Le Anne Clausen was a sophomore at Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa, when she took her first trip to the Middle East in 1998, a May term tour of the Holy Land that changed her life.
"It became clear to me that I knew nothing about Palestinians or the human-rights abuses of the occupation," she recalls. "I really felt the need to go work on those human-rights issues and do something to help, at least for a year after college."
She's done just that — not for one year, but four. Clausen, 26, returned in May from Baghdad where she had worked for Christian Peacemaker Teams, a program of Brethren, Quaker and Mennonite churches and other Christians (www.cpt.org).
"I call it violence reduction," she says about the program. "We get out into the community, being transparent about what we're doing and working very deliberately with every faction. We won't discriminate in reporting human-rights abuses."
This fall she will begin studies at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, pursuing candidacy for diaconal ministry with the hope of working in the area of peacemaking.
In September 2000, with $1,000 support from the women's group at her congregation, Trinity Lutheran, Mason City, Iowa, Clausen flew to Israel to work in Nazareth. She served as a project developer for a Palestinian women's group called Women Against Violence.
Her work included accompanying unarmed civilians being threatened by an armed group, serving as a protective presence. At demonstrations she often ran into CPT members who were doing the same kind of support. Realizing how vulnerable she was working on her own, the following June she decided to join them.
Last August, Clausen joined the CPT group in Iraq.
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