Set the Captives Free...
From The Don Jail and Metro West Detention Centre to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay
From the thousands of Afghani and Iraqi detainees and the Christian Peacemaker Team allies held in Baghdad to the Secret Trial Five in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal
From the secret torture chambers and prison cells across the globe to the refugee jails here in Canada.
Join us Saturday, December 24, 12 Noon
277 Front Street West (across from the CBC)
We will start at CSIS, the scandal-plagued spy agency, and walk to a number of downtown symbols of the U.S.-led war against freedom, ending up at the Peace Garden in front of City Hall.
Be prepared for singing of alternative holiday carols!
As many people continue to work for the freedom of our missing CPT friends in Baghdad, held close to a month, and our friends here in Canada (The Secret Trial Five, collectively held in Canada over 20 years without charge and fighting deportation to torture; Gary Freeman, held 18 months fighting an extradition based on contradictory, unreliable "evidence" from a 1969 incident in Chicago), we recognize that these individuals represent the tip of the detention iceberg.
The Pentagon itself admits to keeping almost 14,000 Iraqis in custody, with less than 2% charged and convicted. Reports of torture of those detainees are well-documented; questions are now raised about the role of Canadian "trainers" of Iraqi jailkeepers. Similar detentions occur in Afghanistan with the aid of Canadian troops, and thousands remain detained at Guantanamo Bay and at ghost detention centres around the globe.
Here in Canada, the rates of detention for immigrants and refugees continue to go through the roof, with over 13,000 non-citizens jailed at some point during the 2003-2004 recording period simply because of their status. Indeed, immigration detention rose 41% from 1997 to 2002.
Detention of First Nations peoples continues at a disproportionately high rate as well (eight times that of non-First Nations), and many people without money fill our jails because of an economic system whose lack of choices forces so many into situations where jail becomes a consequence.
Join many friends and family of captives at home and abroad for our walk of hope to Set the Captives Free.
Sponsored by Homes not Bombs and the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada, (416) 651-5800, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.homesnotbombs.ca
Some have asked, why such a vigil on Christmas Eve? Below is one apt response, written by members of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem
The Defiant Spirit of Christmas
Some of our people ask how can we celebrate
with all the closures and checkpoints,
with all the injustice and oppression,
with all the violations of human rights,
with the presence of a wall that separates families and friends,
and a multitude of hardships that the occupation imposes to make people's lives miserable,how can we speak of love, peace and joy when most of our people and millions of others around the world do not experience liberty and peace?
The questions are legitimate. Yet Christmas and New Year must be a time of renewal, of hope and anticipation, of determination and zeal to work for a better world where people can experience these essential qualities of life. Therefore, wherever empire exists and the powers that be are in control through domination, there is a greater responsibility for all of us to take a stand against all that dehumanizes people and to work for their liberation.
The Christmas story is a story of a liberating God who comes to join an oppressed people in the work of liberation. God's message through the angels is a message of defiance. In spite of the presence of empire, human arrogance, and oppression, God is announcing peace and goodwill. This is God's agenda. Glory belongs to God and not to the emperor nor to the powers. Once that is genuinely acknowledged, peace is not far away.
It is in the midst of the Roman occupation that
the Incarnation took place;
it is in spite of the occupation that Mary and Joseph found joy and love in the birth of Jesus;
it is in spite of the occupation and in the midst of economic hardships that the shepherds came to visit a family of modest means and discovered great joy and peace;
it is in spite of the occupation that the Magi came to offer their gifts to the child.
We celebrate in the midst of the occupation and
in spite of it. Through our celebration we defy the occupation;
we defy the injustice;
we defy the oppressors;
we defy the powers.
They do not possess the last word,
they can build high walls, but they cannot take away our hope,
they can put us in jail, but they cannot take away our joy,
they can prevent us from visiting family, but they cannot take away our love,
they can stop us at checkpoints and impose all kinds of restrictions, but they cannot take away our pursuit of freedom and liberation,
they can prevent us from going to Bethlehem, but they cannot prevent the spirit of Bethlehem from reaching us,
they can treat us as nonhumans, but they cannot crush our spirit nor can they take away our God-given human worth and dignity,
they can act with hate and disgust but, by the grace of God, we can always refuse to stoop to the level of hate and maintain our love of God and neighbor that includes them.
Therefore Christmas makes us defiant.
We defy the evildoers because we believe in the goodness which they are capable of doing
we defy hate because we believe in the power of love and forgiveness,
we defy despair because we believe in life and hope,
we defy violence and terror - both state and individual - because we believe in the power of peace and nonviolence,
we defy war and the occupation of other people's lands because we believe in the power of peaceful methods based on international law and legitimacy,
we defy and challenge those who humiliate and degrade others because we believe in the dignity of every human being.
The Incarnation took place when God took on our humanity, when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This happened in Palestine under Roman occupation. Then as now and in spite of all the hardships, we celebrate Christ's birth, Emmanuel, God with us, giving us hope, joy, peace, and love.
We are defiant. We are full of hope. We will continue to work for peace through justice.
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