Christian Peacemakers Freed!After four months in captivity, three members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams have been freed. We rejoice at their release while still mourning the loss of Tom Fox, the 4th member of the team who had been killed.
These are the CPT members who have been freed:
Harmeet Sooden, 32, a Canadian electrical engineer from Montreal studying for a teaching career;
James Loney, 41, a community worker from Toronto, Canada who has been a member of CPT since August 2000;
Norman Kember, 74, a husband, father, and grandfather who before his retirement taught medical students in London.
The following statement is from the Christian Peacemaker Teams web site:
Our hearts are filled with joy today as we heard that Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember have been safely released in Baghdad. Christian Peacemaker Teams rejoices with their families and friends at the expectation of their return to their loved ones and community. Together we have endured uncertainty, hope, fear, grief and now joy during the four months since they were abducted in Baghdad.
We rejoice in the return of Harmeet Sooden. He has been willing to put his life on the line to promote justice in Iraq and Palestine as a young man newly committed to active peacemaking.
We rejoice in the return of Jim Loney. He has cared for the marginalized and oppressed since childhood, and his gentle, passionate spirit has been an inspiration to people near and far.
We rejoice in the return of Norman Kember. He is a faithful man, an elder and mentor to many in his 50 years of peacemaking, a man prepared to pay the cost.
We remember with tears Tom Fox, whose body was found in Baghdad on March 9, 2006, after three months of captivity with his fellow peacemakers. We had longed for the day when all four men would be released together. Our gladness today is made bittersweet by the fact that Tom is not alive to join in the celebration. However, we are confident that his spirit is very much present in each reunion.
Harmeet, Jim and Norman and Tom were in Iraq to learn of the struggles facing the people in that country. They went, motivated by a passion for justice and peace to live out a nonviolent alternative in a nation wracked by armed conflict. They knew that their only protection was in the power of the love of God and of their Iraqi and international co-workers. We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end.
Today, in the face of this joyful news, our faith compels us to love our enemies even when they have committed acts which caused great hardship to our friends and sorrow to their families. In the spirit of the prophetic nonviolence that motivated Jim, Norman, Harmeet and Tom to go to Iraq, we refuse to yield to a spirit of vengeance. We give thanks for the compassionate God who granted our friends courage and who sustained their spirits over the past months. We pray for strength and courage for ourselves so that, together, we can continue the nonviolent struggle for justice and peace.
Throughout these difficult months, we have been heartened by messages of concern for our four colleagues from all over the world. We have been especially moved by the gracious outpouring of support from Muslim brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Europe, and North America. That support continues to come to us day after day. We pray that Christians throughout the world will, in the same spirit, call for justice and for respect for the human rights of the thousands of Iraqis who are being detained illegally by the U.S. and British forces occupying Iraq.
During these past months, we have tasted of the pain that has been the daily bread of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Why have our loved ones been taken? Where are they being held? Under what conditions? How are they? Will they be released? When?
With Tomís death, we felt the grief of losing a beloved friend. Today, we rejoice in the release of our friends Harmeet, Jim and Norman. We continue to pray for a swift and joyful homecoming for the many Iraqis and internationals who long to be reunited with their families. We renew our commitment to work for an end to the war and the occupation of Iraq as a way to continue the witness of Tom Fox. We trust in Godís compassionate love to show us the way.
Living through the many emotions of this day, we remain committed to the words of Jim Loney, who wrote:
"With Godís abiding kindness, we will love even our enemies.
With the love of Christ, we will resist all evil. With Godís unending faithfulness, we will work to build the beloved community."
REMEMBERING TOM FOX:
The Christian Peacemakers Team's slogan is "getting in the way," a risky but faithful motto for peacemaking. That is what Tom Fox and other Christian Peacemakers have been doing since October 2002 in Iraq.
The call to peacemaking is more radical and demanding than most of us like to admit, especially in today's world. And Tom's life and death compel a new depth of thought and prayer as to what being faithful to that call may mean for each of us.
Tom is described as a person who combined a lightness of spirit, a firm opposition to all oppression, and a recognition of God in everyone. His tenacious commitment to peace flies in the face of almost every political speech or policy or news article or analysis we hear today. "We reject violence to punish anyone. We ask that there be no retaliation on relatives or property. We forgive those who consider us their enemies. We hope that in loving both friends and enemies and by intervening nonviolently to aid those who are systematically oppressed, we can contribute in some small way to transforming this volatile situation.Ē
One primary focus of the CPTers work in Baghdad has been and continues to be to work for the human rights of Iraqis detainees. As such, there would be no better tribute to Tom than to speak and act boldly "for the human rights of thousands of Iraqis still detained illegally by the United States and United Kingdom."
As CPT Co-director Dr. Doug Pritchard wrote, "Such an outpouring of action for justice and peace would be a fitting memorial for Tom. Let us all join our voices on behalf of those who continue to suffer under occupation, whose loved ones have been killed or are missing. In so doing, we may hasten the day when both those who are wrongly detained and those who bear arms will return safely to their homes. In such a peace we will find solace for our grief."
In Memorium - Tom Fox, 54, a father of two and Quaker from Virginia who was a musician and worked with children and youth. Tom also worked in Palestine with CPT.
This is the CPT Mission, according to the CPT web site:
"Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) offers an organized, nonviolent alternative to war and other forms of lethal inter-group conflict. CPT provides organizational support to persons committed to faith-based nonviolent alternatives in situations where lethal conflict is an immediate reality or is supported by public policy. CPT seeks to enlist the response of the whole church in conscientious objection to war, and in the development of nonviolent institutions, skills and training for intervention in conflict situations."
Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice joins with hundreds of thousands of people across the planet celebrating the release of these four peace activists. At the same time we pray for and will continue to advocate for the release of all people, of all races and faiths, who are being held captive by any powers who do not exercise due process, follow international standards of justice, or treat prisoners humanely and with dignity.
We urge everyone to please to join us in our prayers for the release of all captives unjustly held.
NOTE: All images in this story are courtesy of Christian Peacemaker Teams.