Volume 96, Issue 68
Thursday, January 30, 2003

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At least Iraq is warmer than Brandon
Manitoban Baghdad bound

WINNIPEG (CP) – Armed only with her faith, Lisa Martens is preparing herself for war.

As the United States draws closer to attacking Iraq, the young Manitoba woman is deliberately placing herself in the path of the conflict.

Martens, 25, of Brandon, is travelling to Baghdad this weekend in the name of peace, part of an international organization that sends members into dangerous areas, hoping their very presence will discourage violence.

As a human shield, she's willing to die for her belief that war is no solution.

"I might get bombed, I realize that," Martens said. "But right now, there are so many citizens who oppose a war, in the United States and abroad.

"My faith leads me into non-violence. I call this ministry. It's not about converting people to God, but it's about standing with threatened people."

Martens, who has a theology degree, is a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams, a church-based group committed to non-violent activism. She and two other Canadians will be part of a 14-person group making the journey.

The team will be based in Baghdad and Bahra and will visit schools, orphanages, hospitals and meet with Iraqi residents and officials during her visit.

She will also organize what she calls "non-violent witness" events, appearing with people who face danger from their own government and the effects of war.

Martens has a two-week visa to Iraq, which she hopes to have renewed to allow her to remain in the country until spring.

Christian Peacemaker Teams is a 17-year-old organization that had its first member die in the field in December when a 73-year-old Ontario man was killed in a traffic accident outside Baghdad.

"Soldiers take these kinds of risks all the time," said Doug Pritchard, the Christian group's Canadian spokesman. "Do we not have the same beliefs? Are we not willing to take the same risks in the name of peace?"

New members of the organization must take extensive training and be committed to non-violence no matter how they are threatened or harmed.

Sitting in her parent's tidy living home, Martens reflected on her Mennonite faith and on the likelihood of war.

Martens said she felt anger and frustration during President George W. Bush's Sunday night State of the Union Address.

"When I hear things from George Bush like he's for the Iraqi people I have to shake my head. If he's for them why would he attack their country?"

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