Iraq hostage Tom Fox remembered by UK peacemakers

By staff writers
June 8, 2006

Iraq hostage Tom Fox remembered by UK peacemakers

-08/06/06

British and Irish supporters of Christian Peacemaker Teams, whose front-line violence reduction work came to global attention when four of its volunteers were kidnapped in Iraq in November 2005, have held a prayer and reflection service to remember Tom Fox ñ who was ultimately killed by his captors.

The body of American citizen Fox, aged 54, a dedicated Quaker from Clearwood, Virginia, was discovered on 10 March 2006 ñ some two weeks before his three colleagues (Briton Norman Kember and Canadians Jim Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden) were freed without the use of force by British soldiers ñ following a tip-off.

There were heartfelt expressions of gratitude for Tom Foxís extraordinary courage and commitment to peace and justice at the service, part of the first post-hostage crisis gathering of Christian Peacemaker Teams UK in Bradford on 4-5 June 2006.

Prayers, readings, silence and personal reflections were led by Scottish CPT volunteer Jan Benvie, who is on stand-by to go to Iraq herself if the situation allows it.

Christian Peacemakers Teams remains committed to its work in Iraq ñ which includes efforts to bring together divided communities and highlight human rights abuses. But in the light of the kidnappings it has decided to keep people out of Baghdad for the time being.

The memorial service for Tom Fox included readings from his moving weblog Waiting in the Light. His last post, ëThere Are No Wordsí, about the appalling suffering in Fallujah, where a US-led assault took place in 2004, was made on 8 November 2005.

Jan Benvie began with a quotation from Quaker founder George Fox which was one of Tomís favourites: ìBe patterns, be examples in every country, place, or nation that you visit, so that your bearing and life might communicate with all people. Then you'll happily walk across the earth to evoke that of God in everybody. So that you will be seen as a blessing in their eyes and you will receive a blessing from that of God within them.î

Tom Fox, a father of two children, worked with Christian Peacemaker Teams for two years, in partnership with Iraqi human rights organizations, before he was killed by a militant group known as Swords of Righteousness.

He was also well-known in occupied Palestine, where there were demonstrations ñ along with those in Baghdad and across the world ñ calling for his release.

It is believed that Foxís American citizenship and the fact that he was carrying ex-military papers on him when he was seized with the other three outside a remote Sunni mosque, may have caused his captors to disbelieve his peacemaking credentials. But friends and supporters point out that his track-record was clear.

Tom Fox was a practicing Quaker for 22 years. He devoted much of his time to working with children. He served as an adult leader of youth programmes and worked at a Quaker camp for youth. He facilitated young people's participation in opposing war and violence. Fox believed firmly that "there is that of God in every person" which is why work for peace was so important to him.

One year before his abduction, the widely-loved and experienced aid worker Margaret Hassan was abducted and ultimately murdered. When Tom Fox grappled with that tragedy in Waiting in the Light, he left words which parallel his own fate: ìShe lived a life with the people of Iraq, not a life spent behind gates and walls.î

Of Hassanís murderers, Tom Fox wrote: ìChristian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq prays that these individuals can reconnect with their humanity. We pray for healing for her family, friends and co-workers ÖWe ask all people who have lived in her light and all who seek the light to resolve to continue the work she began. She lived a life of courage in the midst of fear. We are called to do the same, no matter what the consequences.î

These sentiments, said the UK CPT supporters, very much apply to Fox himself. In memorial services in churches, mosques, meeting houses and colleges friends of the Christian Peacemaker Teams worker called for forgiveness rather than revenge as a response to his tragic death.
"What is forgiveness?" asked CPT co-director the Rev Carol Rose at the main service at Foundry United Methodist Church in Northwest Washington in April 2006. She answered: "Forgiveness is refusing to be bound by the evil that has been done to us or to anyone else. Forgiveness does not mean it was okay to kill Tom . . . but it means I won't hold those who did that wrong in a position of wrongdoing.î What was needed instead, she said, was active non-violence.
US anti-war campaigner Cindy Sheenan said on 12 March, two days after Foxís body was discovered: ìThis is a dark day for peace and justice. The loss of a man of the stature of Tom Fox and the loss of his voice for peace and reconciliation is a tragedy for our country which operates so often from a paradigm of violence. Every voice for peace is imperative and needed.î

And the Christian Peacemaker Teams UK meeting in Bradford, which also heard directly from Norman Kember about his kidnap and release, said that the final word about Tom Fox needed to be one of hope and resurrection.

