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'We light candles every morning during worship.'
Christian Peacemakers remember missing friends

New York, January 19, 2006 The January 7 kidnapping in Iraq of American reporter Jill Carroll is chilling, and raises questions about the fate of four Christian Peacemakers who have been missing since November 29.

No word has been received from the Peacemakers since their lives were threatened in early December. But the other members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, like people of faith across the globe, have not ceased praying for their friends or their kidnappers. The CPT released a message earlier this month, "We hope you are well . . . we light four candles every morning at worship."

The missing Christian Peacemakers -- Tom Fox,  54, from Clearbrook, Virginia Norman Kember, 74, from London, England, James Loney, 41, a community worker from Toronto, Canada, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, a Canadian electrical engineer from Montreal (above) -- have not been seen since they were abducted by dissidents who accused them of being American spies.

The kidnappers, who call themselves "The Swords of Righteousness Brigades," said the Peacemakers would be killed unless the U.S. released all its prisoners in Iraq. The group set several deadlines in December for the U.S. to release its prisoners, but the deadlines passed without further word.

Since then, the Christian Peacemaker Teams have released statements of support for their friends.

"We are very worried about our four friends," the CPT said November 30. "We fear that whoever is holding them has made a mistake. Norman, Tom, James and Harmeet are four men who came to Iraq to work for peace and explain their opposition to the occupation. They are not spies."

The CPT issued a public appeal to the kidnappers on December 6. "While we believe the action of kidnapping is wrong, we do not condemn you as people," the statement said. "We recognize the humanity in each person, and respect it very much. This includes you, our colleagues, and all people. We believe there needs to be a force that counters all the resentment, the fear, the intimidation felt by the Iraqi people. We are trying to be that force: to speak for justice, to advocate for the human rights of Iraqis, to look at an Iraqi face and say: my brother, my sister...Perhaps you are men who only want to raise the issue of illegal detention. We don't know what you may have endured.  As you can see by the statements of support from our friends in Iraq and all over the world, we work for those who are oppressed.   We also condemn our own governments for their actions in Iraq."

"It takes courage and a profound faith to reach out with compassion to those who have harmed you," said Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, Assistant General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA for International Affairs and Peace. "The Christian Peacemakers have shown that fragile human beings are capable of acting not out of resentment but out of love. They have lived into the roll of becoming the 'force that counters all the resentment.'"

Religious groups all over the world -- including Christian and Muslim -- are praying for the Peacemakers or have issued appeals for their release.

Similarly, religious groups are urging the release of journalist Jill Carroll. The Council of American-Islamic Relations said Thursday (January 19), "We . . . call for the immediate and unconditional release of Jill Carroll, a journalist with a well-documented record of objective reporting and respect for both the Iraqi people and Arab-Islamic culture. We ask that her captors show mercy and compassion by releasing her so that she may return to her family. Certainly, no cause can be advanced by harming a person who only sought to let the world know about the human suffering caused by the conflict in Iraq."

"Clearly the cycle of violence is resulting in more violence," Kireopoulos said. "It has to stop somewhere, and the best place to begin is Washington. This war must end."

Contact: NCC News, Philip E.  Jenks, 212-870-2252, pjenks@ncccusa.org
 


 

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