Gene Stoltzfus, Founder of Christian Peacemaker Teams, Dies of a Heart Attack
Gene Stoltzfus, the founding director of Christian Peacemaker Teams (www.cpt.org), which
aims to "get in the way" of war and violence, has died at the age of 69,
following a heart attack.
He is credited with inspiring thousands of people to put their lives
on the line in resisting violence and injustice and building peaceful
Stoltzfus served as CPT director from its inception in 1988 until
2004, when he retired and moved to Fort Frances, Ontario. He died on 10
A Mennonite Christian committed to nonviolence as a way of life, not
just an 'ethical option', Stoltzfus travelled to Iraq immediately before
the first Gulf War in 1991.
He spent time with the Iraq CPT Team in 2003 to facilitate
consultation with Muslim and Christian clerics, Iraqi human rights
leaders, families of Iraqi detainees and talks with American
administrators and soldiers.
From mid-December 2001 to mid-January 2002, Gene Stoltzfus and the
current Christian Peacemaker Teams co-director, Doug Pritchard, were in
Pakistan and Afghanistan listening to the victims of bombing and
observing the effects of 23 years of violence.
Stoltzfus's commitment to peacemaking was rooted in his Christian
faith and experience in Vietnam as a conscientious objector with
International Voluntary Services during the US military escalation there
from 1963 - 1968.
Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society think-tank
Ekklesia, which works in partnership with Christian Peacemaker Teams in
the UK and internationally, said today that "the vision Gene Stoltzfus
embodied was one of genuine hope for peace, justice and reconciliation
in the world."
"A deeply committed Christian, Gene Stoltzfus devoted his whole life
to following Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, and to challenging the
princes of war - whatever ideological or religious garb they chose to
wear," said Barrow.
He added: "In a world where religious faith is often seen and spoken
of as a source of conflict, Gene showed another way - a way of deep
faith in the possibilities of humanity when eternal love, not temporal
rivalry and hate, is our source and inspiration. It was this brand of
dissenting, thoughtful and forgiving Christianity which enabled him to
welcome, rather than repel, allies from many different places: secular
as well as religious, humanist as well as faith-driven."
Gene Stoltzfus made a significant impact last year when he toured
Britain and Ireland for three weeks from 16 January 2009, speaking about
nonviolent intervention in situations of conflict and injustice,
supported by Christian Peacemaker Teams UK, the Fellowship of
Reconciliation, Pax Christi, Ekklesia and many others.
He died of a heart attack in Fort Frances while bicycling near his
home on the first warm day of the year.
"Gene was at the heart of those who planted and nurtured the vision
for teams of peacemakers partnering with local communities in conflict
zones to build justice and lasting peace," said Tim Nafziger of CPT in
the USA, paying tribute.
Stoltzfus' final words on his regular blog ((http://peaceprobe.wordpress.com/)
were, "Little by little there will be change." He was published
regularly from the UK by Ekklesia, and his final columns will appear
The death of Gene Stoltzfus came on the day that marks the fourth
anniversary of the murder of CPT worker Tom Fox in Baghdad. He was one
of four Christian peacemakers taken hostage in Iraq in 2005-6. The
others, Norman Kember, Jim Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden, were
"Every one of us is impacted by a dominant culture which insists that
military or police force will make things right. Every day, that
culture tells us that dirty tricks, usually done in secret, are required
for our survival. After all, it's argued, someone has to do this dirty
work. It's called a noble work and the Blackwater mercenaries are
required for the work. It will take an expanding world-wide but
grassroots culture reaching beyond national borders to fashion a body of
Christian peacemakers to be an effective power to block the guns and be
part of transforming each impending tragedy of war. Little by little
there will be change." - Gene Stoltzfus, peacemaker, 1940-2010.
CPT website: www.cpt.org