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  December 12, 2005 VOL. 43, NO. 21Oakland, CA

articles list

Local CPT members pray for safety
of kidnapped colleagues in Iraq

Vatican restricts homosexuals in priesthood

Vatican weighs in on evolution,
intelligent design controversy

Jesuit astronomer: science, faith
do not contradict one another

Army chaplains grieve soldiers killed in Iraq

Oakland parishioner arrested during
protest against military training facility

FACE tuition grants make Catholic education possible

New parochial administrator in Antioch

Liturgist appointed new administrator at Oakland parish

Ethics center at
Santa Clara lists
2006 challenges

A pilgrim’s journey to
Guadalupe shrine

Israeli security measures threaten tourism in Bethlehem

EWTN to televise pope’s Christmas Mass

The Christmas tree – an enduring symbol with a long history

Sisters turn art into ministry


•Sister Frances Charlton, SNDdeN

•Father Andrew J. Dufner, S.J.

•Sister M. Thecla Maeusl, O.P.


•'Wife of a Busy Man' brings music and message to northern California

•'Sacred reading' fosters dialogue with God
























Local CPT members pray for safety
of kidnapped colleagues in Iraq

Nearly two years before members of their group were taken hostage in Iraq, Christian Peacemaker Teams activists were threatened by suicide bombers but managed to talk their way out of the crisis, according to local CPT member Lorin Peters.

Peters, who teaches religion at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, said the threat came in February 2004, when two men visiting a CPT apartment in Baghdad said they had come to detonate a bomb. After the group convinced them that CPT had peaceful intentions, they left without harming anyone.

CPT members such as Peters, a parishioner at St. Leander in San Leandro, are praying that the Swords of Righteousness Brigade, which has been holding four CPT members hostage since Nov. 26, will have a similar change of heart. The Brigade, a previously unknown group, has said it would execute the men on Dec. 8 unless all prisoners in U.S. and Iraqi detention centers are released.

Kara Speltz, a parishioner at Holy Spirit/Newman Center in Berkeley and a former member of two CPT delegations to Baghdad, said she is taking heart from the experience of CPT member Jerry Levin and his wife Sis, who headed her first delegation to Iraq in February 2002.

Jerry Levin was taken hostage more than 20 years ago in Beirut and escaped after a year in captivity. During a recent visit to the Bay Area, both Levins told Speltz that his captives had also threatened to kill him by a set deadline.

“This is the only thing that sustained me,” said Speltz, who has been a friend of hostage Jim Loney for eight years. He was a member of the Baghdad team during her second visit in March 2003.

The four hostages are Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, both of Canada; American Tom Fox, 54; and British citizen Norman Kember, 74.

In a KPFA Radio interview Dec. 1, Jerry Levin said, “I’m sure they’re going through what I was going through 20 years ago.”

Muslim leaders from Iraq to Palestine and beyond have made public appeals on their behalf, saying that CPT has protected those facing abuse and violence and worked for peaceful resolutions to conflict.

The vice president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, Wahida Valiante, said it is the “moral responsibility” of all Muslims to help secure the release of the hostages, “who risked their own welfare in order to bring comfort to oppressed and occupied people ... . We pray for his safe return and for the quick release and return of the four CPT hostages.”

The hostages “have practiced and demonstrated a deep respect for Islam and for the right of Iraqis, and all Arab and Muslim peoples, to pursue just self-determination,” the congress said in an earlier statement.

Peters said he has hope for the four hostages, knowing that CPT members convinced a pair of suicide bombers to give up their mission nearly two years ago. The crisis came when the group invited two men to their Baghdad apartment and described CPT’s work in Iraq, where the organization was the first to speak out about abuses at Abu Ghraib Prison.

After conversing with the members for an hour, the men revealed that they had guns and explosives and intended to destroy the building. They tied the hands of the CPT men and seated the women against a wall. All the members, Peters said, were sure they were about to die.

Still, they continued to speak to the men, and one of the Iraqis finally said, “We don’t want to do this. We can see that Jesus loves you.” But, he said, others were forcing them to act and they would have to leave Iraq if they didn’t blow up the building. He demanded money, and the team gave them all their cash, computers, cell phones and digital cameras.

A half hour after they had disclosed their guns and bomb equipment, the men left. The team knelt together, Peters said, and thanked God for their escape.


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