One of the other readings in Bradford was from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor and theologian executed by the Nazis in 1945: ìThe cross is the only power in the world which proves that suffering love can avenge and vanquish evil... It looked as though evil had triumphed on the cross, but the real victory belonged to Jesus.î

ìJesus calls those who follow him to share his passion. How can we convince the world by our preaching of the passion when we shrink from that passion in our own lives? ... Jesus addresses his disciples as [those] who have left all to follow him, and the precept of non-violence applies equally to private life and official duty.î (The Cost of Discipleship).

[Also on Ekklesia: Norman Kember talks about life beyond his Iraq kidnap ordeal 07/06/06; UK Christian Peacemaker Teams meet to plan future 06/06/06; Christian Peacemaker Teams remain in Iraq with new plan; Briefing on Christian Peacemaker Teams; Christian peacemaker Norman Kember to give first major interview to the BBC ; Christian peacemakers can make a difference, Vatican Radio told; Briefing on media accusations against Christian Peacemaker Teams; Archive of comment and features on Christian Peacemaking; Christian peacemaker Tom Fox killed in Iraq; Iraqi, Muslim and Palestinian support for peace hostages; Getting in the Way: Stories From Christian Peacemaker Teams; Christian peacemakers report killings of women and children by US; Joy as Christian Peacemakers are freed in Iraq; Baghdad demo planned for Christian peacemaker hostages; Christians defend Iraq non-violence tactics against critics; Peace workers hold a key to Iraq solution, says think-tank; ëPeacenikí initiative will fund peacemakers to enter hotspots; Colonel Collins' attack on Kember misplaced, say Christian peacemakers;Churches urged to consider more radical peacemaking following Iraq; Kember still evaluating Christian peacemakers' role in Iraq; Peacemaker vigils in Washington and Toronto focus on Iraq policy; Clarification sought from army chief on false Kember snub allegation; Religious leaders call for end to detention without trial in Iraq; Military expert says peacemakers didnít imperil soldiers; What Norman said - from Iraq captive Kember's BBC interview; Al-Jazeera releases film of Iraq peace hostages; Think-tank questions 'ungrateful peacemakers' media allegations; The Simon Barrow column; Press briefing on released Christian Peacemakers; Christian peacemakers demand entry to Guantanamo Bay]

Iraq hostage Tom Fox remembered by UK peacemakers

-08/06/06

British and Irish supporters of Christian Peacemaker Teams, whose front-line violence reduction work came to global attention when four of its volunteers were kidnapped in Iraq in November 2005, have held a prayer and reflection service to remember Tom Fox ñ who was ultimately killed by his captors.

The body of American citizen Fox, aged 54, a dedicated Quaker from Clearwood, Virginia, was discovered on 10 March 2006 ñ some two weeks before his three colleagues (Briton Norman Kember and Canadians Jim Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden) were freed without the use of force by British soldiers ñ following a tip-off.

There were heartfelt expressions of gratitude for Tom Foxís extraordinary courage and commitment to peace and justice at the service, part of the first post-hostage crisis gathering of Christian Peacemaker Teams UK in Bradford on 4-5 June 2006.

Prayers, readings, silence and personal reflections were led by Scottish CPT volunteer Jan Benvie, who is on stand-by to go to Iraq herself if the situation allows it.

Christian Peacemakers Teams remains committed to its work in Iraq ñ which includes efforts to bring together divided communities and highlight human rights abuses. But in the light of the kidnappings it has decided to keep people out of Baghdad for the time being.

The memorial service for Tom Fox included readings from his moving weblog Waiting in the Light. His last post, ëThere Are No Wordsí, about the appalling suffering in Fallujah, where a US-led assault took place in 2004, was made on 8 November 2005.

Jan Benvie began with a quotation from Quaker founder George Fox which was one of Tomís favourites: ìBe patterns, be examples in every country, place, or nation that you visit, so that your bearing and life might communicate with all people. Then you'll happily walk across the earth to evoke that of God in everybody. So that you will be seen as a blessing in their eyes and you will receive a blessing from that of God within them.î

Tom Fox, a father of two children, worked with Christian Peacemaker Teams for two years, in partnership with Iraqi human rights organizations, before he was killed by a militant group known as Swords of Righteousness.

He was also well-known in occupied Palestine, where there were demonstrations ñ along with those in Baghdad and across the world ñ calling for his release.

