Trafalgar Square vigil remembers Iraq victims

By staff writers
March 23, 2007

A vigil will be held in London's Trafalgar Square at midday today, to commemorate the release of Norman Kember and the other Christian peacemaker hostages in Iraq a year ago.

The tragic murder of Tom Fox and the fourth anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq will also be remembered in prayer and silence.

"The focus of our vigil isn't just on Western hostages - it is very much about recalling the on-going suffering of people in Iraq", an organiser told Ekklesia.

Four Christian Peacemaker Teams supporters, on a delegation to meet with Sunni and Shia representatives as part of the group's violence-reduction and reconciliation work, were taken hostage my a militant group in Baghdad on 26 November 2005.

Three, Norman Kember (a British Baptist), Jim Loney (a Canadian Catholic) and Harmeet Singh Sooden (now resident in New Zealand) were finally set free on 23 March 2006. SAS troops released them, but extraordinarily without the need to use violence.

However, Tom Fox (an American Quaker) had by this time been taken away, possibly by another group, and killed on 9 March 2006. Rumours that he was tortured proved false, although they have been repeated by media sources several times since.

Christian Peacemaker Teams is a network established by the 'historic peace churches' (Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, Quakers) in North America. It now has members in the UK and elsewhere, as well as wide ecumenical support. It seeks to "get in the way" of violence, injustice and human rights abuse - using careful techniques of nonviolent intervention and conflict transformation.

CPT admits that its work can be dangerous - but it has also been praised for protecting civil groups without the use of arms in Israel-Palestine, and for opening up avenues of reconciliation not not available to the military.

"We are among the few people not to go in with a gun or a contract," a CPTer remarked about their presence in Iraq.

The hostage drama, which has been written about personally in a new book, Hostage in Iraq (DLT, 2007), launched last night by Norman Kember, received international publicity. It also built bridges between Christians and Muslims.

Today's vigil take place on the north side of Trafalgar Square, in front of National Gallery. It is being supported by Pax Christi (the Catholic peace movement) Christian Peacemaker Teams UK, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the London Mennonite Centre and others.

Today and tomorrow many will also remember the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador,on 25 March 1980. He has become an icon of those who work for justice and peace, both religious and non-religious, because of his outspoken advocacy for the poor.

Romero was murdered by a right-wing death squad subsequently shown to have had training and other links to the CIA.

Order Norman Kember's new book

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.