Joy as Christian Peacemakers are freed in Iraq

By staff writers
March 23, 2006

Joy as Christian Peacemakers are freed in Iraq

-23/03/06

Three Christian Peacemaker Teams activists in Iraq have been freed from captivity west of Baghdad, two weeks after the tragic murder of their colleague Tom Fox. Norman Kember, Harmeet Singh Sooden and Jim Loney were released by multilateral forces in a security sweep. CPT says no-one was hurt in the operation.

The news of the menís freeing has been greeted with joy and relief across the world. But Christian Peacemaker Teams ñ an action group rooted in the historic peace churches (Mennonite, Quaker, Brethren in Christ) ñ is keen that attention should also continue to be paid to the thousands of Iraqi detainees and captives.

CPT has been highlighting their plight and working for nonviolent alternatives to war, terror and occupation since 2002. It also has a strong track record in Israel-Palestine and a number of other hotspots around the world.

The Reverend Alan Betteridge of the Baptist Peace Fellowship, a friend of British captive Dr Kember for more than 40 years, told BBC Five Live this morning: "It's tremendously good and so unexpected after the killing of Tom Fox a couple of weeks ago, when we really did fear that each one would be killed eventually."

Former Catholic priest and CND general secretary Bruce Kent also expressed happiness and relief at the outcome, commenting that many had been fearing the worst after the discovery of Tom Foxís body on a Baghdad rubbish tip.

Pat Kember, the wife of 74-year-old retired medical professor Norman Kember, is reported to be ìoverjoyedî at the news of her husbandís release. Friends and relatives were increasingly fearing for his health under the physical and mental strain of captivity.

Muslim groups were also swift to respond to the news. Ihtisham Hibatullah, a spokesperson for Anas Altikriti, who went to Iraq as an envoy seeking the release of the CPTers on behalf of at the Muslim Association of Britain, said that they were "very relieved" that Mr Kember and his colleagues were alive, adding that it was fantastic news for their families.

The Christian Peacemaker Teams activists had received unprecedented support from Muslims across the world since their capture outside a Baghdad mosque on 26 November 2005.

The pacifist group made it clear that they were not asking for military intervention on behalf of their members, and today they expressed relief that no-one appears to have been killed in the armed operation.

Said Simon Barrow of the UK religious think tank Ekklesia, which is associated with Christian Peacemaker Teams UK: ìThe release of Norman, Jim and Harmeet is the wonderful news that many had been working and praying for, but perhaps did not quite dare to believe.î

He went on: ìChristian peace makers have great respect for those who carried out the operation to free the captives, but they nevertheless remain firmly committed to nonviolence as the only effective, long-term way to break the cycles of hatred, revenge, terror and killing which are destroying Iraq and threatening the world.î

Said Barrow: ìMany people will continue to question the propriety of unarmed interventions in places of great danger and conflict. But Christian Peacemaker Teams have made it clear that they will not be deterred by threats or opposition. They are tough-minded people who know the situation and know what they were doing. When Jesus called on his followers to make peace, he never said it was going to be anything other than risky ñ and he paid with his life.î

Along with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Home Secretary Jack Straw welcomed the release of Dr Kember and his colleagues. He spoke to Mrs Kember earlier this morning.

In a press statement, Mr Straw added: "There's one last very sad point, which is that there were four hostages captured originally, including one, an American, Mr Fox, and it's a matter of great sorrow to everybody that he was killed a little while ago (9 March 2006)."

US President George W. Bush, who has often invoked God in justification of his military actions in Iraq and elsewhere, has yet to make a personal public statement of regret on the subject of Mr Foxís death.

Joy as Christian Peacemakers are freed in Iraq

-23/03/06

Three Christian Peacemaker Teams activists in Iraq have been freed from captivity west of Baghdad, two weeks after the tragic murder of their colleague Tom Fox. Norman Kember, Harmeet Singh Sooden and Jim Loney were released by multilateral forces in a security sweep. CPT says no-one was hurt in the operation.

The news of the menís freeing has been greeted with joy and relief across the world. But Christian Peacemaker Teams ñ an action group rooted in the historic peace churches (Mennonite, Quaker, Brethren in Christ) ñ is keen that attention should also continue to be paid to the thousands of Iraqi detainees and captives.

CPT has been highlighting their plight and working for nonviolent alternatives to war, terror and occupation since 2002. It also has a strong track record in Israel-Palestine and a number of other hotspots around the world.

The Reverend Alan Betteridge of the Baptist Peace Fellowship, a friend of British captive Dr Kember for more than 40 years, told BBC Five Live this morning: "It's tremendously good and so unexpected after the killing of Tom Fox a couple of weeks ago, when we really did fear that each one would be killed eventually."

Former Catholic priest and CND general secretary Bruce Kent also expressed happiness and relief at the outcome, commenting that many had been fearing the worst after the discovery of Tom Foxís body on a Baghdad rubbish tip.

Pat Kember, the wife of 74-year-old retired medical professor Norman Kember, is reported to be ìoverjoyedî at the news of her husbandís release. Friends and relatives were increasingly fearing for his health under the physical and mental strain of captivity.

Muslim groups were also swift to respond to the news. Ihtisham Hibatullah, a spokesperson for Anas Altikriti, who went to Iraq as an envoy seeking the release of the CPTers on behalf of at the Muslim Association of Britain, said that they were "very relieved" that Mr Kember and his colleagues were alive, adding that it was fantastic news for their families.

The Christian Peacemaker Teams activists had received unprecedented support from Muslims across the world since their capture outside a Baghdad mosque on 26 November 2005.

The pacifist group made it clear that they were not asking for military intervention on behalf of their members, and today they expressed relief that no-one appears to have been killed in the armed operation.

Said Simon Barrow of the UK religious think tank Ekklesia, which is associated with Christian Peacemaker Teams UK: ìThe release of Norman, Jim and Harmeet is the wonderful news that many had been working and praying for, but perhaps did not quite dare to believe.î

He went on: ìChristian peace makers have great respect for those who carried out the operation to free the captives, but they nevertheless remain firmly committed to nonviolence as the only effective, long-term way to break the cycles of hatred, revenge, terror and killing which are destroying Iraq and threatening the world.î

Said Barrow: ìMany people will continue to question the propriety of unarmed interventions in places of great danger and conflict. But Christian Peacemaker Teams have made it clear that they will not be deterred by threats or opposition. They are tough-minded people who know the situation and know what they were doing. When Jesus called on his followers to make peace, he never said it was going to be anything other than risky ñ and he paid with his life.î

Along with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Home Secretary Jack Straw welcomed the release of Dr Kember and his colleagues. He spoke to Mrs Kember earlier this morning.

In a press statement, Mr Straw added: "There's one last very sad point, which is that there were four hostages captured originally, including one, an American, Mr Fox, and it's a matter of great sorrow to everybody that he was killed a little while ago (9 March 2006)."

US President George W. Bush, who has often invoked God in justification of his military actions in Iraq and elsewhere, has yet to make a personal public statement of regret on the subject of Mr Foxís death.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.