Churches Urged to pray for Iraq hostages this Christmas
Supporters of the four Christian Peacemaker Teams activists who have been held hostage by militants in Iraq for the past month are urging churches around the world to remember tem this Christmas, along with all people detained and imprisoned in the country.
Norman Kember, Tom Fox, Harmeet Singh Sooder and Jim Loney were kidnapped in Baghdad by a group calling itself the Swords of Truth Brigades on 26 November 2005.
Two deadlines have passed during which time the militants have demanded the release of all Iraqi detainees in exchange for their lives.
Ironically the four had been meeting with Sunni clerics to discuss how best to help detainees when they were snatched.
No-one has been able to make direct contact with the hostage takers so far, but it is known that they have seen appeals for the men's release from many Muslim and Islamist leaders on Arabic TV stations.
Over the past week there have been vigils for the peace workers in Britain, Canada and the United States - as well as lobbying in Iraq and Palestine, where they have worked.
Groups seeking the release of the four men say that keeping public awareness and concern going is vital to their cause.
The fact that there has been no news of them since 8 December 2005 is seen as positive at one level, and worrying at another.
On the plus side, supporters say, it probably shows that they are still alive and that their captors are debating what to do next, given the worldwide upsurge of support for the CPT prisoners.
On the other hand, there are concerns that the men may simply 'disappear' for a long period - a prospect that would be agonizing for family, friends and loved ones.
Official church organisations have consciously kept a relatively low profile in the campaign to have the four released, feeling that it is more helpful and appropriate for supportive Muslim voices to be heard.
The Muslim communities in Britain and Canada have sent their own negotiators to Iraq to try to meet those who can influence those who may know the abductors.
But groups such as Pax Christi, the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Christian Peacemaker Teams themselves are still very keen that churches should pray and help with petitioning, both over Christmas and into the New Year.
[Also on Ekklesia, many stories including: 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]