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Lady speaks of her time in Iraq

By Staff | Mar 23, 2012

Beth Pyles will tell her story of serving with the Christian Peacemakers Team on Saturday, Mar. 24 at the Fellowship Hall of the Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church. Beginning at 9 a.m., Pyles will share her experiences in a country at war where she stood for non-violence and the reduction of violence through the Chicago-based Christian Peacmakers Team organization.

Pyles has served six tours in Iraq since beginning with the CPT in 2005. Pyles practiced law in West Virginia for 22 years prior to enrolling in the Princeton Theological Seminary. Now an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church, Pyles serves in the McDowell Presbyterian Church and Headwaters Chapel in Highland County, Va. as a part time pastorate. This flexibility has allowed Pyles to spend two months a year in Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Colombia and other locations while serving with the CPT.

Pyles will share stories of walking children to school to offer them protection from the violence around them as well as assisting displaced farmers whose land has been bombed.

“We work with them [the farmers] to get practical assistance,” Pyles said.

Much of her time was spent in what are known as violent locations where she and her fellow team members served as human shields against potential violence.

“The Kurds organized a brigade between soldiers and protesters,” Pyles said of one of her trips. “There was no violence; we served as a human shield.”

The CPT ascribes to being peaceful in a public way, something Pyles says is often difficult to do. She hopes to express that being peaceful does not equate with being cowardly.

An example she gave was that of a mother on a playground with her child who is in an altercation with another child. Rather than inciting violence to stop the altercation, the mother separates the two and retreats. That, Pyles said, is what the CPT advocates as well.

“It goes against what we are taught,” she said. She explained that the idea of cowardice is a difficult one to overcome; however, the focus of the CPT is to do just that in their efforts to assist those in a violent atmosphere.

The CPT has held a presence in Iraq since 2002, prior to the start of the current war. The primary focus, according to their website, ctp.org, in the 18 months following the invasion was documenting and focusing attention on detainee abuses and basic legal and human rights being denied them. The organization “works toward accompanying displaced persons home by living in conflicted border regions and documenting human rights violations against civil populations.”

Pyles had hoped to return to Iraq in the upcoming months; however, she said that there were not enough volunteers at this point to make up a team to go. She said that the teams are made up of six to 15 individuals. The teams do not serve as missionaries, she said and do not provide humanitarian aid. They are, rather, trained as international peacemaking teams who work with local partners in the foreign countries to hopefully make a difference.