It is believed that Foxís American citizenship and the fact that he was carrying ex-military papers on him when he was seized with the other three outside a remote Sunni mosque, may have caused his captors to disbelieve his peacemaking credentials. But friends and supporters point out that his track-record was clear.

Tom Fox was a practicing Quaker for 22 years. He devoted much of his time to working with children. He served as an adult leader of youth programmes and worked at a Quaker camp for youth. He facilitated young people's participation in opposing war and violence. Fox believed firmly that "there is that of God in every person" which is why work for peace was so important to him.

One year before his abduction, the widely-loved and experienced aid worker Margaret Hassan was abducted and ultimately murdered. When Tom Fox grappled with that tragedy in Waiting in the Light, he left words which parallel his own fate: ìShe lived a life with the people of Iraq, not a life spent behind gates and walls.î

Of Hassanís murderers, Tom Fox wrote: ìChristian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq prays that these individuals can reconnect with their humanity. We pray for healing for her family, friends and co-workers ÖWe ask all people who have lived in her light and all who seek the light to resolve to continue the work she began. She lived a life of courage in the midst of fear. We are called to do the same, no matter what the consequences.î

These sentiments, said the UK CPT supporters, very much apply to Fox himself. In memorial services in churches, mosques, meeting houses and colleges friends of the Christian Peacemaker Teams worker called for forgiveness rather than revenge as a response to his tragic death.
"What is forgiveness?" asked CPT co-director the Rev Carol Rose at the main service at Foundry United Methodist Church in Northwest Washington in April 2006. She answered: "Forgiveness is refusing to be bound by the evil that has been done to us or to anyone else. Forgiveness does not mean it was okay to kill Tom . . . but it means I won't hold those who did that wrong in a position of wrongdoing.î What was needed instead, she said, was active non-violence.
US anti-war campaigner Cindy Sheenan said on 12 March, two days after Foxís body was discovered: ìThis is a dark day for peace and justice. The loss of a man of the stature of Tom Fox and the loss of his voice for peace and reconciliation is a tragedy for our country which operates so often from a paradigm of violence. Every voice for peace is imperative and needed.î

And the Christian Peacemaker Teams UK meeting in Bradford, which also heard directly from Norman Kember about his kidnap and release, said that the final word about Tom Fox needed to be one of hope and resurrection.

One of the other readings in Bradford was from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor and theologian executed by the Nazis in 1945: ìThe cross is the only power in the world which proves that suffering love can avenge and vanquish evil... It looked as though evil had triumphed on the cross, but the real victory belonged to Jesus.î

ìJesus calls those who follow him to share his passion. How can we convince the world by our preaching of the passion when we shrink from that passion in our own lives? ... Jesus addresses his disciples as [those] who have left all to follow him, and the precept of non-violence applies equally to private life and official duty.î (The Cost of Discipleship).

[Also on Ekklesia: Norman Kember talks about life beyond his Iraq kidnap ordeal 07/06/06; UK Christian Peacemaker Teams meet to plan future 06/06/06; Christian Peacemaker Teams remain in Iraq with new plan; Briefing on Christian Peacemaker Teams; Christian peacemaker Norman Kember to give first major interview to the BBC ; Christian peacemakers can make a difference, Vatican Radio told; Briefing on media accusations against Christian Peacemaker Teams; Archive of comment and features on Christian Peacemaking; Christian peacemaker Tom Fox killed in Iraq; Iraqi, Muslim and Palestinian support for peace hostages; Getting in the Way: Stories From Christian Peacemaker Teams; Christian peacemakers report killings of women and children by US; Joy as Christian Peacemakers are freed in Iraq; Baghdad demo planned for Christian peacemaker hostages; Christians defend Iraq non-violence tactics against critics; Peace workers hold a key to Iraq solution, says think-tank; ëPeacenikí initiative will fund peacemakers to enter hotspots; Colonel Collins' attack on Kember misplaced, say Christian peacemakers;Churches urged to consider more radical peacemaking following Iraq; Kember still evaluating Christian peacemakers' role in Iraq; Peacemaker vigils in Washington and Toronto focus on Iraq policy; Clarification sought from army chief on false Kember snub allegation; Religious leaders call for end to detention without trial in Iraq; Military expert says peacemakers didnít imperil soldiers; What Norman said - from Iraq captive Kember's BBC interview; Al-Jazeera releases film of Iraq peace hostages; Think-tank questions 'ungrateful peacemakers' media allegations; The Simon Barrow column; Press briefing on released Christian Peacemakers; Christian peacemakers demand entry to Guantanamo Bay]

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