WE FORGIVE OUR KIDNAPERS
Dec. 12, 2006
Hello dear Family,
Again, it has been almost two months since I have written! My head
is full of reflections and news to send to you, but the time is so
packed with exams, work, etc etc. I promise to send you an update in
a few days about dear friends in Iraq and Syria, including some good
news. For now, I want to share these words of my three teammates who
were kidnapped last year.
The men who kidnapped them have allegedly been apprehended and
imprisoned in Iraq, and authorities have asked Jim, Norman and
Harmeet to testify against their captors. Last Friday, December 8,
exactly one year after one of the many deadlines set by their
captors, my three teammates held a press conference in Great Britain.
Here are their words.
Blessings to all of you,
[Note: Norman Kember, Harmeet Singh Sooden and CPTer James Loney
delivered the following statement at a press conference on Dec 8,
2006 in London at 10:30 a.m. GMT]
We three, members of a Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) delegation to
Iraq, were kidnapped on November 26, 2005 and held for 118 days
before being freed by British and American forces on March 23, 2006.
Our friend and colleague, Tom Fox, an American citizen and full-time
member of the CPT team working in Baghdad at the time, was kidnapped
with us and murdered on March 9, 2006. We are immensely sad that he
is not sitting with us here today.
On behalf of our families and CPT, we thank you for attending this
press conference today.
It was on this day a year ago that our captors threatened to execute
us unless their demands were met. This ultimatum, unknown to us at
the time, was a source of extreme distress for our families, friends
The deadline was extended by two days to December 10, which is
International Human Rights Day. On this day, people all over the
world will commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights by the UN General Assembly in 1948 by speaking out for
all those whose human dignity is being violated by torture, arbitrary
imprisonment, poverty, racism, oppression or war.
We understand a number of men alleged to be our captors have been
apprehended, charged with kidnapping, and are facing trial in the
Central Criminal Court of Iraq. We have been asked by the police in
our respective countries to testify in the trial. After much
reflection upon our traditions, both Sikh and Christian, we are
issuing this statement today.
We unconditionally forgive our captors for abducting
and holding us.
We have no desire to punish them. Punishment can never restore what
was taken from us.
What our captors did was wrong. They caused us, our families and our
friends great suffering. Yet, we bear no malice towards them and
have no wish for retribution. Should those who have been charged
with holding us hostage be brought to trial and convicted, we ask
that they be granted all possible leniency. We categorically lay
aside any rights we may have over them.
In our view, the catastrophic levels of violence and the lack of
effective protection of human rights in Iraq is
to the US-led invasion and occupation. As for many others, the
actions of our kidnappers were part of a cycle of violence they
themselves experienced. While this in no way justifies what the
charged with our kidnapping are alleged to have done, we feel this
must be considered in any potential judgment.
Forgiveness is an essential part of Sikh, Christian and Muslim
teaching. Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first of the Sikh Gurus
said, "'Forgiveness' is my mother..." and, "Where there is
forgiveness, there is God." Jesus said, "For if you forgive those
who sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you."
And of Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) it is told that once,
while preaching in the city of Ta'if, he was abused, stoned and
driven out of the city. An angel appeared to him and offered to
crush the city between the two surrounding mountains if he ordered
him to do so, whereupon the Prophet(PBUH) said, "No. Maybe from
them or their offspring will come good deeds."
Through the power of forgiveness, it is our hope that good deeds will
come from the lives of our captors, and that we will all learn to
reject the use of violence. We believe those who use violence
against others are themselves harmed by the use of violence.
Kidnapping is a capital offence in Iraq and we understand that some
of our captors could be sentenced to death. The death penalty is an
irrevocable judgment. It erases all possibility that those who have
harmed others, even seriously, can yet turn to good. We
categorically oppose the death penalty.
By this commitment to forgiveness, we hope to plant a seed that one
day will bear the fruits of healing and reconciliation for us, our
captors, the peoples of Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the
United States, and most of all, Iraq. We look forward to the day
when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is respected by all
the world's people.
Harmeet Singh Sooden, Norman Kember, James Loney