By Michael Himlie
I stop my thoughts for a moment, to pause and ask where I am now. I found myself standing on the beach, on Lesvos, Greece in the night, looking through binoculars over the Aegean Sea, spotting refugee boats crossing from Turkey and being harassed by the coastguard. I found myself in a refugee camp playing soccer with children. I found myself packing my bags to start full-time work in Palestine and Israel. This is my story in Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT).
My name is Michael Himlie. Harmony, Minnesota is where I call home. I graduated from Manchester University, and I am a 24-year-old Church of the Brethren member. In August 2017 I completed training for CPT, an organization committed to building partnerships to transform violence and oppression in difficult circumstances where the work is proven to be highly effective. When I was 12 years of age, I eagerly began learning of elder CPT’er role models sharing stories of their work with me, and at the time, I asked questions of them every chance I had.
At last, I went to Palestine in 2014, where I found the work of those with CPT to be just, humble, and fiery at the sides of the Palestinian nation. My most memorable moment of Palestine was doing school patrol with full-time CPT’er Ashley. At tense Israeli checkpoints, children are almost daily subjected to tear gas, flash-bang grenades, and sometimes the use of rubber-coated steel bullets or live ammunition. Suddenly, the space around me was filled with a loud bang, the hissing of tear gas spread, and children dispersed from the area. One Palestinian girl, aged 6 or 7, ran to Ashley crying out of fear, and yet the need to get to school on the other side of the tear gas cloud was still there. Rachel calmly comforted the child, giving her a wet rag to hold over her face to filter the tear gas, and a hand to accompany her to school.
What I take with me from my time in Palestine is the image of two fearless women disappearing into a cloud of teargas, one going to school, and the other, simply doing her work. This is what I desire to do, and why I need your help, because I know Ashley’s hand was not the only hand that little girl was holding that morning on the way to school. Many people support Rachel to engage in the work she desires, and the work of CPT as a whole. The hands of CPT’ers like Ashley and myself are the hands of our supporters like you.
One day, I hope to see what an army of one hundred thousand soldiers of nonviolence looks like, but first, we must foster well the few who are doing the work now. This is why I am asking you, my fellow peacemaker, to join me. The work that CPT’ers do, in accompanying those impacted by violence, war, and oppression, is funded by those who believe a better world is possible. People who long desire to build their financial structures closer to their moral values are those who take part in changing the world through CPT’s work.
In 2012, the cost to maintain one US soldier in Afghanistan was between $815,000 and $1.4 million a year, mostly funded through the taxes we US citizens pay. It costs a fraction of that to drive CPT’s peacemaking mission, about $20,000 a year, or $55 per day. Can you commit to donating $55, supporting a day of CPT’ers like Ashley and myself, accompanying children to school, followed by the rest of the day’s’ work ahead? With your help, together we will support the Palestinian led movement to end the seventy-year military occupation Israel and the United States is committing against the people of Palestine.
Michael Himlie, 24, is a member of Christians Peacemaker Teams, working to promote peace in Palestine and Israel. He is a graduate of Manchester College and a member of the Church of the Brethren.