to pregnant women? Do you know it kills the baby?"

The Israelis stand impassively. They wear flak jackets and helmets and carry M-16s. The rocks mainly pose a nuisance.

Shantz prods on, asking the Israelis how they will answer the questions of their children and grandchildren. "What will you say? 'Just following orders?' " There is probably not a single Israeli adult who does not know that countless Nazis excused their role in the Holocaust of World War II by saying that they had to obey their superiors. One of the soldiers starts to bridle. "Don't respond to him," warns his colleague.

Robert Holmes, a CPTer who is also a Catholic priest, explains the idea behind the Shantz treatment: "You're not trying to alienate the soldier. You're trying to alienate the soldier from what he's doing."

Risks for peace

In 1984 an American theologian and social activist named Ronald Sider sought to spur Christians to a more aggressive pacifism. "Unless we ... are ready to start to die by the thousands in dramatic, vigorous new exploits for peace and justice ... we dare never whisper another word about pacifism to our sisters and brothers in those desperate lands filled with injustice," Dr. Sider told a conference of Mennonites. CPT is the response of the Church of the Brethren, the Friends United Meeting, and Mennonite congregations in Canada and the US to his call.

The group began by dispatching delegations to war-torn areas in the early 1990s; today it sends trained volunteers and members of its full-time Christian Peacemaker Corps to live in zones of conflict.

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