Vigils to Mark 100 Days Since Peacemakers’ Abduction

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has made a worldwide appeal to churches to hold a candlelight vigil on the first Sunday of Lent with 100 candles marking the days since the four western peace activists were kidnapped in Baghdad.

“We continue to maintain hope, and we really believe that the gentlemen who are holding our friends will recognize that we are working for peace and justice … working to end the war in Iraq,” said Sara Reschly, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based organization, to Presbyterian News Service.

Reschly said that some cities, including Chicago, will hold public vigils while some churches are integrating candlelight services into their regular worship.

The candles, in addition to commemorating the 100 days since the kidnap, are also intended to honor the “largely unnoticed peacemaking efforts of Sunni and Shi’a Iraqis at a time of escalating civil strife in Iraq,” said Reschly according to PCUSA news.

The hostages are Harmet Sooden and Jim Loney of Canada; Norman Kember or Britian; and Tom Fox of the United States. They were kidnapped last fall in central Baghdad by a previously unknown group called the “Swords of Righteousness Brigades.” The group threatened to kill them unless the U.S. and Iraqi governments released Iraqi prisoners.

A video that surfaced in late January indicated that all four hostages were alive.

Reschly said the yearning for peace is what gives CPT hope. “There is lots of prayer happening,” she said. “We really believe in the power of prayer.”

The CPT spokeswoman said her Mennonite community on Chicago’s West Side keeps four red CPT baseball caps in its worship space during services, as well as four red candles lit to represent the missing men, according to PCUSA News.

Vigils are scheduled in the United Kingdom on Mar. 4 and 5 including an interfaith gathering in Trafalgar Square in London on Sunday. The British events are organized by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an international network of religious pacifists; the Roman Catholic peace organization Pax Christi; Churches Together in Britain and Ireland; and the Baptist Peace Fellowship, which hostage Norman Kember is a member .

British Muslims are also expected to participate.

CPT’s vigil in Chicago will begin at 6 p.m. on Sunday at Water Tower Plaza at the intersection of Chicago and Michigan avenues.

Christian Peacemaker Teams is a program of Brethren, Quaker and Mennonite Churches (USA and Canada). The Baptist Peace Fellowship, Every Church a Peace Church, On Earth Peace and The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship are also sponsors of CPT. Christians from other bodies in the ecumenical Christian community are particpants in the 40 member full time Christian Peacemaker Corps and the part time 125 member Reserve Corps.