Christians and Muslims show continued support for Norman Kember
The organisers of a vigil for abducted peace worker Norman Kember, who was kidnapped in Iraq with four Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) volunteers at the end of November, say that they are hoping for a large turnout in London's Trafalgar Square at 6pm tonight.
The vigil, one of a series taking place across the world, will bring together Christians, Muslims, peace campaigners and people of 'all faiths and just good faith' who want to see Dr Kember, Tom Fox, Jim Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden released by their captors - a militant organisation known only as Swords of Truth Brigades.
There has been an unprecedented outpouring of support for the four men - not least by Muslim organisations and Islamist groups - over the past four weeks. Their supporters say that this is helping to create 'a new bridge for justice and peace in Iraq', in contrast both to military occupation and the use of terror tactics.
Today's vigil meets from 6-7pm on the North side of Trafalgar Square, near the National Gallery and opposite St Martin-in-the-Fields Church.
Co-organiser Pat Gaffney, general secretary of the UK section of international Catholic peace movement Pax Christi, says: 'We'll be doing this every ten days to make sure that the memory of Norman Kember stays in the public consciousness."
There has been no news of the four since 8 December 2005. Over the past 48 hours a German archaeologist and humanitarian worker, Susanne Osthoff, has been released by the Islamic Army in Iraq group, who some believe may be connected to Swords of Truth - though there is no direct evidence for this.
On the other hand, American contractor Ronald Schultz, another abductee, appears to have been brutally killed by his kidnappers, according to recent reports and interpretations of a new hostage video.
In spite of efforts by local and international negotiators, and considerable concern from Sunni clerics in Iraq, there has been no reliable confirmation that anyone has made direct contact with the group that kidnapped the Christian Peacemaker Team workers outside a Baghdad mosque.
But it is known that they have received appeals for mercy, including those from fellow militants like Abu Qatada, through Arabic satellite stations, most notably al-Jazeera.
A report in the Toronto Star last week said that it had a source who claimed that an experienced local negotiator had made contact with the captors, but had then also been kidnapped.
This is denied by reliable sources in Iraq. The paper has produced no further evidence and is not answering enquiries about it. Others who have replicated the claim, including CTV.ca in Canada, are declining to check or amend their accounts.
Dr Kember's wife Pat, aged 70, and members of his Harrow Baptist Church in College Road, have continued to pray regularly for the father-of-two's safe return.
[Also on Ekklesia: All faiths candlelit vigil in London for Norman Kember; Norman Kember's wife pleads for his life; Former Guantanamo Bay detainees call for release of Christian; Vigils and messages of support for abducted peace activist; Cardinal joins pleas for Iraq peace workers;
Lobbying goes on as Iraq hostage deadline passes; Praying for a miracle amid Iraq hostage silence; Hope continues as Iraq captive deadline looms; Last minute appeals made for Christian peacemakers]