Leading church aid agency defends Norman Kember's integrity

By staff writers
March 27, 2006

Leading church aid agency defends Norman Kember's integrity

-27/03/06

Supporters and staff of the widely-respected international development agency Christian Aid have welcomed the release of peace activist Dr Norman Kember who was taken hostage in Iraq 17 weeks ago.

And those associated with the agency who know the Christian Peacemaker Teams volunteer have testified to his dedication, responsibility and intellectual rigour ñ in the face of widespread media slurs which friends say have unsettled the 74-year-old retired medical professor.

Katie Hagley, who works in Christian Aidís local Lewes office, on the UKís south coast, organises monthly prayer meetings with fellow Christians ñ many of whom are dedicated supporters of the charity.

The meetings ñ called ëThursdays at the Gate', are held at Westgate Chapel in Lewes. They are attended by Dr Kemberís friend of 50 years, Geoffrey Whitfield, who inspired the group to pray for the hostages.

ìIt was very emotional to hear he had been released,î said Mr Whitfield. ìNorman didnít do his peace work as some sort of emotional thing ñ he has an intellectual rigour about his work.î

Mr Whitfield said Dr Kember would feel guilt over the death of fellow hostage Tom Fox whose body was found a few weeks ago in Baghdad.

ìNorman will feel a great injustice at Tomís death. Once he has spent time with his own family, I feel sure Norman will want to meet with Mr Foxís family and talk to them.î

Mr Whitfield said he had been asking Christian Aid supporters in Lewes to pray for Dr Kember.

Ms Hagley said: ìWe were inspired to pray for Norman and we are so happy he has survived and is coming home soon.î

Christian Aid staff member Nigel Varndell met and worked with Dr Kember on several occasions.

ìOver the last few years I have regularly spoken to Norman at both Baptist Assembly and at the Greenbelt Festival,î he explained.

Said Varndell: ìHe was always passionately committed to issues of peace most notably in the Middle-East, in Iraq and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.î

ìHe always had a petition to sign, a letter to send or a postcard to fill out; he is dedicated in his faith and tireless in his pursuit of justice and peace. I look forward to seeing him again.î

In the face of recent repeated smears against Norman Kember, Jim Loney, Harmeet Sooden and the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq, the UK religious think tank Ekklesia has today released a briefing about the various misrepresentations currently in circulation.

Ekklesia is an independent body, but has chosen to work with CPT UK to promote non-violence programmes and to explore their theological basis in the light of geopolitical realities.

[Also on Ekklesia: Briefing on media accusations against Christian Peacemaker Teams (27/03/06); General background briefing on Christian Peacemaker Teams (2005/6); Press briefing on the released Christian peace activists (23/03/06); news updates and comment on CPT on FaithInSociety; Contending the logic of violence (24/03/06) - Simon Barrow says that true Christian peacemaking cannot afford naivete; Statement by released Christian peacemaker James Loney 26/03/06 Norman Kember returns home to cheers and also smears (25/03/06); Think tank questions 'ungrateful peacemakers' media allegations (24/03/06); Churches urged to consider more radical peacemaking following Iraq hostage release (24/03/06); Questions asked about intelligence that preceded Christian peacemaker's release (24/03/06); Nonviolent release for Christian peacemakers (23/03/06); Press briefing on released Christian Peacemakers (23/03/06); Christians defend Iraq non-violence tactics against critics (23/03/06); Christians urge love of enemies in face of hostage crisis (23/03/06); Joy as Christian Peacemakers are freed in Iraq (23/03/06). Step back George, Step up people of faith, by Ron Kraybill of Eastern Mennonite University; Exploring Christianity and violence - meeting in London on 30 March 2006]

Leading church aid agency defends Norman Kember's integrity

-27/03/06

Supporters and staff of the widely-respected international development agency Christian Aid have welcomed the release of peace activist Dr Norman Kember who was taken hostage in Iraq 17 weeks ago.

And those associated with the agency who know the Christian Peacemaker Teams volunteer have testified to his dedication, responsibility and intellectual rigour ñ in the face of widespread media slurs which friends say have unsettled the 74-year-old retired medical professor.

Katie Hagley, who works in Christian Aidís local Lewes office, on the UKís south coast, organises monthly prayer meetings with fellow Christians ñ many of whom are dedicated supporters of the charity.

The meetings ñ called ëThursdays at the Gate', are held at Westgate Chapel in Lewes. They are attended by Dr Kemberís friend of 50 years, Geoffrey Whitfield, who inspired the group to pray for the hostages.

ìIt was very emotional to hear he had been released,î said Mr Whitfield. ìNorman didnít do his peace work as some sort of emotional thing ñ he has an intellectual rigour about his work.î

Mr Whitfield said Dr Kember would feel guilt over the death of fellow hostage Tom Fox whose body was found a few weeks ago in Baghdad.

ìNorman will feel a great injustice at Tomís death. Once he has spent time with his own family, I feel sure Norman will want to meet with Mr Foxís family and talk to them.î

Mr Whitfield said he had been asking Christian Aid supporters in Lewes to pray for Dr Kember.

Ms Hagley said: ìWe were inspired to pray for Norman and we are so happy he has survived and is coming home soon.î

Christian Aid staff member Nigel Varndell met and worked with Dr Kember on several occasions.

ìOver the last few years I have regularly spoken to Norman at both Baptist Assembly and at the Greenbelt Festival,î he explained.

Said Varndell: ìHe was always passionately committed to issues of peace most notably in the Middle-East, in Iraq and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.î

ìHe always had a petition to sign, a letter to send or a postcard to fill out; he is dedicated in his faith and tireless in his pursuit of justice and peace. I look forward to seeing him again.î

In the face of recent repeated smears against Norman Kember, Jim Loney, Harmeet Sooden and the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq, the UK religious think tank Ekklesia has today released a briefing about the various misrepresentations currently in circulation.

Ekklesia is an independent body, but has chosen to work with CPT UK to promote non-violence programmes and to explore their theological basis in the light of geopolitical realities.

[Also on Ekklesia: Briefing on media accusations against Christian Peacemaker Teams (27/03/06); General background briefing on Christian Peacemaker Teams (2005/6); Press briefing on the released Christian peace activists (23/03/06); news updates and comment on CPT on FaithInSociety; Contending the logic of violence (24/03/06) - Simon Barrow says that true Christian peacemaking cannot afford naivete; Statement by released Christian peacemaker James Loney 26/03/06 Norman Kember returns home to cheers and also smears (25/03/06); Think tank questions 'ungrateful peacemakers' media allegations (24/03/06); Churches urged to consider more radical peacemaking following Iraq hostage release (24/03/06); Questions asked about intelligence that preceded Christian peacemaker's release (24/03/06); Nonviolent release for Christian peacemakers (23/03/06); Press briefing on released Christian Peacemakers (23/03/06); Christians defend Iraq non-violence tactics against critics (23/03/06); Christians urge love of enemies in face of hostage crisis (23/03/06); Joy as Christian Peacemakers are freed in Iraq (23/03/06). Step back George, Step up people of faith, by Ron Kraybill of Eastern Mennonite University; Exploring Christianity and violence - meeting in London on 30 March 2006]

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.