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TIFFIN - Sister Paulette Schroeder has been beaten up, kicked, and spat upon, and there may be more of that in store for the 65-year-old Tiffin Franciscan nun.
But she is not backing down or wavering in her mission to intervene and prevent violence in Israel's West Bank city of Hebron.
"I felt all my life I have not done enough risk-taking to help those with a small voice," she said. "And I hate to see any persons demonized."
Those were her motivations, she said, for joining the Christian Peacemaker Team, a group of people from around the world pursuing nonviolent alternatives to war.
That sometimes includes "getting in the way of violence."
"I feel like when good people do nothing, then evil succeeds," Sister Paulette said after returning from Israel for a one-month break. "I just feel like God put it into my heart to be a little more risky. I'm 65. I still have a lot of energy and a lot of good health. I can do it because I don't have children, I don't have a family that depends on me. So I feel as a sister I must respond."
Tomorrow, the Tiffin Franciscan nuns will hold a Palestinian Festival at their campus, 200 St. Francis Ave.
The festival celebrates Palestinian culture and its hospitality, crafts, dance, foods, and music.
Sister Paulette hopes the festival will help Americans get past what she called the demonization of Palestinians, a people she said are widely misunderstood.
There are 150,000 Palestinians in Hebron and about 400 Israeli settlers, and the settlers are guarded by between 500 and 1,500 Israeli soldiers, according to Sister Paulette.
The tension between Palestinians and settlers is often reported in the news, but Sister Paulette said Americans don't necessarily get the whole story.
"What the public does not hear about is that these 400 settlers are very ideologically bent. They feel like it is their land. … They say that because God gave them this land, it's theirs. It is almost their duty, I think is how I have worked this through in my heart, to regain this land and do whatever they need to do to get it back. So that means a lot of violence."
The Christian Peacemaker Team is constantly monitoring activities in Hebron, videotaping any incidents and uploading the videos to the Internet.
"We're there to either try to get in the way of the violence or to de-escalate it or to stand in the way of people who would be victims," she said. "We want to reveal something that is not usually revealed in the media."
Sister Paulette said she was attacked by teenagers in the settlements who didn't like her videotaping them and the soldiers. They kicked and choked her and spat on her, and the soldiers were slow to intervene, she said.
The Catholic nun said on a typical day she gets up at 5:30 for prayer and quiet meditation. Her team goes on street patrols at 7 a.m., then returns for half an hour of worship.
After that, the CPT members spend time on the computer, sending e-mails and writing news releases, and are often called by the locals to intervene in confrontations.
Sister Paulette said she did not want to "sound sour" about Israel.
"Most Israelis are kind and compassionate people who just want peace like anybody else," she said. "But the settlers are difficult."
She said her work in Hebron may be just a drop in the bucket, but as a Catholic nun she feels compelled to do something.
"I keep thinking that when people know the truth, more people will be more responsive. So that's my passion, along with stressing the beauty and the immense sense of hospitality that comes with the Palestinian and the Jewish cultures."
Information on the Christian Peacemaker Teams is available online at cpt.org and information on the Tiffin Franciscans is available at tiffinfranciscans.org.
- David Yonke